16 April 2011

Iodine 131 and a classic magicians' distraction technique.

This was posted to www.llrc.org today

Iodine 131 and a classic magicians' distraction technique. 

This post is about radio-Iodine but we have doubts about going with it. If the authorities can get us all thinking about Iodine and then reassure us that actually it's not a problem except for people in Japan (which is broadly true) then we might not realise that the really dangerous isotopes - Plutonium, Uranium, Strontium, Tritium in particular - are not even being reported. This is a massive failure of Governments' duty of care. 

However, with that caveat, we'll fall into the Iodine trap because we have received many requests for advice since the Fukushima emergency began. 

Our early advice on taking stable Iodine is unchanged. It is here

The European Committee on Radiation Risk has published amethod for calculating doses from drinking water or milk contaminated with Iodine 131. ECRR's main message is reassuring about the risks, so far as USA and Europe are concerned. They are not much different from what you hear from official sources.Calculating doses from Iodine.

Take the figure for Becquerels per litre (Bq/l). (There is information on the internet. LLRC has no resources for monitoring it all). If, as in USA, the radioactivity levels are expressed in picoCuries (pCi), convert pCi to Becquerels (Bq) by multiplying by 0.037.

To convert a dietary intake into a dose multiply the Becquerels by 0.11 and the answer will be the dose in microSieverts. For example, if a litre of water is contaminated with 0.5 Bq, drinking it will give 0.5 x 0.11 = 0.055microSv. (This uses the ECRR adult dose coefficient for Iodine 131 which is slightly different to the ICRP dose coefficient - see ECRR 2010 p. 244).

The cancer risk associated with this dose is small. It can be calculated by dividing the dose in microSv by 1 billion. For the above example this means that if a billion people each drank a litre of water contaminated with 0.5 Bq then 5.5 of them would develop cancer over a period of 50 years. The individual person would increase his or her chances of getting cancer by 1 in 182 million. (This uses the ECRR cancer risk coefficient of 0.1 per Sievert which is different to the ICRP risk coefficient 0.05 per Sievert - seeECRR 2010 p. 180).

Note that this calculation is for a single intake. Iodine 131 loses half of its radioactivity in 8.04 days. This means that if your water supply comes from rainfall and if the rain becomes contaminated in a single episode the radioactivity will decay to 1/16th of its original concentration during a month and so on. That's assuming no further releases from the reactor affect your region.

Black Ops on CRIIRAD?
In the last few days many websites and newspapers have misreported Iodine dose figures from the French NGO CRIIRAD. It is claimed that CRIIRAD has said if a child under 2 years ingested 50 Becquerels of Iodine 131 the dose would be
10milliSieverts. At best, this is a transcription error; at worst it's a propaganda attack intended to discredit good sources of independent advice by making them look like scaremongers. 

CRIIRAD actually said:

Les enfants en bas âge (0 – 2 ans) sont les plus vulnérables : l’ingestion d’une cinquantaine de becquerels d’iode 131 suffit à délivrer à leur organisme une dose de
10 µSv. (Children under the age of 2 are the most vulnerable. Ingesting about 50 becquerels of Iodine 131 is enough to give them a dose of 10 µSv.) 

That's 10 microsieverts, a thousand times smaller than 10 millisieverts. 
We have checked the calculation. It appears that CRIIRAD has used ICRP dose and risk coefficients and a ten-fold multiplier to correct for the small body mass of these little children. This is reasonable (for any given intake, a small body mass means a larger dose). According to LLRC's arithmetic the effective dose to the child is 11µSv. Using ECRR dose coefficients it would be 27.5µSv. 

So beware of nonsense on the net. The micro / milli confusion can arise because the International System of Units (SI) uses the letter m to stand for milli or 1/1,000. The Greek letter mu (µ) stands for micro or 1/1,000,000. Some software packages use the Symbolfont to allow Greek characters and the key you press to get µ is the "M" key. If someone pastes the resulting text into an editor that doesn't recognise Symbol it will give an m. It looks like a small error but in this case it's a thousand times wrong.

If you have more questions email us. We get a lot of emails. We can't answer them all, but we read them all and they influence what we write about here.

Bad news and good advice for Fukushima's refugees
Iodine131 affects the thyroid gland. A few years ago the New York Times reported that doctors had found a puzzling increase in thyroid cancer in New York State. Here's the link. The increased cancer rate was driven by immigrants from Belarus and Ukraine, many of whom settled in New York. Their doctors and, presumably, public health officials didn't realise that it was important to watch for changes to their thyroids, while back in the homeland the people who stayed behind were monitored closely and treated early. Eventually, the emigrés' thyroid cancers became impossible to ignore. Unfortunately, in many cases they were diagnosed too late. 

