Skip to comments.Fukushima Panic (Activists Raise Alarm About Radiation From Japan)
Posted on 12/31/2013 11:43:45 AM PST by nickcarraway
Activists raise alarm about radiation from Japan, but nuclear researchers say their fears are unfounded.
Cynthia Papermaster has stopped eating fish from the Pacific Ocean. The Berkeley resident also tries to stay out of the rain, and even leaves her rain boots outside of her house. The reason? She's worried about radioactive fallout from the accident at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station following the March 2011 tsunami and earthquake in Japan. "It's all one planet," she said. "The radiation will spread around the world."
Papermaster, an activist with the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists Social Justice Committee, is part of a larger group of East Bay anti-nuclear advocates who believe that residents on the West Coast are in danger from Fukushima radiation. Meanwhile, blog posts with scary headlines such as "28 Signs That the West Coast Is Being Absolutely Fried With Nuclear Radiation From Fukushima" are being spread via social media. This comes as the debacle at Fukushima is generating a wave of new headlines, largely around the continued leak of radioactive water from the plant and the ongoing efforts by the plant's owner, Tokyo Electric Power Company, known as TEPCO, to remove nuclear fuel rods from the station.
"It's almost too big to contemplate the magnitude of this disaster, and it hasn't gone away," said Papermaster, who recently helped organize a Berkeley town hall forum titled "Fukushima is Here ... Now What?"
But scientists at UC Berkeley's Department of Nuclear Engineering who have searched for signs of contamination say there is no legitimate scientific data to back up any of these concerns, and that radioactive levels in the Bay Area aren't worth worrying about. "Nobody is exposed to any dangerous levels of anything," said Edward Morse, professor of nuclear engineering at UC Berkeley. "I haven't seen a single record of anything that would be of concern." At the UC Berkeley Nuclear Engineering Air Monitoring Station, researchers have also failed to detect radioactive isotopes from the Fukushima reactors in a diverse range of tests, including on local salmon, seaweed, milk, seawater, and more. Soy sauce made in Japan and purchased locally also did not reveal radioactive isotopes from Fukushima.
Morse has a series of responses he rattles off to those who ask him about Fukushima-related health risks. For example, if an individual were to regularly drink water from the outer harbor around Fukushima for a full year putting aside the fact that humans do not drink salt water and would not be drinking from a source in the immediate vicinity of the plant the radiation exposure would be equivalent to that of flying in an airplane for just a few hours, he said. And while naysayers may respond that the comparison of an internal exposure to an external one is unfair, Morse has a follow-up: A single banana naturally contains higher rates of radioactivity than a roughly equivalent amount of that contaminated harbor water.
Still, Morse said he has received emails from California residents who are considering leaving the United States because of their fears of Fukushima radiation. He said one man felt pressured by his wife to move to Florida or South America. "I wrote him back saying, 'Unfortunately ... those planes might get you more radiation. If she's really concerned, stop serving her food. Maybe stop sleeping in the same bed with her because people are radioactive.'"
In a paper that was recently submitted to the Journal of Environmental Radioactivity and produced by a team at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, researchers found no evidence of radioactive fallout in fish purchased from markets in Oakland and Berkeley. However, they did detect low levels of cesium-137 in a few samples, which, according to UC Berkeley nuclear engineering professor Eric Norman, who worked on the report, "probably came from atmospheric nuclear weapons testing done in the 1950's 1970's." A paper that his research group published soon after the Fukushima accident in 2011 found some fallout from the plant in the East Bay, but only at isotope levels that were "very low and pose no health risk to the public," the report stated.
Levels of cesium in local fish cited by those concerned with Fukushima are so small that they are meaningless, said Kai Vetter, a nuclear engineering professor at UC Berkeley. "We have cesium everywhere in our environment. ... It's part of our natural radiation." He said that he regularly comes across poorly researched articles making unsubstantiated claims connecting a wide range of health and environmental problems to Fukushima. "The web certainly helps in spreading a lot of fears and concerns. ... It's just remarkable."
Thomas McKone, deputy for research programs at the Energy Analysis and Environmental Impacts Department of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, pointed to a National Geographic article that noted that the 300 tons of contaminated water reportedly leaking from the Fukushima plant each day would, if the rate remained consistent, amount to .00000000014 percent of the total volume of the Pacific Ocean after ten years. "As an environmental health scientist, the radiation from Fukushima is [nowhere] on my list of issues of concern," he wrote in an email. "I cannot imagine a Fukushima release scenario where eating fish from the Pacific would pose a health risk from radiation that in any way competes with the significant health benefits of eating fish."
When asked about these dismissals, several activists had the same response: Where are these so-called experts getting their funding? "The nuclear industry is very wealthy and powerful and entrenched," said Carol Wolman, an Oakland psychiatrist who launched a petition to pressure West Coast senators to take action on Fukushima radiation concerns. "There are plenty of experts. ... I prefer to err on the side of caution. The consequences could be so dire."
