About This Presentation
Arnie recently appeared at the "The Fukushima Nuclear Disaster - One Year Later" conference in Vancouver, Canada. The conference was sponsored by Physicians for Global Survival (Canada), Washington State Physicians for Social Responsibility, Simon Fraser University, University of British Columbia Department of Pediatrics – British Columbia Children's Hospital and NextGenU. Special thanks to Alex Smith of EcoShock Radio for making this audio file available to Fairewinds.
Announcer: This is Radio Ecoshock with Alex Smith.
"I had known that the danger of the nuclear power plant, but I had not acted enough to stop it. I would like to apologize that this has happened and that the radiation has been diffusing to the world still now." -Aya Marumori
"And this is one of Peter Sandman's holy grails is that if you are not talking about worst case scenarios, you are not doing a very good job of communicating."
"But the people in Tokyo more than 200 kilometers away are essentially walking on radioactive waste every day." -Arnie Gundersen
Alex Smith: Fukushima One Year Later. I am Alex Smith on the anniversary of the world's worst nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan. I am taking you with me to a heart-breaking conference organized by physicians, to assess the ongoing damage. You will hear the latest from nuclear engineer, Arnold Gundersen, just back from Japan. He will tell us about continuing dangers, spreading waste throughout the county, and radiation in North America from trees to seafood. More important still, two Japanese activists tell us how citizens in Fukushima Prefecture are coping, how, in the face of organized denial by governments and universities, they are acting to protect their children. This story goes well beyond the meltdown of three reactors, still out of control in Japan. Listen closely and you hear how governments fail their citizens in emergencies, how they lied after the Chernobyl and Three Mile Island nuclear accidents, and they lied after Fukushima. And why you must be prepared to organize your local community when any kind of disaster strikes. Whether it is a hurricane like Katrina, big floods or tornadoes, governments cannot, and will not, save us. This conference was in Vancouver, March 11th, 2012.
The Fukushima Nuclear Disaster One Year Later was organized by Physicians for Global Survival, Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility, Simon Fraser University and other medical organizations in British Columbia. It was recorded by Alex Smith for Radio Ecoshock. Let's start with the clearest most honest voice right from the start of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds.com.
Alex Smith: You are about to hear a keynote speech from the conference, The Fukushima Nuclear Disaster One Year Later. The speaker is Arnie Gundersen from the consulting firm Fairewinds. His topic is the Fukushima disaster and it's aftermath and comparisons to Chernobyl. This was recorded March 11th, 2012 in Vancouver, Canada, by Alex Smith of Radio Ecoshock.
Announcer: Our next speaker has been waiting patiently. Mr. Arnie Gundersen is the co-author of the first edition of the United States Department of Energy's Decommissioning Handbook. He has had over 40 years of nuclear power engineering experience and at one point, he was co-ordinator for projects in more than 17 nuclear power plants in the United States. He has come from the dark side. His colleague, friend and wife, Maggie Gundersen, is also with him, part of the Fairewinds Associates, which provides information and consultation on nuclear power and nuclear radiation in the United States, and as of today, Canada. Please welcome Arnie Gundersen.
Arnie Gundersen: Thank you very much for having me. I really appreciate it. I wish I could be there in person, but this is the next best thing to being there. Today, I wanted to talk about the Fukushima-Daiichi disaster and compare it to Chernobyl to try to give you physicians an idea how the two disasters compare. Just about to this moment one year ago, I was confident that the Fukushima reactors were in a meltdown. Now that does not mean that I am clairvoyant. I am sure when I look at the NRC transcripts, that the NRC knew as well, that a meltdown was occurring just about this time. That is not what they told us though.
So I would like to open today with a suggestion that we all take a moment and honor several thousand very brave men and women at the Fukushima-Daiichi plant, as well as the Fukushima-Daini plant. Both of them almost had meltdowns, and of course, three units at Fukushima did. But were it not for those several thousand people, Japan would be cut in half and the nation of Japan would no longer exist, and likely, certainly Vancouver and the West Coast would be very contaminated as well. So I think we all owe a debt to those several thousand people who risked their lives today and for the next week or two a year ago, to save the plant, to save the nation, and likely to save the world. I also wanted to thank just briefly the translators for the Fairewinds website, as well as the Fairewinds crew, led by my wife Maggie, who is the brains behind this outfit. Now lets get on to the topic at hand.
