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Risky stalemate as science battles human fears at Fukushima

38 Comments
By MARI YAMAGUCHI

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"A release only based on scientific safety, without addressing the public's concerns, cannot be tolerated in a democratic society," he said. "A release when people are unprepared would only make things worse."

Okay, I get it that she's a psychologist and is addressing concerns from that perspective, but really - 7:00am and already my quote of the day. Mass hysteria can actually be useful if it turns Tohoku into a giant nature preserve even if the goals are misbegotten.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Yamaguchi's writing is technically excellent, but her theme of repeatedly trying to contrast radiation with human nature is counter-productive. It is not human nature to fear radioactivity. Hell, it's not even human nature to be aware of radioactivity - that's why it took us ~12,000 years to discover it.

You could very easily re-write this whole article with the exact same information, but a more accurate if dull subtext about how the lab in Onahama isn't doing enough to transparently promote the work they do to the Japanese public. FUD grows the less open a place is. Any story about radiation is going to invite fear-mongers, so a lab doing food testing needs to blast their process, their results, every detail of their operation as loudly and as often as possible to give the FUDsters less room for their doom and gloom.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

Does the World really need this "Nuclear Energy"?

5 ( +8 / -3 )

Retire anyone getting living from the sea with lifetime compensation and release the water gradually. Start fast before it’s too late. Most economical and safest solution to all stakeholders. ThreeMileIsland took 13 years to finish a much less amount. Japan likely doesn’t have the luxury to wait for the next quake. #ActNow!

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

Treatment has removed all the radioactive elements except tritium, which they say is safe in small amounts. 

So so how much tritium is in one million tons of radioactive water? Is it a "small" amount?

3 ( +5 / -2 )

"People would shun Fukushima fish again as soon as the water is released," said Fumio Haga, a drag-net fisherman from Iwaki

Absolutely, thats a given.

consumers are more likely to focus on alarming information about possible health impacts in extreme cases, rather than facts about radiation and safety standards.

As in the facts provided by the govt and govt affiliated/funded institutions and researchers? .....yep we all know J-govt. and N-village  reputation  when it when it comes to "facts and safety standards " ie. decades of fudged / falsified records regarding safety checks and such by the N-village - there is a safety standarrd fact N-village for ya....Or how about the infamous  "fact" of all that was repeatedly told to public in the weeks after 3/11 -

" There is NO meltdown " - the mother of all alternative facts coming from J N-village.

TEPCO says the decision should be made by the government, because the public doesn't trust the utility.

Yes, one wonders why that might be.....cue above.

Lets hear it again about N-power being cheap and safe.

10 ( +12 / -2 )

"The fish meet what is believed to be the world's most stringent requirement: less than half the radioactive cesium level allowed under Japan's national standard and one-twelfth of the U.S. or EU limit"

You know, the problem is... 'it is one twelft and and less than half' ... It means it reaches up there and the fishes come from where the radioactivity is... cesium is there on the bottom, even if it does not float anymore. In every other country that is simply the limit. The fish has no content at all most likely all the time. Whould you eat berries from around Chernobyl...? You're not gonna die or get sick most likely anytime, but... would you?

They really do not get it...!

4 ( +7 / -3 )

It's just a total lack of trust now in Japanese authorities. So many lies have been told with respect to nuclear power; that when the truth is told, no-one, or very few people believes it.

That is also human nature.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

Release it in the north pole over the ice

-12 ( +0 / -12 )

Is it a "small" amount?

Everything is small compared to the ocean? In 2014, they stated they had 875 TBq (2.45 g) and were gathering an additional 230 TBq (0.64 g) per year. It's likely less per year, now. For comparison, natural sources generate 148,000 TBq per year. I'ld call that small.

The suggestion that they wait to 2023 seems like a sensible way to manage the public perception. It's half, okay? If it's truly just tritium then it is really just a matter of properly dispersing it wide and far.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

tritium? glow in the dark fish anyone?

