Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Radiation Threat...Real or Not?

This satellite image provided by DigitalGlobe shows the damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear facility in Japan on Monday. Authorities are struggling to prevent the catastrophic release of radiation in the area devastated by a tsunami.

I was just over at one of my favorite Alaskan Blogs... Immoral Minority ...and Gryph has posted an article about radiation coming out of Japan. I was immediately engaged with the information I found there. Weather Underground is the place to start to get a clear, concise forecast for weather patterns and radiation exposure in the USA. You can register for free.

I poked around there for awhile and found this site, Citizen Weather Observer Program. If you really get all excited about tracking weather, you can buy the hardware and software and start your own weather station. That sounds like more fun than following what Sarah Palin is doing these days.

When I came back to Immoral Minority I started to read some of the comments and came up on this one. I tend to believe what this guy is saying, even though he commented under an anonymous handle. He seems to be intimately involved with radiation safety. Here is what he posted:

Anonymous at 4:58

I'd like to see some links for those statistics you just gave. The last update I saw from the Nuclear Energy Institute indicated the dose rate levels peaked at 1190 mRem/hr, and has returned to 60 mRem/hr. At its highest the radiation levels were at 1.19 Rem, which is extremely low. 0 to 100 Rem are considered sublethal, and anywhere from 200 to 400 Rem are still very manageable. Please consider that the three main aspects in radiation are time, distance, and shielding. The further away from a source the less dose exposure. For every time you double the distance between yourself and the source, the dose decreases by 4 times. Please consider the hundreds of miles between Japan and the West Coast/Alaska. There really is an extremely low risk for any adverse health effects as a result of this. And for those people buying potassium iodine pills, you can stop- the half life of I-131 is only around 8 days... by the time it gets here it's already gone. The Cs-137 and Sr-89 are much longer lived, but again, by the time any "gets here", the concentration will be so dispersed as to not pose any real threat. As for the workers, radiation workers are some of the safest and best protected in any industry. We actually have lower lifetime dose rates than people with "regular jobs" because of all the safety measures put in place. Your dose rate meter is your best friend, and I do not doubt that anyone would put themselves into a situation where they are subjecting themselves to so much radiation that they are certain to die. Workers can and do work in extremely elevated levels of radiation, they just work in smaller time increments (again, time, shielding, and distance). That way the dose is spread across a larger population. Radiation can be scary to those unfamiliar with it, as it was to me when I first started in radiation safety. You have to remember that radiation is ALL around us, in what we eat, drink, breathe, live in- everything. Okay, off my soapbox- I hope I've helped somewhat..? If it's any additional consolation I spoke with my boss who's been involved in radiation safety for over 35 years, and he was not concerned either.
There is no reason to start to panic and wring our hands. I am not trying to downplay it all, but we need to stay calm and patient to see how things play out over time. I hope some of this information offers you some peace.

No comments:

Post a Comment