It was pretty clear that the Mark I containment had a long, long history of problems. Those problems include: the containment that was too small that has been known for 40 years, hold-down straps that were added after the fact because engineers thought the forces would be down and it turned out they were up, (and) venting of the containment because of hydrogen build up which engineers never, ever anticipated. As a result of all this, Maggie and I were walking about three weeks before the accident, and Maggie said, where do you think will be the next nuclear accident? And I told her, I do not know where, but I do know it is going to be in a Mark I containment. And of course, the Fukushima reactors were a Mark I containment.
So there was that piece, the technical piece. But then in addition, there was the geologic piece. Then also, for 20 years at least, serious scientists in Japan knew that the tsunami risks were being underestimated by the Japanese Government. Even 8 days before the accident, Tokyo Electric was convincing the Japanese Government that there really was not a tsunami risk and they needed to study it more, rather than build the sea wall higher. So, this was not an accident. This was an accident waiting to happen for at least 20 years and likely 40 years. It is interesting because in the heat of the battle, one day into the accident, someone on an NRC conference call blurted out, "This is the worst containment in the world." So while the NRC has been telling people for years that this containment is just fine, when push came to shove on the day of the accident, they clearly knew otherwise. The accident started with an earthquake. There is the myth of a safe shutdown. When a nuclear plant shuts down, it really does not shut down;
95% of the heat goes away when the control rods drop in, but 5% remains, and that is because the nuclear fission has stopped but all of the fission products, all of the pieces of uranium remain radioactive. And that is the problem. Even when the reactor stops, the heat does not stop. So for a plant like Fukushima 2, that is about 200,000 to 300,000 horsepower that has to be gotten rid of, in a room about the size of a small bedroom. I think you can imagine the heat problem.
When the earthquake occurred before the tsunami, clearly there was already a problem in Unit 1 because radiation levels were increasing inside the building and at the fence posts, even before the tsunami hit. The tsunami - well when the tsunami hit, I am sure you have all heard that the diesels were flooded and they were unable to get electricity into the large pumps required. We call that loss of offsite power and then a station blackout. Engineers thought a blackout would occur and maybe last for 2 or 3 hours and they put batteries in that lasted as many as 4 or 5, 6 hours.
Well, the batteries began to fail also. So by this time a year ago, I knew the batteries were failing and that meant that a meltdown was inevitable. When the fuel begins to get hot, the fuel rods begin to crack and that lets out nobel gasses. And if you remember, noble gasses do not react with anything. So at least 3 nuclear cores worth of noble gasses were released within, certainly within 12 hours of the accident beginning.
As the fuel gets hotter still, the zirconium clad begins to ignite. It burns in water, it strips the hydrogen away from the oxygen atoms and becomes zirc-oxide, creating hydrogen. Well that hydrogen gas builds up and the containment fills with hydrogen gas. It was never designed for this. At this point, clearly heroic efforts of the staff were required. The valves that were designed to vent this containment could not be opened because they needed electricity. And men went into high radiation areas in the dark and opened valves to begin to relieve the pressure. They were not completely successful. The pressure in the containment began to increase, and what that means is that the containment began to leak. Not just through the vents that the men tried to open, but literally the bolts that hold the containment together, began to grow with the pressure and release hydrogen into the surrounding buildings.
At that point, all it took was a spark to ignite the buildings. Slide 7 shows Unit 1 exploding. It was less than the speed of sound. That occurred on the first day. That was a hydrogen explosion because the containment did not contain. Slide 8 shows Unit 3 exploding, a dramatically greater explosion that literally went up as high as 3,000 meters and the speed was much faster and the building is totally destroyed. Slide 9 shows what appears to be an intact building at Unit 2, except you will notice the box in the front of the building with steam coming out. That shows that there was an explosion internal to the building. While the building is intact, the containment was breached. That steam should not be coming out of the side of the building. So we have 3 containments that were breeched from internal explosions.
Slide 10 shows Unit 4. Unit 4 had no fuel in the nuclear reactor. It was all removed into the spent fuel pool and is, in fact, the most dangerous of the four on site. It blew up and there are lots of competing theories about why, but the key is it blew up. This is the reason that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission told the Americans within 50 miles or 80 kilometers to evacuate. The nuclear fuel in this reactor, Unit 4, did not have any containment around it, and if it were to burn, Brookhaven National Laboratories has estimated that 186,000 people would die of cancer relatively quickly after the building caught fire. This is the building today that could still cut Japan in half if there is a major seismic event.
