Fukushima is irradiating America's west coast

#1

OK, this is a fucking eye-opener right here. Really want multiple sources on this – not sure how much credence to give al-Jazeera (I mean, genuinely not sure). Anyone have further leads or corroboration (or lack thereof)?

In other words: Holy Fucking Shit, This Really Is The Worst-Case Scenario. If, that is, this Gundersen guy is not talking completely out of his ass, or doing the orders-of-magnitude mis-estimation thing. But a 35 percent spike in infant mortality sounds like the kind of thing that is 1) objectively verifiable, and 2) goddamned scary. Anyone have more data?

#2

OK, I found what appears to be the original missive from the doctors citing the infant mortality statistic.

Reading it, I’m somewhat relieved. They cite a large delta in infant mortality, but they don’t give any historical context. They don’t give averages over time or any actual graph with multiple data points.

When talking about the radiation levels, they talk only about locally measured figures (which are horrible, but which have fuck-all to do with measurable radiation levels far away). They also diverge into talking about changes in low-birth-weight baby populations, insinuating that it’s radiation-related without actually proving it.

So right now I would love to see some deeper scientific analysis here, but I’m not yet panicking.

#3

Al Jazeera is typically a trustworthy source, to answer that part of your post. I haven’t seen any more data, but that article sure is alarming.

#4

I’ve been following a forums where some posters were way ahead of the game – they predicted various meltdown timings a full month before TEPCO put out out a press release, for example, based on a few bits of hard data available at the time.

http://www.physicsforums.com/forumdisplay.php?f=106 is pretty good.

The arstechnica thread used to be good, but it looks like the dicussions died down awhile ago except for a few people arguing nuclear energy: http://arstechnica.com/civis/viewtopic.php?f=26&t=1139141&start=3240

Some have made a good case that when the full numbers come out, the release will be larger than Chernobyl. A ton of that went directly into the ocean, however, so the effects are pretty different. But there doesn’t seem to be any concern about the US being impacted.

It sucks to be in Japan though. They had to raise the legal radiation limits on school playgrounds to 20msv a year. Ouch. And if you’re over it, they just add some soil on top and call it a day.

#5

The time period and WAY that it was released matters too. Chernobyl blew up. It shot radioactive materials right up into the atmosphere, in a huge burst. It was like setting off a bomb, but worse in some ways, because of how high it went and got caught in upper air streams and such. But it also dropped chunks onto the roof, which continued causing problems. They were able to bury it more quickly in some ways too.

So Japan’s incident may have produced more over time, but that doesn’t mean it was worse. We’ll have to wait and see on that. As for the West Coast of the U.S., the original article seems pretty unlikely.

#6

This fucking shit again.

The infant mortality thing is the newest bit of non-science to make the rounds. It’s sad that Al Jazzy picked it up.

#7

Fukushima is more dangerous situation in some aspects. More fuel, particularly the fuel pools, higher population density. Other countries nearby testing who could verify the numbers. Cs-137 is of particular concern, that’s the one that takes so long to go away.

Even in terms of explosions, the Fukushima three explosion was powerful enough to damage adjacent reactors, but the Chernobyl explosion was small enough for the adjacent reactors to be untouched.

Japan is extremely lucky in that the wind was blowing hard to the ocean for the worst part of it. This could have been SO much worse.

#8

Correlation, causation, etc etc etc.

#9

Proof please…

#10

They could finally confirm the multiple meltdowns because the system has stabilized enough for them to take a closer look at what’s left. These meltdowns had been suspected since a few days after the tsunami. There has not been any sign of escalation since that first terrifying week, when the reactors that didn’t explode caught fire.

“Full meltdown” sounds horrible, but it means that the fuel rods have melted and formed a fuel puddle on the bottom of the containment vessel. This does not mean that the fuel has leaked through the vessel.

And fortunately, most of the radiation that was released, was dumped into the ocean. If you want to know how much crap an ocean can contain, just think back to last year’s oil spill in the Gulf. This means that the risk to us humans is restricted: only when we eat massive amounts of contaminated fish from that part of the ocean (where the fishing fleet has been decimated by the tsunami), or when we live for prolonged periods in that contaminated area.

The area that’s described as “likely uninhabitable” causes an unacceptible health risk when you reside there for periods up to 70 years. And 966 square kilometers sounds large, but when you think of it as 20 x 20 miles, it becomes a lot less threatening. (Still, it sucks for the people living in that region, who are forced to make a very tough choice: move, and leave their life behind; or stay, and live in fear).