Regarding these kinds of conflict-of-interest allegations, Morse said: "I'm not taking any money from the industry. Not doing anything close to it. I'm as close to an independent opinion as you are going to get." (However, he added that he believes nuclear energy is an important alternative to coal.) Norman's 2011 study received funding from the US Department of Homeland Security and US Department of Energy.
Nonetheless, local activists continue to speak out. A group called Fukushima Response, which has several local chapters, has pushed for the United Nations to organize an independent team to assess the ongoing dangers at Fukushima. And this month, some Berkeley residents are pushing the city council to adopt a formal "Resolution to Reduce Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Dangers," which notes that the radioactive contamination from Fukushima will be carried by the jet stream and "spread by ocean currents to all parts of the world, adversely affecting marine life as well as human populations." It adds, "much greater contamination is likely given that the reactor cores are highly unstable and that the structures and storage tanks are deteriorating."
The resolution also calls on the Berkeley Health Services Department to "research and inform the public regarding elevated risk from seafood and other Pacific basin products, and to educate the population of Berkeley regarding specific treatments for radiation exposure and have in place emergency procedures to administer treatment, if necessary, to mitigate radiation exposure." In a recent high-profile action, hundreds of activists met on Ocean Beach in San Francisco to form a human sign that read "Fukushima is here."
Phoebe Sorgen, co-founder of the Bay Area Fukushima Response group and a member of Berkeley's Disaster and Fire Safety Commission, said that she seriously considered moving to the southern hemisphere in the weeks after the disaster in Japan. She said she's become obsessed with researching Fukushima radiation, but said that there isn't enough accurate information readily available. "It's hard to assess how bad the risk is," she said, noting that she ultimately decided not to move because she did not want to leave loved ones behind. Plus, she added, "I want to stay and fight."
“Papermaster, an activist with the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists Social Justice Committee...”
And certified loon.
“Papermaster, an activist with the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists Social Justice Committee....”
These people have been left wing loons since before I went to UC in the 60’s
*** She’s worried about radioactive fallout...**
We survived the 1950s and early 1960s nuke fallout when radioactive dust really was in the air. Did the plants in Japan release radioactive dust? It is obvious the libs are afraid of their own shadows.
A favorite tactic of the enviro-loons. They fling the same at AGW skeptics, claiming that anyone commenting against AGW on the internet obviously must be a paid troll for the oil industry.
Never mind how much money goes into the AGW cottage industry from governments and foundations. Their motives are pure, doncha know?
Godzilla will return!
Oh No....There goes Tokyo!
Not so far fetched, did you see this article?
Pet peeve of mine, sorry. Just because someone claims something in a lawsuit, and a newspaper reports it, doesn’t make it fact.
I would take that article with grain of salt or two.
The amount of exposure necessary to make someone ill is an acute dose something greater than 25 Rem. I sincerely doubt that only a small group of sailors could get that without the entire or majority of the ship being affected also.
Cancer? That is a Looooooong developing disease. Years. Something sounds more hysterical than anything else.
I kind of miss those old days when the TV weatherman gave the Strontium-90 forecast along with the chances of rain on the evening news. Of course the news came on after a hard day riding bicycles behind the town's mosquito control DDT fog truck. Come to think of it -- that might explain a lot!
Unfortunately, we have a few papermasters on this site, too.
According to Wikipedia, the U.S. and U.S.S.R. combined have conducted 1769 nuclear weapons tests, which included 435 were either underwater, atmospheric, or space tests. Another 310 tests have been conducted by other known nuclear nations and maybe N. Korea.
By these loons ‘reasoning” we should have all died horrible deaths years ago.
Yeah, but has Cynthia Papermaster been eating fish from off shore Japan or standing in rain form Japan? she is in California, land of fruits and nuts.
Remember the panic in Cali when people started buying up all potassium iodide supliments when they heard that they MIGHT get a dose of radioactivity from Japan?
I had to set down with my hypocondriact sister-in-law (in Arkansas)and explain why we did not need to start taking this suppliment unless there was actual radiation in the area, and how the supliment worked.
***after a hard day riding bicycles behind the town’s mosquito control DDT fog truck. ***
Hey, I used to do that down on the Animas River in Farmington NM back in 1956!
I still remember the smell of the DDT! I miss those days!
I bought one of these years ago so I don't have to wonder:
Sad to say it but there are many here on FR that are just as convinced that this is a reality.
The Army sprayed DDT to keep the mosquitoes down when I was at Ft. Eustis, Virginia in 1966. Interesting odor, sort of like a mix of b.o. and perfume.
*b.o.=body odor, not Barack 0bama :^p
This video was taken December 23rd 2013 with a quality Geiger Counter south of Pacifica State Beach (Surfers Beach) California.