There are several lessons technically that we can learn from the first week or two of the accident. The first is the inadequate design bases. And what that means is that as engineers and scientists, we did not anticipate the worst that Mother Nature could throw at a plant. The next one is seismic problems. Unit 1 failed before the tsunami got there. That is an indication that seismic analyses need to be modified.
The next one is loss of the off-site power and together with loss of the ultimate heat sink, those two occurred when the tsunami hit. The diesels were flooded, and more importantly, and this is not even discussed yet (and should be because it affects the Canadian reactors as well as the reactors worldwide), the pumps along the ocean that cool the diesels and that cool the nuclear reactor were destroyed.
So even if the diesels had survived, there was no way to keep the core cool. It is called loss of ultimate heat sink. Here in the States, the NRC is studying it, has not done anything about it, but it is the most serious global issue relating to this incident. We all know that the Mark I containment was inadequate and that venting was also inadequate.
I wanted to use most of this presentation's time to compare Chernobyl's releases to Fukushima's releases. It was clear to me that on the second day of the accident, Fukushima was as bad as, or worse, than Chernobyl. We call that a level 7 which is as high as the scale goes. Now there are some differences. The Chernobyl release was a single reactor and it lasted for less than 2 weeks. The Fukushima release was 10 nuclear reactor cores. And what do I mean by that? We had 3 nuclear reactors that were operating and we had about 7 nuclear reactor cores in their spent fuel pools. So 10 nuclear reactor cores potentially could release radioactivity into the environment. Chernobyl stopped releasing after about 2 weeks. And of course now we are a year into the Fukushima accident and it is still releasing radioactive material.
The key for this accident, the Chernobyl accident, and also Three Mile Island, is that no one measured the releases. At Three Mile Island, all of the radiation detectors were designed only to detect low-level radiation and they were destroyed during the accident because the radiation levels were so high. At Chernobyl, the explosion exceeded what the instrumentation was capable of, and also of course the radiation went out beyond where the instrumentation was. And at Fukushima the electricity that powers the radiation monitors failed, so no one knows, on an hour to hour or minute to minute basis, what Fukushima released.
But the releases come in 4 different categories. There are noble gasses. The noble gasses were released for sure when the fuel began to crack. This is 2 or 3 to 12 hours after the accident. Now if you remember your chemistry, noble gasses do not react with anything: this is xenon and krypton. You will also remember that xenon is used medicinally. I think it is xenon 133 is used as a radio isotope. It is fat soluble and is absorbed in your body. Now we know for sure that 3-5 times Chernobyl's releases of noble gasses definitely have been measured. There are good scientific papers that show that from the noble gasses, 3-5 times Chernobyl were released. To the northeast of the reactor, we know that the noble gas concentrations were something on the order of 1,000 disintegrations per second in a cubic meter of air.
Well the next one is iodine. There are lots of questions about how much iodine was released, because iodine does react chemically with the components in the building. But we are certain that iodine was picked up worldwide from the event and even nuclear reactors here in the States were picking it up within several days of the beginning of the accident. The plant released iodine and the question is how much and I will get to that later.
I am sure you have also seen the cesium numbers. That is the easiest isotope to measure. It does not mean there are not many other isotopes present, but the cesium concentrations in the soil are the easiest ones to measure. And lastly, you have heavy isotopes like plutonium, and those have also been detected as far as 50 kilometers away from the reactor.
One definite similarity between Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima, is the fact that there have been government coverups of the radiation that has been released. At Chernobyl, researchers were intimidated and, in fact, arrested and thrown in jail for as long as 3 to 5 years because they tried to investigate the releases. I have friends who have tried to go into Belarus even now and they are refused access when they realize that their purpose is to research the accident.
At Chernobyl we know the demographic data was missing, and in some cases, deliberately destroyed. At Three Mile Island, we know that the demographic data was never applied. As a matter of fact, the federal judge on the case limited the scientific analysis and told the researchers that if they came up with too high a number, she was not going to believe it.
