Thursday, September 6, 2012

US Department of Defense Sets Up "Operation Tomodachi" Radiation Exposure Registry

The whole-body radiation dose estimate for adults (older than 17) in Sendai, Miyagi during the 60 days from March 11 to May 11, 2011 may be as high as 1.2 millisievert, assuming being outside at all times with constant high physical activity levels.

From the US Department of Defense press release (9/5/2012; emphasis is mine):

Registry to Provide Japan Response Radiation Info

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 5, 2012 – Though no Defense Department personnel or their families were exposed to radiation causing adverse health conditions following the nuclear accident in Japan last year, the department has established a registry to provide information to those who served in the stricken country.

The March 11, 2011, earthquake and subsequent tsunami off the coast of Japan caused extensive damage to the Fukushima nuclear power plant, and radiation leaked from the facility.

The Defense Department has established an Operation Tomodachi registry for the 70,000 U.S. service members, family members, DOD civilians and DOD contractors who were in Japan from March 12 to May 11, 2011, said Dr. Craig Postlewaite, DOD’s director for force readiness and health assurance.

“The concept of a registry evolved very soon after the crisis in Japan,” the doctor said in an interview with the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service. “Initially, there was great emphasis placed on environmental monitoring, because we needed to monitor those levels to ensure that people weren’t adversely affected during the crisis.”

Commanders used the monitoring information to assess whether to evacuate personnel. The monitoring data, plus a policy that required the services to report daily precisely where every service member was, enabled the department to establish the registry, he said. “We then had the capability to provide information on estimated doses of radiation” for each person, Postlewaite said.

The Operation Tomodachi registry is being built in a secure database in which all personal information is protected. The dosage estimates cover 13 different shore-based locations, U.S. Navy ships located off the mainland of Japan and aircrews. It also incorporates about 4,000 U.S. responders who were issued radiation dosimeters. “The registry will be finished this calendar year,” Postlewaite said.

In addition to the registry, DOD is building a companion website to the registry. Individuals cannot be identified on the website, but people can click on a map to determine the exposures in a specific prefecture, base or area for those who spent most of their time on mainland Japan in the timeframe the registry covers. The website also has information on radiation doses from a medical standpoint.

The doses and other information in the registry and on the website have been peer-reviewed and agree with information provided by national and international groups – including the World health organization and the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Dr. Paul Blake, a senior health physicist at the Defense Threat Reduction Agency at Fort Belvoir, Va. Blake also serves as the Operation Tomodachi co-chair for the dose assessment and recording working group.

The radiation release from the nuclear plant came in two types, the doctor said. “One was the shorter-lived radioactive iodines,” Blake said. “If you inhale it or ingest it, it has the tendency to collect in your thyroid in your neck. We needed to look at the health risk associated with that.”

The other health risk is radioactive cesium. “Cesium can have a half-life of 30 years, so it is still over there in Japan,” he said.

So from a health risk viewpoint, DOD officials looked at a dose to the thyroid and a dose to the whole body, and “that’s how we prepared the dose assessment for our shore facilities,” he said.

“Both the thyroid and whole body doses are significantly lower than the occupational limits that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission provides for this country,” he added.

What people were doing was as important as where they were, Blake said. “The Marines, for instance, did a lot of humanitarian efforts. When you are out there pushing hard and sweating, you are drinking a lot more water, [and] you are breathing a lot harder,” he explained. “We needed to take into account radionuclides would enter the body at a faster rate than someone doing a more sedentary [job].”

Sex and age made a difference in the assessments also. Absorption of radionuclides changes depending on a person’s gender and age.

Officials also are concerned about children. “They can be more sensitive, because they are still growing,” Blake said. “Fortunately, our children were fairly far back from the actual source. The doses they received were safe.”

At the companion site "Operation Tomodachi Registry", users can view the dose estimate in locations where the US has military bases and where the US military did the disaster relief work after March 11, 2011. (In rem, of course...)

For example, if you were an adult (older than 17) in Yokosuka Base from March 11 to May 11, 2011,

(1 rem = 10 millisieverts)

Whole-Body Radiation Dose Estimate: 0.033 rem (or 0.33 millisieverts)
Thyroid Radiation Dose Estimate: 0.40 rem (or 4 millisieverts)

On the other hand, if you were a Marine clearing up the Sendai Airport and continued to carry out the mission in the nearby areas in Miyagi, you may have gotten

Whole-Body Radiation Dose Estimate: 0.12 rem (or 1.2 millisieverts)
Thyroid Radiation Dose Estimate: 1.20 rem (12 millisieverts)

These numbers are probably higher than the actual exposures, because:

"These estimates were calculated based on you spending 24 hours outdoors, having a constantly high physical activity level (and associated reathing rates), and being exposed to the radiation measured in the air, water and soil over the entire 60-day period." (from "Operation Tomodachi Registry Location-Based Radiation Dose Estimate Report")

Well, the US Marines may have done that. I remember watching them at the Sendai Airport on a TV news program, and how they hustled to get the airport open in no time. I didn't connect at that time that radioactive plumes from Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant were passing over them. The cleanup operation (prep) started on March 16, 2011.

