by Gary Vey for viewzone

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An Apology

A while back I published some frightening stories about the dangers of radiation from the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima plant in Japan. I want to apologize for those articles because they were not well researched and relied on some myths and stories that were circulating at the time, designed to raise fear and anxiety.

Since then I've done some in-depth research about the condition of the nuclear reactors and spent fuel pools in Fukushima, and about nuclear fuel and radiation in general. I'd like to share some of this with you in the hope that you can rest easier about the situation and move on to other concerns, like the treatment of workers at the plant and the residents of this once gentle fishing village who have had to abandon everything to live in shelters [below].

Like most of you, I had been taught that radioactive elements, like Uranium and Plutonium, were so poisonous that just being close to them could cause mutations, cancer and even imminent death. I heard things like "just 5 grams of plutonium is enough to kill all life on the planet" and that nuclear reactors had the potential to explode like the bombs we dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Before I go any further, I'd like to introduce you to Galen Winsor. Galen passed away some years ago from parkinsons disease. Before he died he lectured around the country about nuclear energy, plutonium and uranium and the safety of nuclear power plants, like the one in Fukushima.

Galen Winsor was a nuclear physicist of renown who worked at, and helped design, nuclear power plants in Hanford, Washington; Oak Ridge, Tennessee; Morris, Illinois; San Jose, California; and Wimington, New Jersey. Among his positions of expertise he was in charge of measuring and controlling the nuclear fuel inventory and storage and the safety of workers at these plants.

Galen started working with nuclear material in the early days. He likes to say he had "hands on" experience (something you will soon appreciate). He showed that the fear of radiation has been exaggerated to scare people ... so that a few powerful people can maintain total control of the world's most valuable power resource -- the plutonium locked inside the spent fuel that our government calls "waste". This will become clearer after you hear more of his story.

Nuclear Scientist Eats Uranium (many times)

In this video [above], Galen Winsor is seen handling and eating uranium and plutonium -- something he had done for decades as a nuclear scientist and for making a point in his lectures. Galen is not crazy, rather he is trying to show us that what we have been taught about these nuclear materials is a lie.

This is part of a longer video, the link to which I will also post, that reveals how the nuclear industry created an unfounded and artificial fear of radioactive material so that the depleted fuel from nuclear reactors, usually stored in water pools or buried deep underground, would not be stolen and could be used for reprocessing to make plutonium fuel at some point in the future.

The future worth of the spent fuel from reactors, because it can be reprocessed to plutonium, is so valuable that it could not be adequately guarded or protected from theft or mishandling unless there was an aura of fear created about its potential danger.

Here [below] is Galen describing how he used to go swimming in the spent fuel pools (tanks) before the industry prevented him from revealing their scam.

I've shown only some edited segments because I know your time is valuable. You might want to watch he complete video [http://youtu.be/ejCQrOTE-XA] here. Perhaps this explains why we have such a negative idea and unreasonable fear for nuclear energy and the events at Fukushima and why certain people who know the truth are unmoved.

Who's Afraid Of Fukushima?

by DRAGON for viewzone

Who's afraid? Not Warren Buffet!

His new plant in Japan is only 40 klicks away from the Fukushima disaster area. As reported November 22, 2011, on Huffington Post.

How can this be? The Fukushima disaster happened on 11 March, 2011, and only 8 months later Warren Buffet is opening a tool making plant 25 miles from the disaster area? Hasn't he heard about the nuclear fallout? Are none of the 400 employees aware of the nuclear fallout? What's going on?

What about the fallout? The reports of extremely high levels of radiation in the ocean, in the air, on the fallout maps? The radiation sickness? The dead babies? The [now inedible] radioactive fish? It's in our teeth! It's everywhere! And now Warren Buffet is building a factory at almost Ground Zero? What does he know that we don't know?

Stated another way; what do we know that just isn't so?

