Fukushima Radioactivity Release Estimates Pt. 1

Further information concerning the truth in the Fukushima accident.

You can’t be distracted by the noise of misinformation. – James Daly


Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (Nisa) now says 770,000 terabecquerels escaped into the atmosphere following the 11 March disaster – more than double its earlier estimate of 370,000 terabecquerels.

Although the amount is just 15% of the total released at Chernobyl in Ukraine in 1986 – the world’s worst nuclear disaster – it suggests the contamination of the area around the plant is worse than first thought, says the BBC’s Roland Buerk in Tokyo.

We are now starting to get some better information out of TEPCO and the Japanese government. 770,000 terabecquerels converts to twenty million curies. This is a lot of radioactivity. And the correct term for what is being release is radioactivity, not radiation. The radioactivity releases energy, radiation, as it undergoes radioactive decay. So radiation must have a source, and it’s this source that is ‘leaking’ or being released from where it’s supposed to be contained. Imagine your kitchen after your children made you biscuits from scratch. The flour all over your kitchen is the ‘contamination’ and if it were radioactive, it would be radioactive contamination. Fortunately flour is only a nuisance. Or better yet, if you had a balloon full of cesium 131 powder, there would be radiation emitted from the balloon (well, the cesium in the balloon). But you could put the balloon under a lead blanket and all would be alright. But if you pop the balloon, the cesium powder will fly out all over the place. And it’s all still emitting radiation, but now rather than being contained in a balloon, it’s all over the room, all over you, and unless you held your breath, all IN you! This isn’t good. So kids… take care of your cesium balloons!

But I am still looking for a breakdown of the amounts of each radioactive isotope released, as this is of great importance. Imagine if I told you that someone had spilled twenty gallons of liquid in your kitchen? If it were twenty gallons of water, you’d just be worried about water damage, but what if it were twenty gallons of liquid chlorine, or twenty gallons of hydrochloric acid? So ‘what kind’ of radioactivity released is important. True that any release radioactivity is not good, but some types of radioactivity are worse than others. I’m going to try to put this twenty million curies of radioactivity into some sort of perspective, but first here is something I stumbled on while researching this post. (Please be advised that I have not found any supporting references for this yet, and it’s from an anti-nuclear website.)

In 1945, 550,000 curies of radioactive iodine were released at Hanford, exposing 150 million Americans to more than 4 billion picocuries per capita of this lethal radionuclide, an amount comparable to releases from Chernobyl, the worst nuclear disaster in history – which resulted in a 200 fold increase in thyroid cancer in that area.

The above is an interesting find, and I’ll try to see if I can glean any other evidence out of it. But for now, here are some ways to put the radioactivity released into some sort of perspective:

  • A typical home smoke alarm has about 1 microcurie of usually Americium-241. So Fukushima is equivalent to about  twenty billion smoke detectors.
  • Using the ‘banana equivalent dose’ that some organizations do, assuming a typical banana contains 0.5 nanocuries of Potassium-41, and that a banana weighs 150 grams: 6.6 trillion tons of bananas. (Ok, this got so mind boggling my math might be off. But it sure looks impressive.)
  • Here’s a good source of information for comparisons of radioactivity: http://cns.miis.edu/opapers/op11/op11.pdf
  • And here is another excellent resource for some of our Department of Energy’s cache of radioactive sources. http://www.davistownmuseum.org/cbm/Rad8b.html

Again, I am waiting for an itemized estimate of the released isotopes before this can be truly categorized.

Let’s all be informed, and don’t just rely on me, ferret all this out for yourself too!

As you were.

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