And yet, many cynical Japanese who want to consider themselves as "sophisticated" still say, "Oh they did it as a military training exercise, nothing to do with helping the Japanese."

While the Japanese government had the government buildings and public schools cleaned after the earthquake/tsunami, the US military was clearing the ports and roads so that people in the disaster affected areas could have access to outside help. If that was nothing but their military training exercise, that was much better than what the Japanese government was doing.


Anonymous said...

"Tomodachi", huh. Shades of 20th Century Boys again. We're all being "banished"~

doitujin said...

and still, there is no such registry for the japanese people who were and are connected to the polluted areas, and that often for a much longer period of time... or am i missing something?

Little canary said...

Glad they did not called it "Operation tamagocchi"!

Anonymous said...

The maximum dose estimate for these soldiers does offer a small window into the possible exposure levels that could be found in the people who were displaced and traveling during the worst of the fallout/rainout. The thing to remember is the victims didn't have the benefit of filter masks and exposure suits along with proper decontamination facilities while they struggled to find shelter. Many of these people were on foot and wore the same contaminated clothes for days if not weeks. I also remember early in the disaster many shelters didn't have utility service so people were cooking outside on open fires. In certain areas these fires were probably fed with contaminated wood while the soldiers ate clean food and water.

A radiation registry is the first thing you should do in an accident it is very telling that the US took so long to establish this registry they probably went to great lengths to vet this information before they announced its release. You can be sure if the data pointed to a problem it would have become a national secret. This is the reason the Japanese don't have a similar program they know in certain areas the public exposure levels are off the charts an official record would just complicate compensation issues for the government. Not only that it would make nuclear power look quantifiably bad and the "silent majority" doesn't want that either. Lack of data is TEPGOV's best friend when it comes time to pay the victims. The nuclear power industry is like the tobacco industry they love not to know about the negative impact their industry's cause society. If cigarettes produced electricity their dangers would still be an open secret fully backed by the government.

Anonymous said...

"This is the reason the Japanese don't have a similar program they know in certain areas the public exposure levels are off the charts"

Sounds very much like the stories last year about cicadas dying off, the emperor being shuttled off to Kyoto for fear of radiation, and half the trees in Tokyo turning brown.

Anonymous said...

You forgot Unit 4 listing like the Tower of Pisa.

Anonymous said...

Just do a whole body scan for radionuclides and get it over with. If exposure levels were/are so safe, prove it by following patients history in real time. Of course, unless, you really don't want to know.

First, stating children are most affected to fallout exposure due to their ongoing development and then claiming they were exposed to 'safe' fallout levels is non sequitur because second, there is no proof what 'safe' levels are. To the contrary, body intake of ionizing radiation can be deadly short or long term.

Anonymous said...

Of course they need to set up this registry because "no Defense Department personnel or their families were exposed to radiation causing adverse health conditions following the nuclear accident in Japan last year"

Because, obviously if they were exposed to radiation that might cause adverse health conditions then the military would want to forget about them completely, Right????

And I'll tell you, Iodine and Cesium are not the most worrisome substances.

In about 10 days it will be 18 months since the explosion of #3 and #4 reactors. 18 months marks the front end of the wave of cancer that will sweep over those who were exposed to the nuclear fuel from those explosions.

There are 6,000 sailors alone who were aboard the USS Ronald Reagan who possibly all got a dose of plutonium dioxide MOX fuel from the #3 blast. There were probably 10 other ships traveling with Reagan that got hit at the same time.

If you were one of those ships, and you breathed that stuff, you are dying right now. You have on the outside 3 years to live. Sorry to say, but the reason for your death will be hidden.

Of course everyone on the mainland of Japan those days could have gotten it too. Everyone. That includes famous CNN correspondents and their crew that not only were on land for the blast, but likely flew through the MOX cloud as they abandoned the Japan trip a few hours after the blast. In the next six months, the real nasty stuff is going to start coming out...

Anonymous said...

The above gets the Academy Award for most fantastically hysteric post of the past few months. Utter nonsense, and serves no purpose other than fear-mongering. Shameful.

The residents are being monitored, and there have been third parties doing whole body counts and urinalysis. Feel free to Google any of this if you are interested in data.

I'm not saying that anything is "safe" or that there will be no fatalities in the long term, but anybody expecting deaths from the low levels encountered so far are people who desire drama and conspiracy in their lives.

Anonymous said...

It really pisses me off when people spout crap just to stir the pot. The Japanese government is monitoring exposure. The results are being published. Feel free to believe in a conspiracy if you like, but you'd also have to discount all the work being done by independent journalists and analysts. If you want to see the results of whole body counts for residents of Fukushima, you can check them out for yourself at
If you want to see the results of the glass badge counters, you can check them here

Anonymous said...