Apologists for nuclear power claim that the increase in thyroid cancer in the Chernobyl-affected territories is an artefact caused by increased vigilance - more thyroid cancers were detected because doctors were looking for them. (This quote is from the BBC's disgraceful Nuclear Nightmares mockumentary of 2006.) They think this gets radioactive fallout off the hook. The New York experience shows the opposite; radioactive fallout caused the cancers and lack of vigilance killed the victims. This is a powerful warning to people who have left the blighted parts of Japan. Don't think you have left the radiation problem behind; it might have come with you. If you think you have been exposed, make sure your doctor knows it. Get regular checkups long-term. If medical people on LLRC's circulations send us relevant advice we will post it later.

Atomic Deserts: A Survey of the World's Radioactive No-Go Zones

by Michail Hengstenberg, Gesche Sager and Philine Gebhardt
Der Spiegel
The Soviet nuclear testing site in present-day Kazakhstan is just one of many places in the world that remain dangerously radioactive to this day.
The Soviet nuclear testing site in present-day Kazakhstan is just one of many places in the world that remain dangerously radioactive to this day.
Part 14: The Desert Rats
France was also determined not to get left behind in the nuclear arms race. The first French atomic bomb was called "Gerboise Bleue," named after a desert rodent, and was detonated on the morning of Feb. 13, 1960 in the Reggane district of Algeria, then a French colony. At 70 kilotons, it was bigger than the first nuclear tests of the UK, USSR and USA combined. Three more bombs were exploded soon thereafter. France moved its testing grounds to remote areas of the South Pacific after Algeria gained its independence in 1962.

Why Anti-Nuclear Belongs in All of Our Movements | Common Dreams

Why Anti-Nuclear Belongs in All of Our Movements | Common Dreams

The stakes are getting higher by the day in the radioactive roulette playing out at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex. On Monday the Japanese government finally widened the evacuation zone and is raising the threat level from five to seven, the same level as the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine. In our own movements we need to raise the nuclear threat level too.
4.11 原発反対デモin高円寺 Anti nuclear power protests in Kouenji
While it’s tempting to sit back and wait for an antinuclear movement to rekindle in the United States, we simply can’t afford the time. Nor is it clear that such a movement will emerge. The failure of the anti-war movement to gain broad traction is a case in point. Many progressive movements are just struggling to hold on in the face of vicious right-wing assaults and loss of funding. So the question becomes: How do we build an antinuclear politics in the absence of a full-fledged antinuclear movement?
The answer lies in finding points of convergence. After all, nuclear power, waste and weaponry threaten us all, as well as generations to come. The nuclear accident in Japan – if we can really call it an accident since potential disaster was built into the very location and design of the plants – serves as a glaring reminder that those who hold the reins of power do not have solutions for the serious social, economic and ecological crises of our time. On the contrary, they are making disasters, not unmaking them, risking our collective future for their own short-term gain. As economist Joseph Stiglitz wrote recently, financial meltdown and nuclear meltdown are closely related, both products of a system of delusional speculation, technological hubris, public subsidies and private greed.
In each of our movements, then, we need to make a space for antinuclear activism. Here are just a few of many possible points of convergence:
Nuclear power is a reproductive rights issue. Among other serious side effects, exposure to radiation can increase the risk of sterility, birth defects and genetic mutations that can affect the reproduction of generations to come. Plutonium, a by-product of nuclear power and a key component of atomic bombs, is the most potent manmade poison on the planet, with a half life of 24,000 years. It crosses the placenta and is stored in male testicles.
Nuclear power is an environmental justice issue, from uranium mining on indigenous lands in the southwest to locating reactors in poor African-American rural communities in Georgia.
It’s a climate justice issue. Don’t let them fool you. Nuclear power is not a clean substitute for dirty fossil fuels. For one thing, the government and industry have no idea of how or where to safely store the waste. Moreover, nuclear is hardly emissions-free when you factor in the mining, transport and enrichment of uranium as well as the leakage of the potent greenhouse gas CFC 114 from cooling pipes. The money spent on nuclear development should instead flow to the development of safe renewable energies and conservation.
It’s a labor rights issue. As we’ve seen at Fukushima, nuclear workers, many of them laboring on an exploitative contract basis, are being exposed to unacceptable health risks. Nuclear power also produces dangerous chemical by-products that affect workers. As an industry shrouded in secrecy, workers often lack redress or are scared to complain about health and safety violations for fear of losing their jobs.
It’s a peace and security issue. The notion of ‘atoms for peace’, first trumpeted by President Eisenhower in the 1950s, has always been a sham. Nuclear power fuels the atomic weapons industry, facilitates nuclear proliferation, and increases vulnerability to terrorist attacks. In a profound irony, it helps legitimize the national security state as necessary to protect us from nuclear threats of the state’s own making.
Nuclear power is a basic democracy issue too. Why does President Obama support nuclear power? Because the nuclear lobby supported his candidacy. If we want clean renewable energy, we need clean elections. And we need local control. Right now the brave state of Vermont is fighting to shut down the leaking Vermont Yankee nuclear plant that has the same flawed design as Fukushima. Its state legislature is pitted against the Nuclear Regulatory Commission which recently renewed the plant’s license. Whose vote should count – the people of Vermont’s or a few pro-industry representatives on the NRC licensing committee?
By including opposition to nuclear power in all of our diverse struggles, we can start to build an effective antinuclear politics that could spawn a broader movement. But even if it doesn’t, we won’t have stood by passively as the threat level mounts. While the Republicans play at shutting down the government, what really needs shutting down is the nuclear industry. We all need to help in that fight.