So we have got definite government coverups at Chernobyl, and I would refer you to an excellent book called Chernobyl: Consequences of a Catastrophe. It is by Alexei Yablokov and others, and it was published by the New York Academy of Sciences. It used to be on sale for $150 a copy, but because many people are very interested in getting the book out, the cost has been reduced to $15.00. It is an excellent piece of work, hundreds of pages of peer-reviewed analysis. If you cannot find it on the web, for something on the order of $15.00, if you contact Fairewinds on the contact page, we can get you copies or get you in touch with one.
So we are also aware that the Japanese are attempting to minimize the consequences of the accident as well. So government reaction to all 3 accidents has been to minimize the consequences and also try to marginalize the scientists who are doing the work.
So how bad was the Fukushima accident? The secret is in the assumptions. Everybody can do the math, but the question is what assumptions went into the math? And the key is in the assumptions. So what really are the public health consequences? There are about a half a dozen different assumptions that need to be factored in. When I watch the industry, as they have been over the last 5 or 6 days, it is clear that they are trying to minimize each and every one of these assumptions. The first assumption is how much radiation was available to be released? As I have already said, there were 3 operating reactors, compared to one at Chernobyl, plus we had 7 nuclear reactor cores in fuel pools that were uncooled as well. So potentially there is as much as 10 nuclear reactor cores available to be released. What were the timings of the release? Chernobyl failed almost immediately, but it was only at 7% power when it did fail. Fukushima Units 1, 2 & 3, failed in 12 to 36 hours, but they were running at 100% power when the accident occurred. So releases could be significantly larger from Fukushima.
You can pretty convincingly determine that 3 to 5 times Chernobyl gasses were released as noble gasses and so therefore that tells us that essentially every piece of fuel failed inside of the 3 operating reactors. And perhaps additional fuel failed in the fuel pools.
What was the timing of the releases? No one knows because there were no radiation detectors present. But again, this is a number that is subject to assumption. If you assume the predominant releases occurred when the wind was blowing inland, you will get one number. If you assume when the wind blows out to sea, you will get another number. So the timing of the releases, in coordination with the meteorology, can produce dramatically different calculations of the exposure to people within Japan.
The next one down, decontamination. What that means is that there is water underneath a nuclear reactor and for the last 20 years the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has assumed that 99% of the cesium gets trapped in that water. Well there is a problem there, because after Fukushima, that water boiled, because it had no cooling water getting back to the loss of the ultimate heat sink I talked about earlier. The NRC has also said that if the water boils, no cesium will be held up in the water and all of it is subject to be released.
The question is, what are the various people calculating doses assuming for the decontamination factor for cesium? I have seen the Japanese assume that 99% was retained. There is an Australian study out though that shows that 90% was retained. That does not sound like a lot, but it is in fact 10 times more cesium the Australians are assuming than are the Japanese. So what that number is, is a critical piece of analysis that I have found that the nuclear industry and the Japanese are consistently trying to downplay.
What was the meteorology like on the day of the event? If there is good news in the Fukushima disaster, and I do not think good news and disaster really belong together, but if there is good news, it is that most of the time, the wind was blowing out to sea. At Chernobyl, the reactor was surrounded by people, it is surrounded by farmland, it is surrounded by cities. Here, at least half of the compass was the ocean and this accident would have cut Japan in half already, were it not for the fact that the wind was blowing out to sea. Now there are other pieces too. Of course, the Fukushima Prefecture has mountains immediately to the west and those mountains prevented a lot of radiation from reaching the west coast of Japan. But now we have got contaminated forests that essentially can never be decontaminated. In the next several months, you are going to hear about contaminated cedar and as the pollen is released this year from the cedar trees, we will have an enormous amount of cesium being re-volatilized into the atmosphere.
So the Fukushima accident is not over. The cesium is being re-released by Mother Nature. Also, the cesium is being washed into rivers and the rivers, of course, are heading toward the ocean. But we are seeing contamination in freshwater fish, as well as the ocean fish, as a result of all the runoff through the mountain ranges in the Fukushima Prefecture. We are also seeing large cesium deposits in the bottom soil on the bottom of river beds. And of course that gets picked up by weeds and seaweed in the ocean, that then get eaten by other fish and mollusks and work their way up the food chain. So we are seeing cesium concentrate in river beds and this is not a problem that is going to go away in the next year. We are looking at a long term problem of cesium contamination.
I was in Tokyo two weeks ago and I just randomly picked 5 sample locations as I was in the city, and put them in bags, brought them back, cleared them through customs then sent them to the lab. And each one of those bags has contamination levels of dirt that would be qualified as nuclear waste and buried in Texas here in the United States.