To say that Warren Buffet is one of the Big Boys would be an understatement. The movers and shakers in this world don't get their news from CNN or Fox. If there are such things as insiders, then Warren Buffet would be inside the 'insiders'. W.B., as we'll refer to him here to conserve space, is not a "day trader". W.B. thinks long term. Early on in the Obama administration he invested heavily in railroads. Why? Because he knows that high speed rail is the coming thing. It's gonna happen. Maybe not as rapidly as he'd anticipated, but it's gonna happen. And when it does, he'll make boatloads of money. Warren Buffet "knows" things.

So W.B. is not afraid of an antiquated rail system. He's not afraid of Fukushima, either, because he "knows" something. Others on the inside, others who have access to information not covered by CNN, they know something, too. And they're not afraid of Fukushima, either.

The President of the United States has got to be one of the most well-informed people on the planet. So where did he go for Christmas vacation? He went out in the Pacific Ocean, miles deep into Fukushima water. He went to Hawaii.

He went to Hawaii and body-surfed in the ocean.

So the President body-surfs in Fukushima waters and Warren Buffet builds a plant so close to Fukushima that one could drive there on lunch break and take tourist photos. What do they know that you don't know? Better said, why don't you know it, too? Are you "out of the loop", as the saying goes? No. You're still in the loop, or in "a" loop. They're in a loop too, but a different one.

Your loop is what I call the fear porn loop. We may have had a free press back in Thomas Jefferson's day, but by 1880, it no longer existed.

One night, probably in 1880, John Swinton, then the preeminent New York journalist, was the guest of honour at a banquet given him by the leaders of his craft. Someone who knew neither the press nor Swinton offered a toast to the independent press.

Swinton outraged his colleagues by replying: "There is no such thing, at this date of the world's history, in America, as an independent press. You know it and I know it. There is not one of you who dares to write your honest opinions, and if you did, you know beforehand that it would never appear in print.

I am paid weekly for keeping my honest opinion out of the paper I am connected with. Others of you are paid similar salaries for similar things, and any of you who would be so foolish as to write honest opinions would be out on the streets looking for another job. If I allowed my honest opinions to appear in one issue of my paper, before twenty-four hours my occupation would be gone.

"The business of the journalists is to destroy the truth, to lie outright, to pervert, to vilify, to fawn at the feet of mammon, and to sell his country and his race for his daily bread. You know it and I know it, and what folly is this toasting an independent press?

We are the tools and vassals of rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks, they pull the strings and we dance. Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes."

(Source: Labor's Untold Story, by Richard O. Boyer and Herbert M. Morais, published by United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America, NY, 1955/1979.)

Fear Porn Is Real

Fear porn is out there. It's part of The Matrix. Fear porn is more addictive than heroin. Fear porn is the drug of choice for most Americans. So who's the drug pusher, in this case?

Start by looking at those in the 'other' information loop. Some in that loop are active pushers, and easily identified. Others in that loop are beneficiaries of the status quo created by the fear porn pushers, also easily identified.

Why is it done?

The name of the game is 'Control'. Control is most effectively exercised when the population demands to be given what the controllers have decided that they should have. Problem*Reaction*Solution, as David Icke wrote. There are too many of us and too few of them for brute force to prevail over the long term. The self-appointed controllers use perception management. So clever they are with the use of perception management that they can induce the population to vote for something that is clearly not in their best interests.

They've hidden their methods in plain site. Go to Amazon and look for the works of Carroll Quigley and Edward Bernais.

Fukushima fallout is a non-problem. Have some Pacific Ocean fish for dinner tonight. And check out that Galen Winsor video. You may want to go back for seconds on that fish after you've seen what he has to say.

 


Who Is Responsible?

Editor's Note: I've been cringing when I look at web sites like rense.com who have devoted top space to fear mongering over the Fukushima disaster. Most of their sources are something called "enenews" which was started shortly after the Fukushima disaster in 2011. The writer of this news "service" is apparently Japanese and his command of the English language is limited. He selects his news "bites" from Japanese news bulletins and always capitalizes on headlines designed to make one think the whole world will soon die because of the radiation that is leaking from the plant into the Pacific.