If there's nothing to fear, why is Tepco and Japan trying so hard to cover up the damage to the plant?

Why would they call it "cold shutdown" when it is not?

Why wouldn't they release the data on how much plutonium was released and exactly where it went? How much plutonium ingestion is "low levels".

Unknown said...

Am I crazy or what????? I was in Yokosuka w/ my 5, 8 and 10 year olds for those 2 months, then for another year after that,. Let's take my 5 yr old and the cesium dose because it is still there. They claim she received
0.051 rem/60 days x 10 millsv
=0.51 millisv/60 days x 6
=3.06 milisv/year.
Why does the chart use a 0.5rem (5 millisv)yearly dose for the NRC allowable amount for minors and they did not use the calculation of the 60 day amount in yearly dose terms to show the contrast. Basically,
0.51 mlsv 60 day dose vs. 5 mlsv yearly dose. It should show
3.06 mlsv/yr vs. 5 mlsv/yr.
Sure it looks "well below" and you could assume an opinion that there are "no health effects".

Let's figure the same for the same kid in s/w Japan, Iwakuni.
0.003 rem x10 mlsv
=0.03mlsv /60days x 6
= 0.18 millisv/year.
Suddenly that doesn't look so underlined "Well BELOW" does it? By the way, there is dust in my old non-air tight Japanese home. Sometimes indoor levels of radiation are higher than outdoor.
Do those calculations take a 5 year old playing in dirt then picking his nose, scraping a knee then wiping his crying eyes with dirty hands several times during those 2 mos. then multiply that for a yearly dose into consideration when they made these estimates? All of a sudden their estimates don't seem so over estimated, do they? These charts appear to be used to show contrast but in all reality, they are there to confuse us. Don't buy into this US and J government trick.

Anonymous said...


Your questions are reasonable. Let me give you some answers.

The published numbers you cite above are for external exposure to radiation. While every scientist knows that external exposure to radiation can be damaging to health even in small amounts, the health risks do not go up very much until the exposure is high or is for a long period of time. This is why X-ray technicians all stand behind a lead wall when they run the equipment. And this is what all of those sites claim.

But the real problem is not external exposure. It is a combination of external exposure and internal exposure. Internal exposure can come in three forms Food, water or air.

If your food or water has radioactive materials in it, then for as long as those radioactive materials stay in your body, you will be exposed. If your body thinks strontium is the same as iron that it uses to build bone, it will send the strontium to your bones. This type of radiation exposure, although still relatively small in quantity, is now highly concentrated on a particular spot in your body. Your risk of health problems just went up very much.

Depending on the substance, the body can actually remove some of the particles and expel them. That's why it's so important to know which particles and how much. Just knowing an overall exposure number is not good enough.

Let's talk about inhaled particles. There are several nasty particles that were released into the air. Radioactive Iodine is one that has a half life of only 8 days. That means it releases its radiation very quickly. If you ingest it, your body sends it straight to the thyroid. If it is still radioactive, then your thyroid will get radiated.

The worst inhaled particle, as described above is plutonium dioxide. If you inhale it, even in very tiny amounts, you will likely get cancer.

Tepco and the government of Japan has been eerily silent on the amount of Plutonium dioxide that was released, and where it went. Did the plutonium cloud blow 1 km from the plant? Did it go 100 kms from the plant? Did it blow 10,000 kms from the plant? We don't know, because they not only won't tell us how far it went, they won't even admit it was released - even though we clearly saw it released in the explosion video.

Final note: Obviously if you read Majia's blog, you know that the release did not stop after 60 days. It has been nearly continuous. You did right by your children to get out of the area.


Anonymous said...

Oops sorry Ex-SKF - thought I was responding at Majia's.

Rachael, you can also see evidence of continuous releases here.


sakuramane2004 said...

Thank you James,
I have not seen Maija's site. I will check it out. I did however witness the continuous releases real time throughout the year. There were times I didn't let my kids go to school nor go outside because I watched a midnight venting and the wind was coming my way. It was part of my reason for deciding to leave. It drives me nuts that so many people, especially people I know in Japan, will read the results and be mislead about the safety level and will continue to stay there without being careful of what they eat or do because once again the government, this time the US deems these levels safe. I know it is their choice but I also feel they are not being allowed to make a free choice without the truth being presented clearly, for a regular housewife or working man to understand. Most of us here have been spending most of the past year trying to self-educate and learn about radiation in order to protect my family. By God's grace and mercy I have been able to see the truth when it so many worked so hard to keep it hidden. I thank God for blog sites like this that help to decipher some of this and people like you who take time to respond to one of my rants in desperation. Right now I am in the states with my kids but my husband stayed in Japan. I have been blessed to have family to stay with but were are going from house to house not knowing when and where we can settle down. I made some videos on youtube about some of my experiences you can see them at sakuramane2004 on you tube if you are interested. Raechel

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