But the people in Tokyo more than 200 kilometers away, are essentially walking on radioactive waste every day. So as doctors, you have got a public health issue throughout northern Japan from this chronic exposure to low-level radiation. And then you have got a personal health issue for the people in Fukushima Prefecture who have been exposed to well over 10 ..... from the accident.
So which was worse, the Fukushima accident or the Chernobyl accident? They were both awful. I notice that in reading Mikhail Gorbachev's memoirs, he credits Chernobyl, not Perestroika, but Chernobyl, with causing the downfall of the Soviet Union. And of course, I am sure you have also heard in the last two weeks that Tokyo was almost evacuated as a result of the Fukushima accident. Even today if there is a significant earthquake and one of the fuel pools collapses at Fukushima, Japan still could be cut in half.
So which is worse? I go back to the first line. They were both awful. We are talking about a technology that has the capability to destroy a nation. There is a long term clean up effort that is going to be required by the Japanese. I do not believe that the Japanese have recognized the severity of the problem yet. They seem to be nickel and dime-ing it and spending a billion here and a billion there, but in fact, the total cost of this clean up is now estimated to be 500 billion, that is half a trillion dollars US to clean up the site and the surrounding prefectures.
Now nuclear experts on television have been saying, well the accident was bad but we are never going to find any injuries. I disagree. When I look at the use of their assumptions, I can find error after error that make them non-conservative.
Announcer: This is Radio Ecoshock. You are listening to a presentation by nuclear engineer Arnold Gundersen at the Vancouver Conference: The Fukushima Nuclear Disaster One Year Later.
Arnie Gundersen: In fact, I believe that over the next 20 years we are going to see about a million additional cancers and other health problems as a result of the accident. That is quite a broad span from zero with nuclear experts paid for by the industry, to a million by me and other independent scientists. Only time will tell, and frankly, I hope I am wrong, but I am quite sure I am not. Now I get that number from the Three Mile Island accident. People did die after Three Mile Island. As a result of the trial, Judge Rambo authorized a study. The study showed that there were extra cancer deaths from Three Mile Island. Now Three Mile Island was 1,000 times smaller than Fukushima, and yet we determined there were extra cancer deaths after Three Mile Island. The judge said, yes, but because the releases were so low, I do not believe that.
Well Dr. Stephen Wing published a peer-reviewed paper, and that is also on our website, the Fairewinds website, where he shows that clearly there is at least a 10-20% increase in lung cancers for people that were exposed in the first 10 days of the accident.
So based on Three Mile Island, which was 1,000 to 100,000 times smaller than Fukushima, I believe it is reasonable that we will have as many as a million additional cancers after Fukushima.
The other parts of the problem are systemic within Japan. Japan is disbursing the contamination with incineration. Now what they are doing as an example, in a school near Tokyo, they found some highly contaminated material. And rather than dispose of that as high level waste, they diluted it 1,000 to 1 with clean material and put it in incinerators, and then took that 1,000 times more ash and poured it into Tokyo Bay. So they believe that dilution is the solution to pollution. And in fact, what they are doing is they are putting cesium in the soil, that will be enormously more expensive to remove later. I think the reason is that the Japanese are protecting Tokyo Electric's financial short term interest, comparing to protecting the long term interest of their own population.
Japan does have an alternative: they can go with the technology of the 21st century, which is distributed generation, smart grids, and renewables, (and) vehicle to grid technology called V2G technology. In the 20th century, we did not have computers and the systems we have got now to integrate a grid. But now in the 21st century, we can distribute our generation and these distributed smart grids will be the way of the 21st century.
So Japan has got a chance. Japan can be an economic powerhouse and it can export this new technology, or it can go back into the central station paradigm of the 20th century. What I took away from the Fukushima accident is that it is impossible to predict the worst event that Mother Nature, or humans in the form of terrorists, can do to a nuclear power plant. The other piece is that nuclear power, when things go wrong, which is not very frequently, but when things go wrong, it is a technology that can destroy a nation. It can destroy it financially or environmentally. So that for those two reasons, we have got a high risk but low probability technology. But that no one can anticipate the worst Mother Nature can throw at us. In the States, it can be a dam break. In Canada, it can be flooding or it could be severe storms that knock out power, on and on. There are things we have not anticipated when we build these plants, so my recommendation is over the next 20- 30 years, let's phase them all out and go with smart grids and distributed generation. I think the future of the 21st century is bright and it can be achieved with an organized phaseout of nuclear power.