Enenews has advertising and earns ad revenue. On one occasion, the writer even chastised various web sites for reposting his stories without sending him compensation. Rense.com, of course, has his own ad revenue -- mainly from companies that used to capitalize on the "2012 Doomsday" scare. There are ads for organic seeds to start repopulating the earth after the great cataclysm and water purifiers, radiation detectors, orgone energy devices and other stuff that you will likely never need.

Fanning the fear of being "irradiated" by Fukushima fallout conveniently fits his advertisers and, besides the constant scare of getting the Henta Virus, or of Obama taking all our guns, it is the driving force behind his readership.

A change is in the wind

Happily, we may soon see a rapid decline in these "fear porn" websites. A recent survey in Europe (Germany) showed that conspiracy and fear-promoting literature and blogs were being replaced by information about things like the benefits of vitamin-D, preventing cancer and other health concerns.

Here at viewzone we have made an effort to stop the fear and to promote intelligent articles about scientific discoveries and a better understanding of the world in which we live. We would very much like you to be a part of this change. Please consider contributing a story or idea as we strive to make this web space more educational.

Thanks,

Gary Vey, Editor

Comments?

COMMENTS:

Good article! I remember years ago when VP Cheney conducted a top secret meeting with all the energy companies. Many people were surprised that the meetings were not public or the discussions reported to the American people. This suggests that perhaps it was about nuclear energy and the big "lie" that those in power have been perpetuating for decades.

HGrant


I can remember reading an article on that rense.com web site where someone who was supposedly a nuclear "expert" was describing the removal of fuel rods from the spent fuel pool (number 4). He said that if one fuel rod accidentally touched another rod there could be a nuclear explosion.

Consider that the H-Bombs we detonated over Japan consisted of two masses of either uranium (Fatboy) or plutonium. When the two masses were brought together they created a chain reaction. But to get them to cause an explosion they had to be detonated and pushed together with conventional explosives. Just touching two sources of radioactive material would never cause an explosion. I knew that when I read this rense.com story and it angered me that anyone could be so irresponsible and, well... ignorant.

I'm glad to see some sanity being reported finally. Thanks.

Dr.JH


I enjoyed the story about "fear porn" but, even more, the informative article on the sidebar. It was loaded with facts and information that I had not read before. I was one of those people who was almost too afraid to read any news about Fukushima. Now I think (hope) I can rest a little better at night (and enjoy my Pacific caught fish!)

BRM


I just finished the long video of Galen Winsor's lecture. I watched the China Syndrome back when it came out and so thought, like many, that nuclear fuel could heat up and melt through the earth's mantle. But Galen said something interesting. He said that they had accidents where the extremely hot fuel would leak through pipes in the ground but would seal itself eventually because it would melt the sand into glass. The glass would then continue thickening so as to hold the fuel until it could be retrieved. I wonder if this is what has happened at Fukushima. According to Galen, who should know if anyone does, the China Syndrome is a fiction. Wow, learned much from this.

Glen F


Yeah. That Gunderson dude that is all over rense and other fear sites is a scam artist. He claims to have been "head engineer" at a nuke lab but it was just a small demo lab at a university that had a couple of dudes working there so it was quite easy to be the "head". Now, in videos, he even has his wife with him and has started some foundation so he can rake in the fear cash. total sham. Thanks for the heads up.

W Mc


Interesting how there were no mutations from either Hiroshima or Nagasaki, isn't it? Radiation causes harm because it releases untraviolet, like a bad sunburn. If DNA is damaged, even a little, it dies. Ultraviolet can do that and so can gamma-rays. So if radioactive stuff gets inside you and sticks somewhere the surrounding tissue actually burns from the ultraviolet emissions. There are no mutations. As Galen says, it usually doesn't stick in you unless it is absorbed in lungs or bones.

KL


This story has made me start to wonder about viewzone. Let's talk about out of the loop.

Do you suppose that all of the various species of "melting" star fish all the way from Alaska to Mexico are out of the loop? What about the radioactive sea weed off the west coast? What about hundreds of california sea lion pups and their apparently starving parents that have abandoned them? How about the many reported cases of seals, sea lions orcas, and walrus that appear to be starving and show bald burn like patches on their skin?

