Friday, September 30, 2011

Three Plutonium Brothers Revisited

Now that the national government has finally owned up to the existence of plutonium and strontium outside Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant (in case of strontium-89, as far as Shirakawa City, 79 kilometers from the plant), it seems like a good time to revisit what the government researchers were saying about "heavy" plutonium that we didn't need to worry about a bit, back in March and April.

Particularly the second guy, Keiichi Nakagawa of Tokyo University, said plutonium was so heavy it wouldn't disperse, and only the workers at the plant needed to worry.

(From my post on 8/8/2011)

Nakagawa: To begin with, this material is very heavy. So, unlike iodine, it won't disperse in the air. Workers at the plant MAY be affected. So, I'd caution them to be careful. But I don't think the public should worry.

My original post has the transcript (translation) of the video, which was captioned by Tokyo Brown Tabby. The Japanese video was compiled by sievert311.


Mauibrad said...

It's not that heavy. After Reactor 3 blew up and ejected Plutonium and MOX high into the atmosphere, EPA measured Plutonium in Hilo Hawaii from Fukushima in early April.

Yosaku said...



Mike said...

Basically, I don't trust anything that comes out of the mouth of somebody paid by the government or promoted by the TEPCO biased media. Time and time again we see this pattern in Japan.
1. Denial and refuting any claims of danger
2. People are exposed and find radiation in their food and neighborhoods
3. The government denies it AND raises the "safe" level thresholds
4. The radiation is proven, the government admits it...but it's already too late for anybody who ate the wrong foods.

For the foreseeable future, all of my meat and veggies (frozen) will be imported, no dairy products from Japan and minimize other exposure.

I think with more grassroots movements happening in Japan every month, eventually the douchebags who run things will get booted out and somebody with a social conscience will implement proper and widespread controls on food -- and forcing all companies to do complete safety checking of the foods they sell.

Yosaku said...


I looked for data to back up your assertion but couldn't find any. Could you post a link?


Anonymous said...

If Pu is in dust form or tiny pieces, it does not matter whether Pu is a heavy atom or not. It is amazing first for the expert to say something like that on TV and second, no one on TV challenged the "theory".

Anonymous said...

Yosaku, It was on the epa website but has since been taken down. I can confirm what Mauibrad said.

Anonymous said...

@ Yosaku 12:56

These links cover your question.

Steveo said...

As the lies continue to unfold to what a select group knew all along, the mistrust and disgust will intensify.

Anonymous said...

i understand if people lie and cheat if it gives them a benefit over their fellow humans, but in the fuku-nuke case ...well .. every human either a tepco dude or government dude or scientist needs to eat food and drink water and breath air .. so why cheat and lie about the contamination? where those the lying and cheating give this people a benefit? the daughters and sons of these rich people will have a selection of deformed radiation damaged spouses to cause from? where is the benefit of the cover-up?
-or- are they maybe plain crazy?!

Atomfritz said...

Maybe there is really a chance to get a candidate for the next year's IgNoble Prize with this:

Background: Commonly 7 sieverts are assumed as 100% lethal dose. Now, let's look.
Citizens, from babies to old people in Japan are now "allowed" a dose of 20mSv/yr (if I remember correctly).
So, we can "officially" conclude that 20mSv/yr is benign over an average life span of 70 years. So, a dose of 70*20mSv = 1400mSv is no problem (?) according to the government.
1400mSv is one-fifth of 7Sv that is considered "deadly".

I'd love to challenge Tadashi Narabayashi, Professor in Engineering, Hokkaido University who said (in TV Asahi "Sunday Scramble" on Apr. 3, 2011) to prove what he stated. If he survives for some time, he could get even a (non-Ig-) Nobel prize!

"...Well, half of adult males will die if they ingest 200 grams of salt. With only 200 gram. However, oral lethal dose of plutonium-239 is 32g. So, if you compare the toxicity, plutonium, when ingested, is not very different from salt. ..."

1. So the brave professor could prove his theory by ingesting one-fifth of 32g, i.e. 6.4g Plutonium-239 nano dispersion or solution.

(Side note: Remember, 6.4 g pure Pu-239 resembles only puny 14.7 Gbq alpha radiation. Truly harmless, isn't it? Remember again, we don't want that truth-telling (?) professor to die!)

2. Consult the "Hanford Internal Dosimetry Technical Basis Manual PNNL-MA-860, Methods and Models of the Hanford Internal Dosimetry Program". (see here:
Find out the resulting internal dose.