1 ( +3 / -2 )

All this because nuclear power is “safe, clean, and environmentally friendly”. Laughable if not so sad. If they dump it, shun the fisheries. Sorry, but people shouldn’t eat potentially dangerous foods out of pity.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

This is a formula LDP-TEPCO party line article that could have been written anyone. The line is simplistic ("human nature" and so) and cannot be trusted. The scientific fact is that we cannot trust the Japanese mainstream when we read obviously cannot propaganda like this. This is called skepticism and that is the basis of the scientific method.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Treatment has removed all the radioactive elements except tritium, which they say is safe in small amounts. 

this is not true. there are other ionising radionuclides in the contaminated storage tanks, just tritium is the highest. every time (which has been a number of times) these "temporary" tanks leak, a multitude of radioactive substances are detected.

Despite repeated tests showing most types of fish caught off Fukushima are safe to eat

"most types"? three points here: 1. not all are tested, just samples. they are not tested for strontium which take one month for one sample. Nor alpha radionuclides. 2. the radioactive contamination is not just confined to Fukushima prefecture. Plutonium and other radionuclides have been measured 67km away in Ibaraki, 10,000 times the safe level. apparently coming to the coast through underground rivers. 3. many fishing boats trawl up the Tohoku coast and offload in hokkaido. this means fish labeled as "hokkaido" could most possibly be from Fukushima. Just like many famous Miyagi oysters are grown there, then transferred to Hiroshima and finished growing in the warmer waters and labeled as hiroshima oysters.

its your choice to choose, but make an informed choice.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

No amount of nuclear radiation is safe to consume because a percentage accumulates in the body. The water problem is tricky and I think can only be released. The damage has been done with the nuclear reactor meltdowns.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

No amount of nuclear radiation is safe to consume because a percentage accumulates in the body.

I am very uninformed on this subject, but the fact that we are given xrays by doctors, with a set amount that they consider to be safe, says to me that there is a safe level.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

So so how much tritium is in one million tons of radioactive water? Is it a "small" amount?

Yes, it is. Especially when you consider that the ocean (and all other water on the planet) already has tritium in it and has had tritium in in for the past 4 billion years or so.

As in the facts provided by the govt and govt affiliated/funded institutions and researchers?

No, as in the facts provided by every physicist and radiation protection institute and researcher on the planet.

The fish has no content at all most likely all the time.

No, with the sensitive equipment now in use any fish caught anywhere has detectable radioactivity in it. Just like every living thing on the planet has detectable levels in their body.

 Sorry, but people shouldn’t eat potentially dangerous foods out of pity.

Then people need to stop eating everything immediately as everything has radioactivity in it.

which take one month for one sample.

No, it doesn't. With the equipment shown in the picture EVERY beta and gamma emitter will be detected. They don't have to look for a specific nuclide as the equipment detects every emission.

Nor alpha radionuclides.

Every alpha radionuclide that could come from a nuclear reactor also emits either beta and/or gamma radiation and thus would be detected by the equipment used.

its your choice to choose, but make an informed choice.

Yes, it is. And spreading FUD rather than factual information distorts the ability to make an informed choice.

-4 ( +3 / -7 )

I bought a pack of 6 oysters from Miyagi. They were steamed and of the 6, 4 opened (2 were dead)

The condition of the oysters was not high quality.

The meat was stringy and hard.

I wouldn't bother buying them again.....

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Utrack, radiation is part of the natural cycle. It is everywhere and everything has a half life. Coal Electrical production releases a lot of additional radiation into the other as well as a lot of other poisons. I would rather have nuclear than coal electrical production as coal is a killer.

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

My point is : how can you trust a government and company which lack totally independent and objective reasoning ?

No label from an international recognized body, no foreigners allowed, no one sent to prison from Tepco, government or smugglers.

It is not a perfect world. Hence system is corrupted and we all know it.

Yes nuclear energy is very safe compare to coal which kills people levels of orders more.

But the spread is rather limited in time and space, although lack of info is also happening.

Make it free for monitoring to all or undergo the wrath of international rejection.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

So, I see we have a few experts here. Question;

Can it be guaranteed that if this waste is dumped in the ocean, that it will not then be carried across waters and pollute other country's waters with radio active material?

2 ( +4 / -2 )

So, a small amount of tritium is deemed acceptable by the government, but what if I want zero tritium in my food and my oceans? I guess that's just a big 'stiff poop' to me!