Then there is the report by native elders that the salmon have disappeared for the first time in memory. As well as reports of salmon that were found, were yellow instead of pink, sounds like a shortage of plankton. There is also the report that virtually not one herring was caught off the british columbia coast this year, causing the collapse of the once large fishery.

Is all this pacific sea life deluded by fear porn and out of the loop? How about the 71 sailors from the uss ronald reagan who have developed thyroid cancer, out of the loop? How about madame curie, out of the loop? Radiation bioaccumulates, there is no safe dose. Better to be safe than sorry, dead is dead. There are a lot of strange coincidences in the pacific recently. As a critical thinker I would find it much stranger if this had nothing to do with the largest accidental, ever increasing release of radiation in history. Then again, maybe it is all global warming, yeah that's it.

Barry


Hi Barry,

The starfish are doing the same thing on the Atlantic Coast and there is a history of this same phenomenon that pre-dates the Fukushima event. It is a result, as far as they can tell, of a bacteria infection that correlates with the warming of the ocean. The same is true of the other species you mention. Some scientists claim that the melting of the Arctic ice has released bacteria into the environment that were locked up in the ice and are now populating and making the seals develop the infections.There is absolutely no evidence that this has anything to do with radiation sickness.

As far as the salmon... I live on the Oregon coast and we have had a record year for salmon fishing -- same last year. They apparently like the warmer ocean water and seem to thrive. We have not had any anchovies, however, and this is attributed to the increased feeding by larger predators who have been increasing in number -- also due to oceanic warming.

I am not sure about the California seals but autopsies show no residual radiation and none of the internal organ damage usually seen when radioactive material is ingested and causes ulraviolet-type burning and necrosis.

The sailors were subjected to the radioactive iodine when the plant first experienced an explosion so that is very real. That would account for the thyroid damage. But this has a half-life of only a few days so it was over very quickly and, so far, no more has been released.

Madame Curie actually was exposed to massive amounts of radium in her work and likely inhaled some where it stuck to her aveoli and caused the necrosis of local tissue. This has the same effect as carcinoma in that the tissue will form fibroids (tumors) and will eventually be fatal. There is no such possibility of this from Fukushima.

Radiation in the sea does NOT bio-accumulate because it cannot be absorbed by even the bottom feeders or mollusks. This is a fact. The tritium, which is water soluble, can accumulate in plankton and be accumulative in the bellies of upper feeders but it is relatively benign and exists in nature (made by the sunlight in the upper atmosphere). Thanks for the good question, though.

gary


So if I understand this article, you are saying that the fear of radioactivity has been perpetuated so that the valuable depleted fuel, what we currently consider as nuclear waste, can be protected and ownership maintained by the nuclear companies. This is supposedly because the fuel can be converted to useful energy as demonstrated by the processing plant that was built but then never allowed to function.

According to Mr. Winsor, the waste material can be processed into pellets that yield electrical current with no moving parts and can also be used to extract plutonium for future reactors. Is this perhaps the reason why the underground storage facility in Nevada has never been completed? Is this why the spent fuel rods are always maintained in storage pools next to the reactor and under ownership and control by the nuclear company? It's beginning to make some sense.

Thanks for the insight. More research needs to be done on this to convince me 100% but this is a start.

LeonG


Fukushima: Just How Dangerous Is Radiation?

Written by Ed Hiserodt for The New American

The situation in Japan is grim. Estimates of the dead or missing -- and by now this latter group must be moved into the dead column -- is above 25,000 souls. A half-million residents are homeless, with many in danger of starvation since roads and railroads have simply disappeared. Yet the world's media pays only lip service to the plight of Japanese citizens. It is almost entirely focused on the disabled nuclear reactors and the "leaks" of radiation that have had, and will have, virtually no effect on human health.

In the last few weeks, we have read reports of foreigners scrambling to leave the country, of levels of radioactive iodine in seawater that are seven-and-a-half million times the "legal" limit, and now the news that the recovery of bodies is being hampered because the dead are contaminated by radiation.