3. Make sure to contact the folks at Hanford to have them supply a super-grade weapon plutonium specimen of 6.4g for his heroic self-sacrifice for the science.

(Side note 1: The use of super-grade super-pure Plutonium-239 would probably be very important, as the gamma and neutron radiation of the americium contamination of "normal" weapon plutonium, not even to speak of reactor plutonium, could cause heavy vomiting and/or diarrhoe due to the rapid onset of radiation sickness, leading to premature ejection of the test substance, voiding the experiment).

(Side note 2: As 6.4g of even the purest super-grade plutonium-239, way purer than "normal" weapon-grade plutonium, is far below the critical mass, this might not even cause serious NPT issues.)

4. If the guinea pig doesn't show the expected heavy necrosis of the gastrointestinal tract, let 1 mg of plutonium nano dust settle in his lungs (remember, this is only harmless 2.3 million becquerels of alpha radiation) and put him under clinic observation.

Mr. Narabayashi, I am sure you'll get worldwide recognition if you wage such an ambitioned project!

(Sorry for being somewhat polemic.)

Yosaku said...

Anonymous @7:28am,

Yes, I found those links in my original search, but they do not provide evidence for the original statement.

For example, the second link says that the Plutonium found in Kauai was -0.000026. That's a NEGATIVE reading.

The first link is just a mess. If you actually use the EPA Radnet database, you'll see that they report readings by city, not by state as asserted by the article, so that should tip you off that something is fishy. Then, if you go to Radnet and look at the actual city-by-city readings, you'll see that they don't say (as with the example above) what the author thinks they say.

Again, I'm not saying that evidence doesn't exist to support the original assertion, but these two links do not offer that evidence.

Please post something else.

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

@Yosaku, I have a suggestion for you. Start your own site and please stop monitoring the comment sections of my personal blog.

Anonymous said...

That's a bit harsh. He can do more of his own homework or just (quietly) discount comments he regards as unfounded. Nonetheless, we should welcome all reasonable commenters here to look at both sides.

Yosaku said...


I'm just trying to find the truth here. If there really was plutonium from Fukushima found in Hawaii, I really, honestly, want to know about it. Again, I live in Tokyo with kids and take the radiation risk very seriously, but I can't afford to make decisions based on statements that can't be verified.

So when I saw the original assertion, I did my research first (and found both the sites that the second poster referred to, which did not seem to be valid). But, I don't think my research is the end all be all of this, so I asked them to post their sources so I could compare in case they were referring to something else which had more veracity.

That's it. I really don't want to be a pain, but the welfare of my family is on the line here, and the more accurate and verifiable information I have, the better.

And just to be clear, I'm not pro-nuke. I spend half my day explaining to my Japanese colleagues why they should be worried and why they shouldn't believe what the government tells them.

And to Anonymous [@6:39], thank you. Although I'd like to think I'm on the same side as both you and arevamirpal::laprimavera (i.e., truth and caution), I think the key is that we have reasonable discourse on these issues.

Anonymous said...

@ Yosaku

My personal view is that the Pu is just one of the things to worry about. There is plenty more, the stuff on the ground, the food from the surrounding prefectures etc. So whether there is Pu in Hawaii or not, or even here locally, there is plenty to be concerned about anyway. And for that we know for sure it is here on our doorsteps.

Anonymous said...

Laprimavera I think you ought to consider that your blog and the comments section are a better place for having a diversity of opinions. If the idea is to challenge the groupthink of the mass media, than having someone who forces us to challenge our own views, whether they be in agreement or disagreement with prevailing opinion, can't be a bad thing. And since Yosaku can do so with respect and with intelligence, makes your blog an even more valuable place, in my view. The point about plutonium is an important one. Plutonium exists because of atmospheric (and other) bomb testing. Now in Japan, it exists because of Fukushima. Knowing whether or not some plutonium ended in Hawaii is a valuable bit of info.

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

Easy enough to find out why there are negative numbers in EPA data. EPA itself explains:

and RADNET does allow the data search by the state. So calling the data or blogs fishy because of that is invalid. Those English blog articles are the translation of a thoroughly researched Japanese blog post.

Atomfritz said...

I'd really love if people that disagree with some comments would provide verifiable links themselves, instead of just putting in question what had been stated without providing any proof. Or resorting to rabulistic techniques or even ad hominems.

