Fukushima Crisis Upgraded to Level 7 while Radiation Experts Warn About “Radioactive Bananas”

NHK reports that Japan to raise Fukushima crisis level to worst.

(emphasis mine) [my comment]

Japan to raise Fukushima crisis level to worst
Tuesday, April 12, 2011 05:47 +0900 (JST)

The Japanese government's nuclear safety agency has decided
to raise the crisis level of the Fukushima Daiichi power plant accident from 5 to 7, the worst on the international scale.

The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency made the decision on Monday. It says
the damaged facilities have been releasing a massive amount of radioactive substances, which are posing a threat to human health and the environment over a wide area.

The agency used the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale, or INES, to gauge the level. The scale was designed by an international group of experts to indicate the significance of nuclear events with ratings of 0 to 7.

Level 7 has formerly only been applied to the Chernobyl accident in the former Soviet Union in 1986 when hundreds of thousands of terabecquerels of radioactive iodine-131 were released into the air. One terabecquerel is one trillion becquerels.

The agency believes the cumulative amount from the Fukushima plant is less than that from Chernobyl
[so far maybe, but not for long unfortunately]

Kyodo News reports that radiation leakage may eventually exceed that of Chernobyl: TEPCO.

URGENT: Radiation leakage may eventually exceed that of Chernobyl: TEPCO
TOKYO, April 12, Kyodo

The operator of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant said Tuesday that it is concerned that
radiation leakage at the plant could eventually exceed that of the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe.

''The radiation leak has not stopped completely and our concern is that the amount of leakage could eventually reach that of Chernobyl or exceed it,'' an official from the Tokyo Electric Power Co. said.

Radiation risks from Fukushima 'no longer negligible'

Euractiv.com reports that Radiation risks from Fukushima 'no longer negligible'.

Radiation risks from Fukushima 'no longer negligible'
Published: 11 April 2011 | Updated: 12 April 2011

The risks associated with iodine-131 contamination in Europe are no longer "negligible," according to CRIIRAD, a French research body on radioactivity. The NGO is advising pregnant women and infants against "risky behaviour," such as consuming fresh milk or vegetables with large leaves.


After the radioactive cloud emanating from Japan's stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant reached Europe in late March, CRIIRAD,
a French research body on radioactivity, an NGO, said it had detected radioactive iodine-131 in rainwater in south-eastern France.

In parallel testing,
the French Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN), the national public institution monitoring nuclear and radiological risks, found iodine 131 in milk. 

In normal times, no trace of iodine-131 should be detectable in rainwater or milk.

The document, published on 7 April,
advises against consuming rainwater and says vulnerable groups such as children and pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid consuming vegetables with large leaves, fresh milk and creamy cheese.

The risks related to prolonged contamination among vulnerable groups of the population can no longer be considered "negligible" and it is now necessary to avoid "risky behaviour," CRIIRAD claimed. 

Data for the west coast of the United States, which received the Fukushima radioactive fallout 6-10 days before France, reveals that levels of radioactive iodine-131 concentration are 8-10 times higher there, the institute says.

There is no end in sight

CNN reports that Fukushima Daiichi's reactors remain too hot to pour concrete.

Improvisation, frustration mark Japan's nuclear crisis at 4 weeks
By Matt Smith, CNN
April 10, 2011 -- Updated 1356 GMT (2156 HKT)

Tokyo (CNN) --
A month into the crisis, the utility acknowledges, there is no end in sight.

The problems are so far "beyond the design capacity" of the plant that the Japanese are working in uncharted territory, said Michael Friedlander, a former senior operator at U.S. nuclear power plants.

"No nuclear power plant has ever considered the inability to get on long-term core cooling for more than a week, much less three weeks," Friedlander said.

Some Japanese experts now say
the effort is in danger of failing unless Japan seeks more help from international experts to bring it to an end. Tetsunari Iida, an engineer-turned-industry critic, said the situation is "beyond the reach" of Japan's closely knit nuclear establishment.

Much of the past week was dominated by the attempt to stop water laced with massive amounts of radioactive particles from pouring into the Pacific Ocean -- water that comes out of the reactors "screaming with radioactivity," Friedlander said. Tokyo Electric is now grappling with where to put the stuff, even dumping thousands of tons of less-radioactive water into the Pacific to make room for it in a reservoir for low-level waste.

Tokyo Electric officials told CNN they can't say when they'll be able to restore those normal cooling. The first step is to get highly radioactive water out of the flooded basements of the units' turbine plants, then figure out how badly the equipment inside has been damaged.