Interestingly, many of the expatriates "escaped" to areas where the background radiation was higher, in some cases much higher, than the areas in Japan they were evacuating owing to radioactive releases. An April 1 Bloomberg article by Stuart Biggs and Yuriy Humber gave the current background radiation measurements in Tokyo compared with other areas. Even after the releases in Japan, the amount of background radiation in Tokyo is still below the world average. The article quoted Bob Bury of the UK's Royal College of Radiologists, "The situation in Japan looks set to follow the pattern of Chernobyl, where fear of radiation did far more damage than the radiation itself."

Regarding the concentration of Iodine 131 in seawater, one might ask on what basis any legal limit is derived. The "normal" concentration of this isotope in seawater is zero, as only relatively tiny amounts are produced in nuclear reactors, and these for all intents and purposes cease to exist after 90 days because of radioactive decay. This seems to be a case of bandying huge numbers for no other purpose than to create fear -- something all too common in journalism these days.

If we analyze for a moment the MSNBC.com story "Japan faces another dilemma: Radiation-contaminated bodies,' we should remember that exposure to radiation does not make one radioactive, e.g., you don't become radioactive from an X-ray. So any contamination would have had to settle out from the atmosphere onto the bodies. One might ask how the radioactive particles know how to zero in on the corpses and avoid the area that surrounds them.

Even more irony comes from the land of liberals, California -- home to Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, and Governor Jerry Brown -- where many residents are fearful of the effects of radioactive particles carried on the winds from Japan. UConn physics professor emeritus Howard Hayden points out in his newsletter, The Energy Advocate, that the joke is on the Californians who are now gobbling down potassium iodine pills to saturate their thyroids in an attempt to block an accumulation of radioactive iodine. The "K" in KI pills is potassium, a small percentage of which is radioactive Potassium 40. In an attempt to avoid barely detectable amounts of Iodine 131, they are ingesting easily measurable amounts of bone-seeking Potassium 40. Actually this radiation won't bother them either, although the pills are not gentle on the digestive system and give the same symptoms -- nausea and cramping -- as does real radiation sickness, which has afflicted no one in Japan, let alone thousands of miles away in the United States.

Why the Outcry?

Fear of radiation is a learned behavior. Moreover, it's not something we learn from personal experience or observation. We have no way to sense it and must be told by others that we are in danger. As noted above, we receive plenty of information from the media on the dangers of radiation, and this is nothing new. Professor Bernard Cohen of the University of Pittsburgh looked at the New York Times Information Bank, which allows access to numerous publications, and found over the period 1974 to 1978 that there were about 120 stories per year on automobile accidents that killed some 200,000 people. But there were 200 stories per year on radiation that killed no one. Do you know anyone who died or was sickened by radiation? Do you know anybody who knows anybody who was such a victim? The odds are a million to one against it.

Another major reason for the fear is a lack of understanding about what levels of radiation are dangerous and where we might encounter them. Let us establish then how to quantify radiation and relate that to the harm it might cause us. First, though, be aware that we are talking about ionizing radiation from nuclear reactions, X-rays, cosmic rays, or emissions from elements that are naturally radioactive or have been made radioactive from exposure to neutrons in a nuclear reactor. We are not referring to microwave, infrared, or ultraviolet radiation.

Our first hurdle is to understand the units of radiation exposure. Unfortunately, there are two systems and each has different units to express intensity. In the United States the terms more commonly used by medical professionals are the rad and the rem. The rad is a measurement of radiation energy absorbed by matter, while the rem (Roentgen equivalent man) considers not only the amount of radiation, but its biological effect on humans and other animals. For gamma radiation and X-rays, the types of primary interest here, the two terms are equivalent. A rem, however, is a large dose of radiation; hence, to avoid lots of zeros to the right of the decimal point, the term we will be using is the millirem (mrem), one-thousandth of a rem.

The International System (S.I.) -- abbreviated from French: System International d'unités -- uses two other terms for radiation measurement. The gray (Gy) is equal to 100 rads, and the sievert (Sv) is equal to 100 rems. This is mentioned here because much of the information from other countries and in current news stories is cited in mSv -- a millisievert equal to 100 times the exposure of a mrem, i.e., 1 mSv = 100 mrem.

