Saturday, November 5, 2011

#Radiation in Japan: NHK Calls 20 Millisieverts/Year Radiation "Low Level", and Hosono Lies

NHK has been quite busy recently spreading the good news that radiation exposure is somehow not what you've been led to believe by silly bloggers and tweets, if you only listen to the government experts and politicians.

In October, NHK did a program where the meals prepared in different households in different locations in Japan, including two in Fukushima Prefecture were analyzed for radiation. Surprise, surprise, the meals in a family in Koriyama City, Fukushima contained zero radioactive materials while other families in other locations had a small amount of radioactive materials in their meals. (NHK actually said "zero", instead of "below detection limit".) Well, the caveat was that the researcher's equipment (germanium semiconductor detector) to analyze the radiation turned out to be broken, and NHK had to take down the test result page from the website. (If you read Japanese, the sorry story is related here, for example.)

But the program had been aired already, and probably it has convinced quite a few mothers not to worry about radiation any more when they go shopping for food for the families. NHK says so, it's safe! I feel so bad for having avoided Fukushima produce!

NHK just did it again, a bit more subtle way this time, in the news on November 5 regarding the new government initiative to study the effect of "low-level" radiation. For NHK, a public broadcaster, "low-level" radiation means 20 millisieverts per year for non-radiation workers because the politician said so. To say it in a different way, NHK is saying the annual radiation exposure limit for radiation workers before the Fukushima I Nuke Plant accident is now the "low-level" for the general public.

From NHK News Japanese (11/5/2011):


Goshi Hosono, Minister in charge of nuclear accident, gave a lecture in Hamamatsu City [in Shizuoka Prefecture] and indicated that he would create a working group of experts to study the effect of low-level radiation of about 20 millisieverts per year on health, in the aftermath of the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident.


Minister Hosono said, "If the annual cumulative radiation level is 100 millisieverts and above, we know from the past nuclear plant accidents that there will be some effect on health. But other than that, nothing is confirmed."


He continued, "We need to investigate further on how to think about low-level radiation exposure from the radioactive materials already dispersed. We will draw a line at 20 millisieverts, and come up with the response as the national government." He then indicated that a working group of experts would be formed to study the effect of low-level radiation, about 20 millisieverts per year, on health.


Minister Hosono also made a comment on the wide-area disposal of disaster debris from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami outside the disaster-affected areas. "The debris in Iwate Prefecture and Miyagi Prefecture is not radioactive waste. There is no danger when it is burned, and the ashes can be safely disposed of. We will guarantee the safety and be responsible for the safety, so we want the municipalities to cooperate", he said.

The last bit that Hosono blurted about the disaster debris is his pure fabrication. The disaster debris in Iwate and Miyagi IS radioactive, according to the actual measurement of the Ministry of the Environment, of which Hosono is the minister.

From Miyako City's incinerator, 133 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium was detected when the Ministry did the test burn in preparation for shipping the debris to Tokyo. Miyako City is by no means the highest in terms of radiation levels in Iwate Prefecture. The Tokyo government has pledged to burn 500,000 tonnes, or 500,000,000 kilograms of debris from Iwate alone.

Hosono says the national government will guarantee the safety, and I have to ask him to define "safety". Judging from what this administration and the previous one and TEPCO (and their supporters) have said, unless one dies of acute radiation poisoning by being zapped with several sieverts of radiation in one shot, it is "safe".

Soon, 100 millisieverts per year may indeed become "safe", as per NHK, as per Dr. Shunichi Yamashita. It will be still ways to go to reach Dr. Wade Allison's 1.2 sievert per year limit recommendation, though.


Anonymous said...

Technically, low level radiation is any dose under 100 mSv (sometimes 250 mSv.) Anything under 10 mSv is called ultra-low level.

Steveo said...

SKF, you hit the big time, now you have anonymous trolls say sometime 250mSv is considered low level.

Anonymous said...

I mean 20mSv is certainly not a high level.

Take a look at some things here

Anonymous said...

Did unit 4 fall over yet?

no6ody said...

We've all seen this before. Tell a BIG LIE and make sure everyone hears it. Then, tell the truth, but don't publicize it much. Afterwards, a large fraction of the population will believe the lie and reject the truth because 'teh gubbermint would never lie to us.'

And, just to piss off the trolls... the radiation found in roadside dust and such is bad, but the worst part of it is that it is not contained in any way. Therefore, a gust of wind can kick it up and it will lodge in people's lungs, where it can do much more damage at 'point-blank' range. Also, living organisms will absorb and concentrate certain radioactive atoms, like cesium. Here's a 71 second you-tube showing a mushroom bio-concentrating the low levels of cesium 127 in it's tissues. Eat low on the food chain, folks.

Anonymous said...

Just came across this article, not sure what to think of it, Seems like more propoganda business as usual banta by the status quo ..

Any feedback?

Anonymous said...

The fact that they didn't even test their instruments against a known source makes them look like complete idiots. How do you not make sure the analytical instrument is calibrated correctly and then use it? Perhaps we need real scientists that give a shit about the public health out there.

netudiant said...

The Japan Times article seems to suggest that contamination is mostly from dirt on the surface of foods such as vegetables,so that rinsing is an effective method of decontamination.
For meats and fish, it suggests heating or boiling to leach the cesium from the food.