Worst case scenario? That would have been if the fuel rods hadn’t been cooled with sea water (that cooling caused a lot of radioactive waste that ended up in the ocean), had melted through the bottom of the reactor and hit ground water, resulting in a radioactive geyser. And if the resulting cloud had blown towards Tokyo.

#11

can’t say fukushima without saying fuk u

#12

Well that article had a striking lack of numbers. Where are the dosage estimates, concentrations and so forth? Al J. is letting its standards slip.

#13

I don’t know anything about the effect of radiation exposure on infant mortality but I am nonetheless certain that “Janette Sherman MD and epidemiologist Joseph Mangano” are completely full of shit.

Put aside the difficult causal question and focus on the simple question: was the infant mortality rate in the U.S. unusually high following the meltdown? To answer this question we lots and lots of data. First, we need data on number of births as well as deaths—the figures they report are not inconsistent with a lower mortality rate. We then need lots and lots of observations on mortality rates, because we can’t say anything until we assess seasonality and variability. To do a decent job, we should then try to control for confounding influences.

Janette Sherman MD and epidemiologist Joseph Mangano do not do any of this. They select a dataset of size n=2. They do not adjust for number of births. They claim a result is statistically significant when it certainly is not (again: n=2!). They make no attempt to control for seasonality or other confounders. We can learn nothing from their extremely limited data.

If they are honest, they are shockingly incompetent. It seems more likely that they realize this is complete nonsense, but complete nonsense they think will advance their cause—a little googling reveals both authors as long-time anti-nuclear advocates.

#14

That’s hardcore internetin’ right there. Awesome.

#15

Someone on fucking Reddit of all places debunked this shit.

#16

Actually, it’s now a “melt through”. The fuel melted through the base of the main containment vessel and is now in the secondary containment area in all three reactors.

#17

Well said.

#18

Don’t encourage it.

#19

Update: Fukushima now producing mutant butterflies. (Source: HuffPo)

Researchers in Japan say they have found evidence that radiation from the March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident has caused the mutation of dozens of butterflies.

Features such as stunted wings, irregularly developed eyes, disfigured antennas and different color patterns found in butterflies from irradiated regions have led scientists to say they have found evidence to suggest a link between the genetic mutations and the radioactive material that was leaked into the environment last year.

“We conclude that artificial radionuclides from the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant caused physiological and genetic damage to this species,” said the researchers’ report, which was recently published in the journal Scientific Reports.

The study is one of the first to explore the genetic impacts of the disaster.

According to the BBC, two months after the Fukushima nuclear accident, researchers collected 144 adult pale grass blue butterflies from 10 locations in Japan, including the Fukushima area.

Lead researcher Joji Otaki from the University of the Ryukyus in Okinawa said the results were surprising.

“It has been believed that insects are very resistant to radiation,” Otaki told the BBC. “In that sense, our results were unexpected.”

According to the study, the team found that areas with higher levels of radiation in the environment were home to butterflies with more mutant characteristics. In all, about 12 percent of the 144 butterflies were found to be mutant.

Though this news is perhaps disturbing enough, what researchers say is even more alarming is that these mutations are spreading rapidly through subsequent generations.

When Otaki and his team bred the butterflies in a laboratory setting, they discovered that a whole “suite of abnormalities that hadn’t been seen in the previous generation” began to appear.

Moreover, six months after the first collection, researchers found that butterflies from the Fukushima area showed a mutation rate “more than double” that of those found two months after the accident.

The researchers concluded that this higher rate of mutation likely came from butterfly larvae eating contaminated leaves and also from mutations of genetic material being passed on to subsequent generations by mutant parents.

“Since we’ve seen these effects on butterflies, it’s easy to imagine that it would also have affected other species as well,” Otaki told NBC. “It’s pretty clear that something has gone wrong with the ecosystem.”

University of South Carolina biologist Tim Mousseau – who studies the impacts of radiation on animals and plants, but who was not involved in this study – told the BBC that this research is a crucial step forward in understanding the impact of radiation on humans and other living things.

“This study is important and overwhelming in its implications for both the human and biological communities living in Fukushima,” Mousseau said.

The Fukushima nuclear disaster occurred after a 9.0-magnitude earthquake knocked out a power line at the plant last March. The earthquake triggered a tsunami that flooded the facility’s emergency generators, causing meltdowns to occur in three reactors. Within days, thousands of residents were evacuated from the area as radioactive material continued to leak into the environment.

#20

So we’re watching the birth of Mothra, can the big lizard be far behind?