So we now have a unit of measurement -- the mrem -- that we can use to compare different levels of radiation. Table 1 shows a few examples. Note that one must be exposed to something in the area of 100,000 mrems of radiation in a short period to suffer symptoms of acute radiation exposure, and even more than that to risk death.

Mutation Scares

Survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs were forced participants in a huge epidemiological study of long-term radiation effects. The 86,572 individuals (including pre-born babies) within 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) radius of the blasts were required to carry a "Health Handbook" that recorded even the slightest details of the victim's health history. Of particular concern to the Japanese was the expectation of thousands of mutations in future births, but such worries were misplaced. While fruit flies that are exposed to radiation are mutated in odd ways (extra legs, eyes, etc.), humans are either not so susceptible, or the degree of mutation is so small as to be lost in the host of normal mutations common to our species. Zbigniew Jaworowski, a member of the UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR), wrote in Science in July 2001: "In 1958 UNSCEAR had no doubts about major genetic defects in the world population that could be caused by nuclear test fallout, and estimated them as high as 40,000. But now the Committee has learned that even among the children of highly irradiated survivors of atomic bombings no statistically significant genetic damage could be demonstrated (UNSCEAR 2001)."

Delayed Effects

Aside from death and radiation sickness resulting from extremely high doses of radiation, the only other known negative effect of radiation on humans is an increased risk of cancer. While certainly real, this threat seems overblown. Professor John Cameron, of the University of Wisconsin Medical School, points out that there were only about 400 excess cancer deaths in the tens of thousands of exposed individuals in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

If a large-scale, real-life sampling of radiation survivors didn't validate hypotheses of skyrocketing cancer rates, though many of the affected people suffered acute radiation exposure, why then do we hear terrifying reports about the number of cancer deaths we can expect from the recent partial meltdown in Japan, where no one has been reported to have faced acute exposure? It is because of a statistical hypothesis known as Linear No Threshold theory, or LNT.

Linear No Threshold theory assumes that there is a linear relationship in the amount of danger posed by increasing levels of radiation. Let's use aspirin to demonstrate LNT at work. Assume that 100 tablets is a 100-percent fatal dose of aspirin. (That is roughly the case for a 200-pound man.) Linear No Threshold theory would predict that 50 tablets would cause a 50-percent mortality rate, 10 tablets would result in 10-percent mortality, and a single tablet would cause one percent of the users to die. We can pretty well agree that this doesn't happen with aspirin, but we are told that it does for radiation.

High doses of radiation, for example 100,000 mrem, are carcinogenic and generally follow the LNT. But there is a growing consensus among health professionals that no such risk occurs below 10,000 mrem. Anti-nuclear activists and the media haven't caught on to this, however, as the following example shows.

Let us assume that the risk of cancer increases by 10 percent for anyone exposed to 100,000 mrem of radiation. If we extrapolate this linearly to zero, then at 10,000 mrem we have a one-percent increase in cancer. At 10 mrem, there would be a 0.001 percent increased risk of cancer. Now comes a hypothetical release of radiation that blankets the country of Japan with a dose of 10 mrem, the U.S. average for 10 days from natural sources. With a population of 127,000,000 people and a mortality of 0.001 percent, the LNT predicts 1,270 increased cancer deaths. Of course the media would pick up on this fact as gospel, needlessly frightening the citizenry with fictitious threats of cancer and death.

Will there be bodies piled in the street? No. Do adherents to LNT have any evidence of these speculated deaths? No. On the order of 19 million cancer deaths would normally occur in the population, so we cannot test their prediction that deaths will increase by 0.001 percent of that total. Since this small number is not statistically significant, who can prove them wrong?

Linear No Threshold theory applied to radiation is a shameful lie that causes huge outlays to "protect" the public against trivial amounts of exposure to radiation and is the primary reason behind a fear of nuclear power -- promoted, in your correspondent's opinion, by the radical environmentalists who wield enormous power in our federal and state governments, academia, the media, and, sadly, some of our country's scientific and professional organizations.