15 April 2011

This Week: GOP’s Reverse Robin Hood Agenda. PLUS: 7 Corporate Tax Evaders | The Nation

This Week: GOP’s Reverse Robin Hood Agenda. PLUS: 7 Corporate Tax Evaders | The Nation

On Wednesday, President Obama unveiled his deficit reduction plan as a plausible alternative to the GOP’s cruel budget proposal delivered a week earlier. That plan, presented by House Budget Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), showed that the GOP isn’t interested in cutting the deficit; they would pay for tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans with spending cuts for services that benefit the elderly, the working-poor and a beleaguered middle-class. Even the non-partisan Congressional Budget Offices estimates it would increase the deficit over 10 years. Please check out my post, “Fighting for a People’s Budget,” outlining alternatives to the GOP’s reverse Robin Hood agenda.

  • Slide Show: 7 More Corporations That Owe You Money
Slide Show: 7 Corporate Tax Evaders

About the Author

Katrina vanden Heuvel
Katrina vanden Heuvel has been The Nation's editor since 1995 and its publisher since 2005. She is the co-editor of...

Also by The Author

Obama's budget speech was a clear rebuke to the GOP's reverse Robin Hood agenda. But he continues to legitimize the inside-the Beltway consensus that spending cuts are necessary for fiscal responsibility.

Deficit hawks across the political spectrum and the tea partiers claim America is broke. It isn't. We can deal with our debt by taxing extreme concentrations of wealth.

When President Obama spoke of “shared sacrifice” this week, two-thirds of the cuts he proposes to reduce the deficit with would come from education, health and other social programs while a paltry one-third would come from our bloated defense budget. This week, we ask in our lead editorial, “Whose Shared Sacrifice?

With a government shutdown averted, the budget compromise calling for $38.5 billion in spending cuts passed by Congress on Thursday, touted as “the largest annual spending cut in history,” is now headed to President Obama’s desk for approval. And yet, as Iargued this week in the Washington Post, somewhere along the way we lost the point of having this debate in the first place: a need for a clear strategy to build the economy and revive the middle class.

Also this week…

SLIDESHOW: 7 Corporate Tax Evaders

Tax Day is right around the corner. This week, we’re reminded that while Washington continues to tell Americans to tighten their belts, some of the country’s most profitable corporations aren’t paying their fair share of taxes. Who are they? Be sure to look at our slideshow, looking at seven corporate tax dodgers. And let’s not be fooled: by restoring saner corporate tax policy, we wouldn’t have to balance the budget on the backs of struggling Americans. The slideshow is available here.

AWARD: The Nation Nominated for Best Political Coverage in Utne’s 2011 Independent Press Award

This week we received word that The Nation has been nominatedfor Best Political Coverage in Utne Reader’s 22nd Annual Independent Press Awards. And we’re in good company. Nominees include Dissent, In These Times, Mother Jones, The American Conservative, The American Prospect, The New Republic and The Progressive. We’re honored for the recognition. Winners will be announced May 18th at the MPA-Association of Magazine Media’s Independent Magazine Media Conference in San Francisco. Congratulations to all our co-nominees.

BLOG: Tax Day Activism

Guest-blogger Allison Kilkenny continues to bring us the latest on US Uncut, which most recently pulled off a clever hoax with the cultural activist duo The Yes Men. They widely circulated a false AP report stating that General Electric would refund its entire $3.2 billion tax return. Wouldn't that be something! Be sure to read Allison's report here. More actions are planned across the country for Friday, over the weekend, on Tax Day this Monday, led by US Uncut, MoveOn and others. Be sure to read my colleague Peter Rothberg’s post, “A Primer on Tax Day Activism” for a powerful look at what many will be doing around the country.

