More bad news from the damaged nuclear reactors at Fukushima continues to trickle in. Mitsure Obe, reports in the Wall Street Journal, today, that High Level of Toxins in Water at Japan Plant Raises Risks.
Mitsure Obe confirms that Strontium 89, and Strontium 90, have been found in high quantities in ground and seawater near the plant. Last week we read a report that Plutonium and Strontium 90 were detected over 60 kilometers from the plant. Strontium 90 has a half-live of 29 years, meaning it will remain dangerous for over 300 years. Some isotopes of Plutonium have a half life of 24,000 years, meaning they remain dangerous to living beings for over 250,000 years.
Strontium isotopes are called "bone-seekers," because our bodies absorb Strontium as if it were calcium, and then lodges itlself into human bone permanently, where it can cause fatal bone cancers up to many decades later. Some of the lethal brain tumors caused by the Hiroshima nuclear bombing of Japan in World War II, did not appear until 50 years later, leaving deep psychological scars on Japanese citizens, and causing much anxiety.
TOKYO—Excessive levels of highly toxic strontium have been detected in seawater and groundwater at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex, the plant operator said Monday, a development that suggests an increased risk of radioactive contamination further entering the food chain.
Also underscoring the difficulties of trying to stabilize the stricken facility, operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. said six more workers have received more than the permitted annual emergency levels of radiation exposure.
After facing severe domestic and international criticism for failing to comprehend, and to disclose the magnitude of this disaster, Tepco engineers were quick to announce a "possible connection" between the detection of Strontium 90 near the Fukushima nuclear reactors, and the reactors damaged over the last three months.
The Strontium-89 and Strontium-90 isotopes are believed to have been released from the damaged reactors when the fuel cores overheated and melted after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, Tokyo Electric, also known Tepco, said at a briefing.
This is certainly an encouraging sign of higher cognitive functioning, after several months of confusion, and apparent disingenuity. So, I for one, am happy to forgive these engineers for any appearance of showing off.
And, seriously, Ikuro Anzai, professor emeritus at Ritsumeikan University, deserves credit for publically mentioning the concerns of radiation accumulating, and concentrating in the food-chain. Sadly, we notice he is a professor emeritus. Does it not appear that much of the most candid, and intelligent assessments in this tragedy have come from those that have retired, or recently resigned? I mean in contrast to the above press annoucement from Tepco officials that they suspect that this detected Strontium 90 probably came from the reactor accident?'
"With the arrival of the rainy season, more and more radioactive fallout is being washed into groundwater and the sea, raising the levels of strontium contamination," said Ikuro Anzai, professor emeritus at Ritsumeikan University.
Strontium acts like calcium and accumulates in bones. Unlike other radioactive materials, such as cesium and iodine, strontium doesn't emit powerful gamma rays, and therefore, its harmful effects are limited unless it is ingested or inhaled. But once inside the body, it can cause bone cancer or leukemia.
"Japanese people often eat small fish, such as sardines, whole, including the bones and head. There is therefore a risk of consumers taking in strontium from contaminated small fish," Prof. Anzai said.
Prof. Anzai said there should be close monitoring for potential contamination because there is a risk of the radiation spreading through the food chain.
Mitsure Obe, also tells us six workers were also exposed to more than there annual limit of 250 milliseverts, which is the annual limit set for this emergency situation. I am still waiting to here of an independent scientific study to follow residents and workers exposed to radiation, to better define the still controversial dose-response curves used by radiation epidemiologists to predict the health consequences of radiation exposure,
Where are the professional radiation epidemiologists evaluating the likely long-term health impacts of these extraordinary releases of radiation into the ecosystem of northern Japan?
Where are independent university professors, and independent public health officials around the world?
Why are the ones who are speaking out, not getting more coverage from the traditional media?
Why are we not hearing more ongoing coverage form the traditional media, over what appears to be either the first, or second worst ongoing nuclear reactor accident in world history?
I ask Kossacks to join me in dropping quick emails to MSNBC, CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, and other traditional media asking for better coverage of these highly consequential and heartbreaking developments.
But, back to our story.
Good for Professor Anzai. My opinion is we ought to have many teams of independent international epidemiologists, and other health experts on the ground, in Japan for monitoring, research and to establish the proper research protocols for long-term longitudinal studies.
This was not done during, or after, the Chernobyl accident, most likely because Ukrainian government officials did not want to embarrass themselves, or document potential liability claims.
We ought to set an international precedent that to avoid such conflict of interest, and appearance of conflict of interest, such monitoring and studies be conducted by independent academics from the international community.
Oh, which reminds me that last week the Wall Street Journal reported a controversy over the current head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, who is Japanese, and accused of being too tightly connected to the Japanese nuclear industry. The Wall Street Journal, which is highly reliable, reports interviews with representatives from other member nations, have been scheduling meetings, when he is out of the country, to prevent him from suppressing their demands for greater transparency from Tepco, and the Japanese nuclear oversight agency.
But, as I am working to keep my diaries more pithy, succinct and focused on one article, or topic, so I will write up this WSJ article, and several others, in short articles in separate posts.
Our hearts, and prayers, or secular best wishes are with the stoic people of Japan, who are still reeling, from this triple earthquake, tsunami, and triple nuclear "melt-through" of three months ago.
As always, for a comprehensive overview of developments at the Fukushima nuclear plans Please check out Boatsie's excellent Fukushima Rov 59.
Tue Jun 14, 2011 at 3:36 PM PT: Samer correctly pointed out that the previous version of these diary describes the Strontium isotopes as "bone-seekers" because they seek out, and lodge themselves into our bones.
As inert molecules they have no volitionary aspirations. More correctly I should have said our bodies absorb Stronium as if it were Calcium and deposits it in our bones where it is incorporated permenently.
Thanks for catching this inaccuracy samer.