The biggest problem with tritium is, it's a light isotope and will travel far with the ocean currents. In one sense, it is a good thing because it will not be concentrated in one area. One the other hand, it means it will be spread over a very large area, which makes small releases extra important. Let's not forget, they are talking about dumping a million tons of tainted water that they have accumulated in the past 6 years. They want to wait another 6 years before they start dumping it, which means there will be 2 million tons to be dumped. Unfortunately, there is no other solution to this issue of the tainted water. They are already running out of space to store it on the Dai-Ichi site and they are going to have to start dumping it, regardless of public opinion and the environmental impact. I'm not in favor of it, but I think we are all just gonna have to suck it up. Releasing small amounts at a time will limit the environmental impact. There is no other way.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

but what if I want zero tritium in my food and my oceans?

There has never been zero tritium in the oceans. Tritium has been in the oceans since the first day that the oceans existed and tritium will continue to be in the oceans until the last day that the oceans exist,

means there will be 2 million tons to be dumped

Well, first off the accumulation of water has slowed considerably over the last few years. So the amount shouldn't double in another 6 years. But secondly the oceans contain about 1,300,000,000,000 million tons and just the Pacific Ocean contains 750,000,000,000 million tons. So even 2 million tons is insignificant.

Also although they keep saying tritium it is actually a tritium atom as part of a water molecule. So being water, just with Hydrogen-3 rather than Hydrogen-1 or Hydrogen-2, it won't concentrate in one area.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

but the fact that we are given xrays by doctors, with a set amount that they consider to be safe, says to me that there is a safe level.

The difference in the case of x-rays is that no radioactive material is consumed by the body. The fear of consuming radioactive material is that it can remain in the body and continue to emit radiation. Having said that, the idea that "no amount of nuclear radiation is safe to consume" is simply untrue. We consume radioactive material all the time. And as far as I know, there are no recorded cases of tritium causing cancer in humans. The article below (perhaps biased, but what isn't these days) suggests the current safety limits of tritium in water are not based on health standards so much as what is easily achievable. I.e. there is no cost to producers to meet the standards, even if they are stricter than they need to be.

https://www.hiroshimasyndrome.com/background-information-on-tritium.html

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

@Mike O'Brien - Well, first off the accumulation of water has slowed considerably over the last few years. 

No it hasn't! The water they are using for cooling is still accumulating at the same rate it always has been, which is the water stored in over a thousand tanks around the site and is still growing every day. Yes, the ground water is not accumulating due to wells and barriers, so you are a little right. The rest of your post is just Wikipedia nonsense with no baring at all. It must be hard to type such a long post with only one hand.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

It should be noted that there is a difference between not trusting science and not trusting scientists who are working for and being paid by the Japanese government, TEPCO or even fisherman who have difficulty selling there fish. They don't want to lose their jobs and be replaced by scientists who understand what they are being paid for.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

The water they are using for cooling is still accumulating at the same rate it always has been, which is the water stored in over a thousand tanks around the site and is still growing every day.

Are you saying all the water stored in the tanks is water that has been used for cooling. That's not my understanding. I think the majority of water stored in the tanks is from contaminated groundwater. Please provide some evidence or sources for your opinion. Wikipedia is at least more than you have provided so far.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

No it hasn't!

Yes, it has.

The water they are using for cooling is still accumulating at the same rate it always has been, which is the water stored in over a thousand tanks around the site and is still growing every day.

The water they are using for cooling IS recycled groundwater.

During heavy rains, the groundwater inflow increases significantly, adding to the volume.

So if rain increases the groundwater inflow and that adds to the volume, then obviously the water in the tanks comes FROM groundwater. Therefore, as the groundwater inflow has decreased the amount to be sent to the tanks has to have decreased.

But even if it hasn't, even 2 million tons is insignificant in relation to the volume of the Pacific Ocean (which does have bearing). It would be equivalent to adding 0.007 ml to a full Olympic size swimming pool and most of that 0.007 ml would be regular water, only a small percentage would be tritium.

And no Wikipedia nonsense at all. Just a bunch of actual real science (as opposed to FUD) that has been known for 75 years or so.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

@Mike O'Brien

OK, so pour it all into the shoreline and say "screw you" to the rest of the World ? At face value, your argument only stands if you assume that the concentration of pollutant disperses equally and doesn't simply hang around like an oil slick. I wouldn't know since I'm not a qualified Scientist within that area... perhaps you can provide some evidence of what you're saying ?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

your argument only stands if you assume that the concentration of pollutant disperses equally and doesn't simply hang around like an oil slick.