WELCOME: Jamelle Bouie

We’re pleased to welcome Knobler Fellow and guest-blogger Jamelle Bouie, who is also a Writing Fellow at The American Prospect. Bouie’s specialty is US politics—with a focus on parties, elections and campaign finance. His writing has appeared in The Washington Independent, CNN.com, and in Ta-Nehisi Coates' blog at the Atlantic. Be sure to head to The Nation’s group blog,The Notion, and check out his latest post, “Democrats Prepare to Embrace Anonymous Campaign Contributions.” Read it here.

14 April 2011

Pleased with Draconian Cuts to Gov't, MN Billionaires Thank Legislators

The MN Legislature has made lower taxes for the wealthy a top priority. While the Billionaires' effective rate of 7.7% is much lower than the middle class rate of 10.3%, the Legislature would rather balance the budget on the backs of the poor, elderly, disabled and middle class. While Minnesota is facing a $5 billion deficit, legislators are slashing funds for education, mass transit, healthcare, parks, and road repair. They have not approved any bill that would raise taxes on the wealthiest citizens of the state.

Posted: 13 Apr 2011 02:54 AM PDT

Comment:  Stay safe Rianne:  "Lead by Rianne Teule, Greenpeace International Energy Campaigner!"

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Yonezawa, Japan- (PanOrient News) Greenpeace said in a statement today that its radiation experts investigating impacts from the Fukushima nuclear crisis have discovered high levels of contamination in crops grown on the outskirts of Minamisoma city, raising further concerns over health risks to residents and a lack of official information outside the 20 km evacuation zone.

A Greenpeace radiation monitoring team tested spinach and other vegetables from the gardens of Minamisoma city residents, "revealing radiation levels many times higher than official limits," according to a statement by the group.

Total activity levels of 70,000 - 80,000 Bq/kg were found in spinach leaves from one garden, while levels of roughly 9,000 Bq/kg were found in cabbage from another. Based on the Japanese Ministry of Science (MEXT) reports, 20-30% of this radioactivity is caused by cesium-137, which is far above the Japanese government limit of 500 Bq/kg for vegetables. The limit for iodine-131 it is 2,000 Bq/kg.

Greenpeace has two small field teams carrying out radiation measurements, based in Yonezawa, but operating close to the Fukushima evacuation area. One team is focusing on a survey to map surface contamination and the on food and milk testing. Greenpeace is making requests through Japan’s media for food producers and consumers volunteering their food to be tested, which may aid them in future compensation claims.

The current official evacuation zone is 20 km around Fukushima, while between 20 km and 30 km is an area where people are advised to stay indoors or evacuate voluntarily.

“In several Minamisoma gardens, the vegetables were too contaminated for consumption,” said Greenpeace radiation expert Rianne Teule who is leading the food testing team. “The owner of one garden with contaminated spinach told us that she had received no information from authorities on the radiation risks to her crops, despite reports that government tests on plants in Minamisoma have been underway since March 18.”

The government has been publishing raw data from its own field monitoring, however, its assessment is currently far from comprehensive. Further radiation measurements made by the team in several parts of Minamisoma city show levels up to 4.5 microsievert per hour, which contrasts with the only official monitoring point in Minamisoma City which shows the relatively low levels of 0.7 microsievert per hour.

“Our measurements, taken between government monitoring points, show elevated levels of contamination outside the official 20 km mandatory evacuation zone that indicate a risk to health, yet people in Minamisoma are only being advised to stay indoors or leave on a voluntary basis. This is unacceptable.”

The Mayor of Minamisoma, Katsunobu Sakurai, expressed his frustration to Greenpeace, citing a lack of reliable information or clear advice from Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) and the authorities regarding the risks this crisis is posing to his community.

“TEPCO has been irresponsible. 
Further measurements in the region, such as in a rural area near the village of Tsushima, 30 km from the Fukushima/Daiichi nuclear plant, and just outside the 30 km voluntary evacuation zone, also found contamination levels of up to 47 microsieverts per hour, compared to the 32.7 reported by the authorities. Exposure at this level means the maximum allowable dose for a year being achieved in less than 24 hours.

As the maximum allowable accumulated annual dose for members of the public is 1000 microsieverts, 47 microsieverts is 1.5 times that measured by the authorities, and high enough to expose someone to the maximum allowable dose in less than 24 hours.

As part of the monitoring work, the team used selection of standard radiation monitoring equipment including Gamma spectrometer (Exploranium GR-135,) LB 200 Becquerel monitor, Geiger counters (Radex RD 1503, RadAlert,) and Contamination monitors (RADOS MicroCont, Berthold UMO.)

Lead by Rianne Teule, Greenpeace International Energy Campaigner and radiation expert, the teams include Greenpeace Germany Climate and Energy Unit Head Thomas Breuer, Greenpeace Belgium radiation safety expert Jan van de Putte and Greenpeace International Logistics Manager and qualified radiation safety advisor, Nikki Westwood.

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