Alpha and Beta Radiation

We have not looked at forms of radiation other than X-rays and gamma rays -- both of which are part of the electromagnetic spectrum and essentially the same thing. There are two other forms of ionizing radiation that should be mentioned: alpha and beta particles. The former is a helium nucleus consisting of two protons and two neutrons making it an nuclear giant, while the latter is an electron that depends on a speed near that of light for its energy.

Alpha radiation cannot penetrate more than a few inches of air and is essentially benign unless it is loosed inside the body. Beta radiation cannot penetrate the skin, but can cause "beta burns" that are similar to sunburn. (The only reported radiation "injuries" at the Fukushima complex were caused when three workers waded in contaminated water higher than their boot tops. It is possible they had beta burns on their feet and ankles, but such information has not been made public.)

Neutrons are also always associated with nuclear fission. Though they are not in themselves ionizing particles, they can disrupt cellular activity with a result similar to all the aforementioned forms of radiation.

Isotopes and Half-lives

You may have noticed on news broadcasts that there is usually a number associated with the names of radioactive elements. For example, we hear of Iodine 131 being a dangerous product of fission. How is this different from the iodine our mothers put on our scrapes while we were screaming bloody murder? That iodine was primarily Iodine 127. Both are isotopes of iodine and both hurt when put on a scrape. But 131I (as it is usually designated) is highly radioactive. The Chart of the Elements on the chemistry class wall shows iodine as having the atomic number 53, since all isotopes of iodine have 53 protons. However, each isotope of iodine has a different number of neutrons, and the number of neutrons plus protons, which is known as the atomic mass, is the number assigned to the isotope. 127I has 74 neutrons, while 131I has 78. While chemically identical, the two are radically different in nuclear activity, with the former being stable and the latter radioactive.

Cobalt is another example. Ordinary cobalt, 59Co, is a metal often used to strengthen steel, but after being irradiated with neutrons for 18 months in a reactor, it is converted to highly radioactive 60Co -- it is used in industrial radiography.

All radioactive atoms are destined to disintegrate. When an atom of 131I breaks up, it emits a beta particle and gamma rays and is transmuted into stable 131Xe -- the noble gas xenon. The new atom is slightly lighter than the iodine atom, with the difference in weight being spent in energy emissions: radioactivity. The time it takes for half of the 131I to be transmuted to xenon is one half-life. For this nuclide the half-life is 8.02 days. After another half-life period, there is a quarter of the original iodine remaining. After 10 half-lives, less than one-tenth of a percent exists. Because of this short half-life, hospitals must be constantly renewing their supply of this useful radionuclide often used in thyroid diagnosis and ablation.

60Co goes through a similar beta decay and is transmuted to stable 60Ni. Its half-life is 5.27 years. Used for such processes as weld inspections and food irradiation, it also must be periodically replaced.

Since 131I gives up its energy much faster than 60Co, you would expect it to be more "radioactive" than the cobalt isotope. This indeed is the case and is related to the activity of the isotope.

Activity

Let us compare the number of disintegrations per second per gram of both the isotopes discussed above. This is called the specific activity of the sample and requires us to understand two additional measuring units. The Curie, named in honor of Madame Curie, who discovered both radium and polonium, is defined as 37 billion disintegrations per second for a single gram. (A gram is less than half the weight of a dime.) It tests the ability of the mind to comprehend the unimaginably small size of atoms when it takes 1,620 years at the beginning rate of 37 billion disintegrations per second for a gram of radium to lose half its mass. (Incidentally, Madame Curie never produced a whole gram of radium during her lifetime of refining and studying the element.)

The unit now used in the S.I. system is the Becquerel, which is defined as one disintegration per second. Hence one Curie (Ci) is equal to 37 billion Becquerels (Bq), not exactly the easiest conversion factor to work with.

For 60Co the activity is about 1,100 Curies! So the atoms of this isotope are changing into stable nickel at the rate of 1,100 times 37 billion, or 41 million billion, disintegrations per second.