For the first two weeks of the crisis, engineers pumped seawater into the reactors. But the resulting buildup of salt inside has made it harder for coolant to circulate, U.S. nuclear safety officials advised in March.

Satoshi Sato, a Japanese nuclear industry consultant, called
the current line of attack a "waste of effort." Plant instruments are likely damaged and unreliable because of the intense heat that was generated, and pumping more water into the reactors is only making the contamination problem worse, he said.

"There is no happy end with their approach," Sato told CNN. "They must change the approach. That's something I'm sure of 100 percent."

After the 1986 Chernobyl accident, the world's worst to date, the Soviet Union encased the plant's damaged reactor in a massive concrete sarcophagus. Iida said FUKUSHIMA DAIICHI'S REACTORS REMAIN TOO HOT TO POUR CONCRETE, but he suggested pouring a slurry of minerals and sand over them to carry away heat before encasing them.

New York Times reports about radioactive bananas.

Is This the Poster Food for a Radiation Menace?
Published: April 11, 2011

Harry Campbell

One of the many endearing things about
my husband is that he has five Geiger counters.

I didn' t have much use for them until I started writing about radiation from the damaged nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan. Recently, one of my interviews took a turn for the weird.
I asked a scientist about possible health effects from radioactive materials leaking out of the plant, AND HE STARTED TALKING ABOUT BANANAS.

“Why, we ingest radioactive material every day,” he said in a tone of wonderment. “Bananas are a most potent source.”

They contain a naturally occurring form of radioactive potassium, more than other fruit, he explained.

“It stays in our body, in our muscles,” he said. “Every second, our bodies — yours and mine — are irradiating.”

Brazil nuts are even hotter than bananas, he added, sounding almost gleeful. “The radium content is off the wall!”

I tried to steer the interview back to nuclear reactors, and for a few minutes it seemed to work. He said unnecessary exposures to radiation should be avoided.

But then he said:
“I love bananas. I will not give them up.”

A few days later,
I tried another expert, halfway across the country from the first. I asked about radioactive iodine and cesium being found in some Japanese milk and produce.

He said there wasn' t much risk, but it would probably still be better not to eat the food. Then he said,
“I just had a banana for lunch.”

Uh oh, I thought, here comes the banana speech again.

“BANANAS ARE RADIOACTIVE,” he went on soothingly. “Everything is radioactive, including the food we eat and, for many people in this country, the water we drink. There is a point at which we say there' s no more than Mother Nature out there.”

Is there a point at which we say the urge to reassure people might get in the way of straight answers? A point at which, for instance, a reporter might think that IF ONE MORE PERSON BRINGS UP BANANAS, she herself WILL MELT DOWN, OR, WITH ALL DUE RESPECT, GIGGLE.

I know the experts were just trying to put the invisible menace of radiation into perspective. But
it did feel like a Wizard-of-Oz effort to distract the audience from the real questions: Pay no attention to those fuel rods behind the curtain!

That' s where the Geiger counters come in handy. Just how radioactive are bananas?

My husband, who teaches high school chemistry, took a banana to school and tested it with one of the Geiger counters he keeps in his classroom. He put the probe near the banana, then against the skin, then poked into the fruit — two five-minute runs at each spot. He did multiple runs to test the background radiation in the classroom. For good measure, he even tested an apple, an orange and a granola bar. The banana was not so hot. Not hot at all, in fact, no more counts per minute than the other stuff, or the background. He ate the banana.

I' m not saying the experts were wrong. But my husband staunchly defends the sensitivity of his Geiger counter. Maybe it was an odd banana. It doesn' t matter now.

My reaction: I Hope you enjoyed the article about "radioactive bananas". I know I did.

1) The Japanese government's nuclear safety agency has raised the crisis level of the Fukushima Daiichi power plant accident from 5 to 7, the worst on the international scale.

2) Radiation leakage at the plant will undoubtedly exceed that of the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe.

3) The risks associated with iodine-131 contamination in Europe are no longer "negligible,"

4) There is no end in sight to the crisis. Fukushima Daiichi's reactors remain too hot to pour concrete

5) BEWARE OF THE “RADIOACTIVE BANANAS” (I sometime wish stupidity was a punishable crime)

Conclusion: Fukushima is on the verge of replacing Chernobyl as the new "standard" for complete nuclear disasters.

(I should have another video done within 24 hours)

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One Response to Fukushima Crisis Upgraded to Level 7 while Radiation Experts Warn About “Radioactive Bananas”

  1. Romain says:

    Geiger counter are useless to measure radioactivity in food, water and inside substances accurately. It is valid only for radiation in the air and on the ground. So those kind of articles are written by clueless people. (A foreigner living in Tokyo who learned a lot this month)

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