Announcer: That was Arnold Gundersen from the consulting company, Fairewinds. The title is the Fukushima Disaster and it's aftermath and comparisons to Chernobyl. This was recorded March 11th, 2012 in Vancouver, Canada by Alex Smith of Radio Ecoshock. The conference was organized by Physicians for Global Survival, Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility, Simon Fraser University and other medical organizations in British Columbia. Find more recordings from the conference at Ecoshock.org, discover a series of helpful videos on Fukushima at the Gundersen's website, Fairewinds.com
The Fukushima One Year anniversary conference organized by Physicians for Global Survival, was attended by doctors, experts and concerned Japanese people. The questions were penetrating. Here is the question and answer exchange with Arnie Gundersen.
Erica Frank: Arnie, hi, Erica Frank. Thank you, this was incredibly disturbing and important to hear and thank you for that. The cesium deposits in the cedars, are these in your ecosystem in Vermont or in ours here? Or how far does that spread? And where are the mollusks and the fresh water fish that you discussed and is anybody in the food industry doing anything to monitor any of these?
Arnie: Thank you Erica. I am sorry I talked so fast; it is a lot of material to get through. The cesium in the pollen of the male cedar trees is throughout northern Japan. We also have samples that indicate, in southern California we have one sample that also picked up cesium in cedar pollen. It appears that 20% of Fukushima's radiation landed in Japan, 78% landed in the ocean, and 2% landed predominantly in America, and predominantly in the Cascades. So the amount of cesium we are seeing in the Cascades is dramatically lower than, the airborne cesium that we are seeing in the Cascades is dramatically lower than what we are experiencing at Fukushima Prefecture. I do not even know if it will be detectable when cedars begin to bud in the United States. But we did have someone send us cedar samples that did indicate, in Southern California anyway, that we had picked up both cesium 137 and cesium 134. When you find the two of them together, that is a Fukushima signature, because cesium 134 has a very short half-life. If it was just cesium 137, we would not attribute that to Fukushima, because of the fact that that could be from bombs or Chernobyl. But 134 has a short half-life.
Now on your question about fish, as far as I know, the FDA has examined 200 fish out of the millions that have come into the United States since the accident and found no radiation. The United States Government basically is not looking at this problem. I love salmon and I am eating it this year because I do not believe that the cesium has worked it's way up the food chain yet. I am concerned that come about 2013, 2014, we will begin to see it in the top of the food chain fish like salmon and tuna.
But right now I think it is too early for it to have worked it's way up the food chain. So if you enjoy fish, this is your year.
I do not know what I am going to do next year, but hopefully, I think the first step is to get the government to analyze more fish. It is possible that the way we will detect this is when a boatload of contaminated tuna try to come through one of the radiation portals in a port and we pick it up that way and that is an unfortunate way of measuring the radiation in the environment. The government has got to do a better job. But even as early as April, the State Department was talking to the Japanese and basically said that they are going to look the other way. Next question.
Tom Buchanan: Yes, Arnie, this is Tom Buchanan calling in from Seattle. I am here at this event. It is exceptionally informative. I wanted to find out what your personal reactions were with your trip to Japan. Were you surprised at anything that you had witnessed over that week especially. And what about the sense of criticism, of separation between people, citizenry, and the government, the criticism of TEPCO. What was your overall feeling about your perspective on the Japanese and what they are going through right now.
Arnie: Culturally, they are a consensus culture and they really do not know how to handle conflict very well. Yet, the consensus is breaking down. And what I saw was at the citizen level, a real distrust for the government. I have seen polls saying it is about 30% to 40% of their citizens no longer trust what the government is saying. In a country that is based on consensus, 30 or 40% who do not buy in is a real problem.
The other issue though, is the further away you get from Fukushima, the less people think their lives are affected. So you know, I spent 5 days in Tokyo and 2 days further south, by the way I found radiation even further south. But even in Tokyo, most people think it is over and they survived it. And of course you know, with the latency periods of these cancers, it is going to pop up 20 years out and then people will wonder where it came from. I do not pretend to be an expert on understanding the Japanese psyche, so I really do not want to go any further than that. I do believe a significant portion of the population no longer trusts their government.