But hold on to your hat. 131I checks in at 124,000 Ci, or 4,600 million billion Bq. And 133Te (tellurium) leaves the iodine isotope in the dust, with over a thousand times the disintegrations per second of iodine, and there are other much faster -- and more radioactive -- isotopes than Tellurium 133 with its half-life of 12.4 minutes.

So how dangerous are substances we usually think of as being highly radioactive, like that evil metal plutonium, which the media portrays as annihilating anyone within shouting distance? 239Pu, with a half-life of 242,100 years, has an activity of 0.063 Ci per gram, or a mere 2,300 billion disintegrations (Bq) per second -- one two-millionth the disintegrations of 131I. What about the activity of uranium, which we're taught to fear so fervently that we insist upon guarding "spent fuel" for hundreds of thousands of years due to its long-term radioactivity? With a half-life of 4.47 billion years, 238U gives up its energy grudgingly at a specific activity of 0.0000003 Ci, or 12,300 Bq. Furthermore, both it and 239Pu are alpha emitters whose radiation is stopped by a sheet of paper. But because uranium is radioactive for a near eternity, it is the poster child for anti-nuclear activists who rely on public ignorance of radiation dangers to undermine the energy industry or who errantly believe that long half-lives mean long-term danger -- just the opposite of reality.

It is radioactive substances with short half-lives that are dangerous, but because of their short half-lives, they are not dangerous for long.

Forecast

So what will be the likely outcome of the nuclear meltdown, and the subsequent release of radioactive elements, in Japan? Once pumps are fully operational and structural damage to the nuclear power plant is repaired, the level of radiation from venting the containment vessels and from uncovered spent-fuel cooling ponds will quickly drop, as will airborne particles. Within a few months, the 131I deposited on the ground will decay to zero. Some 137Cs (cesium) will remain detectable on the ground, but at present it appears to be only a tenth the amount of that from the Chernobyl incident -- and the amount from Chernobyl was on the same order of magnitude as the natural radionuclides in the soil.

Of course, anti-nuclear activists will predict thousands of cancer deaths based on the LNT, which will not happen, but no matter. Fear is the objective. As we have already seen, the Fukushima "disaster" will become the rallying cry against nuclear power. Few will remember that the plant stayed generally intact despite being hit by an earthquake with more than six times the energy the plant was designed to withstand, plus a tsunami estimated at 49 feet that swept away backup generators 33 feet above sea level. Wonder how those windmills would have stood up.


More Comments:

I'm a former US Navy and commercial reactor operator. I respectfully disagree that any form of nuclear power is by any means safe. Look at the facts.

3 totally melted down units resulted from just one earthquake and tsunami, natural events which are known to occur every few decades. They're so radioactive even a robot can't access unit 3, let alone humans.

All nuclear plants are sited next to a body of water, and if that body of water happens to be the ocean or a river, which is often the case, the plant will eventually be subjected to a flood. Google how close Ft Calhoun or Oyster Creek recently came to having service water knocked out. Check into the Nelson County flood and envision what a similar event would mean if struck the Tennessee Valley, with 7 plants sited along it's river.

A Carrington event or terrorist EMP would all spell 101 Fukashimas. We can't out build mother nature. It's that simple. And that's not even touching on the ethics of leaving nuclear waste behind for the next 25,000 generations to have to deal with.

Jason


Thanks for your comments, Jason. I totally agree with you that nuclear power is much too dangerous and we should find an alternative and eliminate all of the current nuclear power plants ASAP.

The article here was to address the unreasonable fear that has been, and continues to be promoted by false facts about the degree of harm from nuclear material, such as uranium and plutonium. In particular, we hope to address the fear associated with the Fukushima accident.

Many people have been paralyzed by reports that this event will kill everyone in the Northern hemisphere, poison the fish in the Pacific and cause global mutations. While radioactive material can cause burns and the death of tissue, Fukushima does not pose this level of threat and the harm caused by making people afraid for their lives, or experience mental problems, is more harmful.

Let's eliminate nuclear power and opt for a more environmentally safe source of energy -- but let's do it with the truth and scientific integrity instead of fear mongering and exploiting the ignorance of the uneducated public. Again, thanks for your comments.

Gary


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