@ Yosaku: I'd be grateful if you'd contribute your experiences you gained when you were involved in cleaning up an U.S. superfund site, as you mentioned.
As you state you live now in Tokyo, it is probably no longer necessary that you don't tell anything about your cleaning-up experiences you had in the U.S.
Remember, your experiences and insights of your work could provide very valuable and helpful insights to all readers here.

@ anon 1:41
Please take into account that weapon (testing) plutonium is quite pure Pu-239, unlike reactor plutonium.
As reactor plutonium contains at least 10% Pu-241, which is practically nonexistent in weapon plutonium and its fallout, these are two completely different things which really cannot be compared.

The biological damage of the reactor plutonium component Pu-241 is at least five-fold compared to "normal" weapons plutonium-239. If you take into account its daughter product Am-241, then this factor even multiplies.

So it is very important not to overlook this crucial fact, because this is exactly what the nuclear industry wants us to do.

@ anon 10:47
You are completely right, the plutonium isotopes is only one thing to worry about.
However, it is a big step forward that Tepco and the japanese authorities finally ceased to suggest that the only thing to worry about is the cesium contamination.

Anonymous said...

To Atomfritz,

Yes, exactly why I suggested it was worth investigating the Hawaiian plutonium.

from anon 1:41

Yosaku said...


Yes, you can look it up by State; you can even look it up by one of the ten EPA regions. However, the original data is still reported by city.

Why this makes the original link "fishy" (my term) is that an author normally wants to make it as easy as possible for people to backtrack their data for confirmation. Here, the original author leaves you hanging; it is up to the reader to go through all of the California data and try and figure out what data point (i.e., what city) the author is using.

Now that doesn't mean the author is wrong--they may still be right--but it should raise suspicions that the author might be trying to hide something.

Anonymous said...

@Yosaku, hide what? It should raise suspicions? Should? You are insinuating something that you have zero proof on. And you ask for verification of data from others. Give me a break. Go away.

Yosaku said...


Although my knowledge is somewhat rusty (as you correctly guess), I'd be happy to contribute.

For example, I once worked on a Superfund site that was formerly the home of an aluminum smelter--not a clean business, I can assure you. The ground was highly contaminated with a variety of very nasty stuff, including an incredible amount of cyanide which was contaminating the groundwater and by extension, the major arterial river on its doorstep.

Now given that the site had been around for decades, much of the contamination had leached fairly deep into the ground, making excavation impractical (as opposed to the current Fukushima situation, where excavation of contaminated soil is probably the best option). In order to deal with this, we designed an enormous sprinkling system over the affected area with down gradient interceptor wells to capture and treat the leachate before leaking into the river.

Could a similar system be used over highly contaminated areas in Fukushima? Yes, but it would probably only be practical around the immediate vicinity of the plant and even then it would depend on the solubility of the pertinent isotopes, the type of soil, etc. (which I don't know).

That's fairly arcane, I realize, but an example nonetheless.

However, what I try to do on a daily basis is correct misinformation and help to put things in context. When I look outside my office at the Shibuya incinerator everyday, I know that it is having a negative impact on my environment. The one (and hopefully only) time I've ever been in a Japanese court room was as moral support for a bunch of citizens who had the guts to sue their local incinerator for damaging their health. (Which further explains my level of distrust of the gov't.)

Ultimately, the question I try to answer everyday is where does this radiation risk fit in with that incinerator, the highway overhead, the second hand smoke I breathe, the pesticides on the vegetables I eat, etc., etc.

This clearly is not easy, but I try my best...

Sorry to ramble.

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

@yosaku, the author of the original Japanese article about plutonium in the US has written many articles particularly in the beginning of the crisis. She has been very reliable.

Yosaku said...

Anonymous@6:50 pm

That's exactly the point. Without the city designation I can't provide proof one way or the other unless I start guessing (which, ipso facto, wouldn't be definitive proof).


Thanks--that is good to know. I trust your judgment.

Atomfritz said...

thank you for this interesting description.
To be honest, I fear your expertise at what you did at this superfund site is more urgent than you think.
When Tepco has finished the steel wall around the failed reactors they will have to take care that no more radioactive water can escape, as the steel wall cannot be completely tight.
They'll have to do some continuous pumping and filtering, as the whole soil under the plant probably will be soaked with soluble contaminants. Deep excavation cannot be done without destabilization of the buildings' foundation.
I think we need your expertise soon :)

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