The "pollutant" in this case is the water itself - water molecules that contain the tritium isotope of hydrogen. So it will disperse just as other water in the ocean does. Tides and currents in the Pacific will cause it to dilute and spread fairly quickly. (The tritium levels in sea water due to nuclear weapons testing are fairly constant over a very wide area.)

1 ( +2 / -1 )

@mmwkdw

The plan wouldn't be to pour it all into the shoreline. I believe it is to load it onto tankers, or possibly through a miles long series of pipes, and release it into deeper waters to aid in rapid mixing.

And many in the rest of the world have already said they believe dumping the water into the ocean is the only reasonable plan.

I believe I can do better than provide some evidence. I can allow you to prove it to yourself.

-fill a large bowl with water

-carefully put one drop of liquid food color into the water

-watch the color dissipate and spread throughout the bowl

Now in the bowl the dispersion is mostly by Brownian motion, which is just the random movement of molecules. There might be some small convection flow depending on the temperature of the water and the room.

Now imagine the ocean with the constant waves, wind whipping up the surface, tides going up and down twice a day, storm systems roiling the waters and huge ocean currents like the Kuroshio current that sweeps up the east coast of Japan then out into the Northwestern Pacific. Can you see how the released water would rapidly be diluted and spread throughout the ocean?

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Mike O'Brien Just because food coloring disappears from sight when mixed in a glass of water doesn't mean is "gone". Tritium in water can't be seen with the naked eye to begin with. Of coarse the ocean can dilute it but it's still there and is adding more than what naturally accrues in nature.

With your logic, the ocean is so vast that we could add anything to it and it wouldn't ever harm a thing, simply because it's diluted.

If this man made tritium is so safe & harmless maybe you could dilute it into your families drinking water and kill two birds with one stone.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Stuart haywood I didn't say it was gone. I didn't say tritium could be seen with the naked eye. Of course it is adding to what is already there, but the fact is that it does exist and something has to be done with it. The amount is insignificant as compared to what is already present in the ocean. Do you have a better solution?

As far as my logic, it is known as an analogy, meaning it wasn't exactly the same as the situation under discussion. I was answering a question about how it would disperse if added to the ocean by proposing something mmwkdw could do in their own home to illustrate the basic concept. So no my logic does not mean we could add anything to the ocean without harm.

This 'man made' tritium is so safe and harmless that I would drink it straight from the storage tanks, no dilution needed. And anyone who understands the real risk, as opposed to the fear mongering, would do the same.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Anyone drinking that water would soon puke it back up due to the salt content so I wouldn't waste my time....,

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Anyone drinking that water would soon puke it back up due to the salt content so I wouldn't waste my time....,

Most of it is fresh water from the groundwater flowing into the basements. Yes, at the beginning of the incident seawater was pumped into the reactors for emergency cooling but that only lasted for a short time.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

This is not journalism but third-rate creative writing done from the unsupported "human interest" angle. This is low Japanese journalism has gotten in the age of Abe. I doubt it is fooling anyone, lease of all the nuclear refugees who cannot return to their homes and ways of life.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Given the recent concern about the amount of plastics being found in our oceans, dumping radioactive materials there too should surely be causing concerns.

As to Tritium, the "Health risk" section makes for interesting reading:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tritium#R%C3%A9actions_de_production

Seems like it's not something that you would wish to consume.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Seems like it's not something that you would wish to consume.

The health risk section seems to indicate it isn't a big deal.

"HTO has a short biological half-life in the human body of 7 to 14 days, which both reduces the total effects of single-incident ingestion and precludes long-term bioaccumulation of HTO from the environment."

Tritium already occurs naturally in the oceans whereas plastics don't.

And lastly we should keep in mind Paracelsus' maxim "Solely the dose determines that a thing is not a poison." We all know of cyanide as a deadly poison, yet it is present in many common foods. Almonds, tapioca, millet sprouts, lima beans, soy, spinach, bamboo shoots and cassava roots for example all contain cyanide but the levels are low enough that eating them is safe.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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