Imho, this is largely cosmetic decontamination.
The article admits the latter procedure cuts the cesium by less than half and the former does nothing about absorbed cesium or other materials.
Removing radioactive contamination is not so easy.

The US Navy after WW2 tested the effects of radioactive fallout on ships and found it was nearly impossible to remove, despite intensive soap scrubbing of the steel decks. The gentle rinsing of foodstuffs is even less likely to be effective.

Anonymous said...

I think they should post what the yearly exposure was before the accident and then compare that to this number that they say is low. Its all about what was before and after. If this number is much much higher than the background was before the accident clearly it should be considered high.

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

For the radiation numbers before Fuku-I accident in Japan, see my past post. This 20 millisieverts per year "low radiation" is on top of the natural and artificial averages.

As to 20 millisievert/year considered "low", yes that's what ICRP and other nuclear organizations say. Technically it may be. But this NHK program is for the general public, not for nuclear experts. Telling the public it is "low-level" without saying it is what the organizations like ICRP defines "low-level", or without even mentioning what the natural level was before the accident, it is deceptive.

As to the Japan Times article, that's what Dr. Yamashita and his assistant told the residents in Iitate-mura in March and April - as long as rinse your vegetables, and you can eat them, no problem, and rainwater will clean the radioactive materials from the soil so don't worry, go outside and play. And many villagers did.

Anonymous said...

...and they are still alive. And they will still be alive 30 years from now.

DD said...

"Anonymous said...

...and they are still alive. And they will still be alive 30 years from now."

That is an impossible statement! And whoever made it is a charlatan, a confidence trickster, a complete rogue, and irresponsible beyond belief. Not to mention a coward hiding behind the Anonymous label.

Items like that are beneath contempt or attention, except for the need to refute lies and stupidity on behalf of the vulnerable.


Anonymous said...

"..and they are still alive. And they will still be alive 30 years from now."

Wade Allison, is that you, you old flake???

Anonymous said...

I'm the anon that mentioned 100 mSv being considered low-dose. I'm not saying it's safe or anything, but whenever you see a scientific study dealing with "low-dose" radiation it's always under 100 mSv or even more (I have seen papers mentioning 500 mSv as low dose also, and they were quite recent.)

You have to consider that in radiation therapy doses received by patients are a couple of Gray (Gray = Sievert, kind of) per session:

Again, this doesn't mean that chronic exposure to low dose external and internal is safe, but any professional working on that field would call anything under 100 mSv as "low-dose".

Wm. Marcus said...

NHK has posted that they will re-do the program and air it on Dec. 15th. They were effectively shamed into doing this by an incredulous public.

Well done, ex-SKF: blogs like this one do make a difference. . .

And one more comment: still, the distinction between internal/external exposure is poorly explained in yearly-limits like the 20 m/Sv now being touted. Constant, internal emission from a lodged particle is very, very different from an external ray passing through the body and stopping (i.e. an X-ray) for certain. The damage to nearby tissue from a lodged radioactive material is intense to those surrounding cells. Compare that to the whole body dose one would receive from flying at high altitude: uniform exposure over the whole body mass. As someone else once described it: imagine warming your body by a fire and your whole body receiving one joule of energy. Then imagine a small ember, also equal to one joule, resting on your lip. The energy is the same, but the concentration on a small part of your body creates a very different effect: a burn.

Anonymous said...

Gee..tell SAFE to my best friend, who after radiation therapy developed skin cancer..a skin cancer that spreads so rapidly a person only has 6 months to live..tops. Three months normally. She is fighting..1/2 chest removed, chemo chemo chemo..but its still there. She may make the 6 months..maybe. And that radiation therapy is SAFE?? No way!

Yosaku said...


You finish with, "It will be still ways to go to reach Dr. Wade Allison's 1.2 sievert per year limit recommendation, though."

I think you may have gotten a little over-eager here, because when I checked the link you provided it was clear that the professor did not make that recommendation.

His recommendation was as follows:
100 mSv max single dose
100 mSv max in any month
5000 mSv max lifelong

You arrived at 1.2 sV/yr by multiplying the max in any one month by 12. I could just as easily work backwards from his lifelong limit and get his "recommendation" for one year (assuming a 75-year life span) which would be 0.066 sV/yr.

The problem is we'd both be wrong as you can't linearly extrapolate on dosage limit recommendations such as this. That's simply not how exposure works.

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

@Yosaku, right below the numbers you cited in the good professor's presentation, there's this line that you omitted: "A relaxation by about 1000 times compared to public ALARA, 1 mSV per year."

1 times (about) 1000 equals 1 sievert, per year, and that is his recommendation, in his own presentation. He simply rounded down 1200 to 1000, it looks like.

Anonymous said...

@arevamirpal::laprimavera: in that sentence Allison is referring to the 0.1 mSv per month dose.

Anonymous said...

When I worked reactors, we kept our dose to 20 milliSieverts for a LIFETIME DOSE.

We never used the ICRP recommendations, for at committee level it was decided that it was too high for our employees.

Have a chat to Dr Busby, and comprehend the danger that you are in. It is too late for many in Japan already.

You must abandon the Islands of Japan for at least 10,000 years.

Bob said...

What did those Ukrainians know? They moved people away from the Chernobyl disaster and declared 5 m/Sv to be dangerous. Japan's standard of 20 m/Sv is 4 times as high. Maybe they worried 4 times less than Japan about paying compensation?

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