Alex Smith: Arnie, it is Alex Smith of Radio Ecoshock. I wondered if you could expand a little bit more on the incineration problem. I have read reports in local Japanese press of officials scolding people for not wanting to have contaminated waste trucked into their areas because everyone should share in the burden of Fukushima. It seems to me like they are spreading the radioactive waste throughout the country with this system. Would you comment on that?
Arnie: You are absolutely right, they are trying to spread the waste throughout the country. You know now what that does is that if you are going to do demographic data, if you compare Fukushima Prefecture to other uncontaminated areas you will be able to get a good handle on the severity of the accident.
But if they spread this radiation all over Japan and the country's cancer rate increases pretty much uniformly, it is a lot harder to get good demographic data. I am not suggesting that that is why they are doing it, but an outcome 20 or 30 years out may be that.
We did a calculation on a lined pit, and a lot of the pits they are putting this in they claim are lined with like a tarp to make sure the radiation does not get out. But even a 2 mm hole in a lined pit will release 80,000 gallons of rainwater in the course of a year. So it is hard to imagine you are not going to get a 2 mm hole somewhere in each of these liners and that cesium then gets into the groundwater or the surrounding dirt.
I am pretty clear. My position would be not to dilute it, but to keep it in concentrated form and I think you are going to have to dedicate that exclusion zone around Fukushima to be a low-level radioactive dump. It would be better as far as I am concerned to truck it back to Fukushima and store it within a couple kilometers of the site and tell people that they are never going home, it is not going to happen, rather than spread that radioactive material throughout a very beautiful and very populated country.
Aya Marumori: My name is Aya Marumori from Fukushima and Tokyo in Japan. Thank you for your lecture. I have two questions. How can we protect our children, do you think, and number 2 question is, do you have the plan to come to Japan again?
Arnie: How can you protect your children? That is the most important question. The Japanese government is using BEIR, Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation, and they are saying that, on the order, if you go in and it is 2, 20 millisieverts per year, only 1 out of every 500 people would get cancer.
But that is not a true, but that is for a population as a whole. And it has old people like me, you know I am 63 years old, and 20 years from now when I get cancer, the odds are I will be dead from something else. But what happens is it is the kids that are 5 to 10 times more radio-sensitive than that average. So you are talking about if children stay in those zones of say 10 to 20 millisieverts, the odds of them getting cancer over a several year period of being exposed are something like 1 in 10 to 1 in 20 of the children will, by the time they are 30 or 40 years old, develop cancer.
For some reason, young women, girls are twice as likely as boys, according to BEIRs. What can you do? First off, I would not advise going back in a 10 milisievert area, even if the government told me it was safe.
But in addition to what they are measuring with their geiger counters, the biggest problem is that they are not taking into account hot particles, which are, you know, the contamination in the corners of the playground, the contamination that gets on the kids shoelaces. We have gotten people sending us shoes and they are highly contaminated. What you can do, especially in the Fukushima Prefecture, is get out of, certainly the 10 millisievert areas and into maybe the 1 millisievert areas and cleanliness is everything. The Japanese leave their shoes at the door which is a great beginning. But I would vacuum with a high particulate efficiency filter, a HEPA filter. I would wet dust, I would not dry dust. If you wet dust, you will keep the dust on the cloth, whereas if you dry dust, you will throw it up again. So it is all about personal hygiene and cleanliness if you decide to remain. The dose readings that the Japanese are, you know everybody has got these little detectors now. That is only for external and it does not include hot particles. I think that is a public relations ploy and the best thing to do is to watch out for yourself and to stay personally as clean as possible.
The other thing is, I would urge the people of Fukushima to report deformities or stillbirths and things like that. I do not believe the Japanese government wants that information out there. And I realize that culturally, that is extraordinarily difficult for the Japanese to do. But if independent scientists are ever to stand a chance here to get good data, we need the Japanese people to step up and tell us what is going on. I would like to get back to Japan soon and I do not have a scheduled time to return right now. And I think I have used up my time.
Announcer: Yes, thank you very much Arnie. (Applause)
Alex Smith: That was nuclear expert, Arnold Gundersen. Discover a series of helpful videos on Fukushima at the Gundersen's website, Fairewinds.com
Announcer: Check out the Radio Ecoshock website. We are at Ecoshock.org