Sunday, September 1, 2013

RO Waste Water Leak at #Fukushima I Nuke Plant: Spot with 1,800 Millisieverts/Hr "Dose Equivalent" Found, Hilarity Ensued

In my effort to distract myself from my temporary but extremely uncomfortable illness, I read news. What do I find? New RO waste water leak spots at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant and extremely sloppy reporting in Japan and elsewhere. Good to know nothing has changed in the past five days of my absence.

Here's a typical coverage of the news on the new leak(s) of Reverse Osmosis waste water from tanks made of metal sheets held together by rivets, rubber packing and epoxy sealant, from Jiji Tsushin (9/1/2013):


4 locations in the tank [area] found with high radiation, maximum 1,800 millisieverts/hour, says TEPCO


Regarding the water leak from the tank that stores contaminated water at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, TEPCO announced on August 31 that there are four locations with high radiation levels in the different areas where the same type of tanks are used. At two of the four locations, high radiation levels were detected before, but now the levels have gone up, with the maximum level of 1,800 millisieverts/hour. If one is exposed to this dose level for four hours continuously, one would die.


The other two locations are new locations revealed this time. TEPCO says they "cannot deny the possibility of contaminated water leak at all four locations".


There are about 350 tanks of the same type that uses rubber packing in the joints. The safety concerns for these tanks will no doubt increase. A crisis situation continues in contaminated water storage.

So what's wrong with this news, other than the fact that RO waste water leak is found at new locations and Jiji doesn't bother to tell the readers it is about RO waste water?

It's "1,800 millisievert/hour radiation that would kill one in 4 hours of exposure".

After nearly two and a half years of attending TEPCO's press conference, reporters in Japan seem almost willful these days to pretend they don't even know the difference between gamma radiation exposure and beta radiation exposure to make their news more sensational in competition with the foreign media and blogs. They seem to pretend not to know what dose equivalent is.

1,800 millisieverts/hour is "dose equivalent at 70 micrometer", to show the beta radiation exposure at very close proximity for particular organs - skin, and eye lens. Press releases and handouts for the press from TEPCO make it clear that it is dose equivalent, and they say so during the press conference. (Here's the English email alert to the press on finding the spot with 1,800 mSv/hr beta radiation, from August 31, 2013.)

The "1,800 millisieverts/hour that would kill a person in 4 hours" would be gamma radiation.

In this case, RO waste water is extremely high in beta nuclides including strontium but not so much at all in gamma nuclides. You wouldn't die just by being near this water for four hours.

1,800 millisieverts/hour dose equivalent for skin would be 18 millisieverts/hour effective dose, as tissue weighing factor for skin is 0.01.

TEPCO uses Ionization Chamber Type Survey Meters. 

According to TEPCO, 1,800 millisieverts/hour dose equivalent at 70 micrometer is almost all beta radiation, with only 1 millisievert/hour dose equivalent (at 1 centimeter) of gamma radiation.

Almost all Japanese media (except one article at Asahi) glossed over the fact that this "1,800 millisieverts/hour" was dose equivalent to indicate the effect on skin, and they all screamed "it would kill people in 4 hours".

Many Japanese readers (I sure hope not most) continue to trust what the media says about Fukushima I Nuke Plant as long as it is bad and catastrophic. Some of them immediately started to tweet and retweet, "Japan is finished, we all die!". Judging from retweets of my tweet about the type of contamination of this particular water, they may not even know that the water that leaked had high beta but not much gamma nuclides.

1,800 millisieverts/hour dose equivalent is still very high, as the annual limit for equivalent dose for skin is 500 millisieverts. The same for lens is 300 millisieverts.

But to purposefully omit "dose equivalent" information from the original information from TEPCO and add sensational claim of killing one in four hours of exposure is another low for the media.

It is amazing reporting, actually, considering many reporters who attend the TEPCO press conference are quite knowledgeable and ask tough questions. What would be the point of bothering to attend the press conference, if they end up writing sloppy, loose articles like the ones they've written?


Anonymous said...

People suck.

This kind of shitty reporting will only fuel the idiots who keep insisting that fears of radiation are blown out of proportion and that all radiation is safe and healthy.

Bananas, airplanes, relative exposure. None of that matters. THe fact is the less radiation we're exposed to, the better. Goes for anything potentially harmful. I don't know about everyone else, but I don't pick and choose risks like people assume. I avoid them all.

Anonymous said...

Your comments are well thought out and well written. When I first saw the headline claiming 1800 mSv/hr, I made the automatic assumption that was Gamma radiation which equals 180 Rem/hour and yes, 4 hours at that dose would most likely kill you in less than 30 days. But then your article pointed out that was mostly Beta emitters in the water. That makes a GIANT difference.
Thanks for pointing this out.
The Fukushima Global Disaster is bad enough without there being unnecessary bullcrap piled on top of it.
- David Bear (

Anonymous said...

thanks for the ghostbusting.

One question: do you have any indication what the packing material is made of? I'd assume it's not rubber (not stable against UV, not to talk about betas), but with TEPCO one never knows.
-- Ron

Anonymous said...

Very good point on the "dose equivalent".

Seems some are enjoying their effect on media reporting.

I'll add 70 micrometer dose equivalent to my list of 'optical effects' ..

blue lights
red lights
purple lights
black blobs
shafts of light
red glows
rainbow refractions
spider webs
realtime photoshopping
boiling oceans
molten blobs of iron destabilizing the earth
disinfo agents accusing others of disinfo
pixels of light
keyboard dancings
accomodative system admins

Anonymous said...

I am not too happy about this type of reporting either: it says "it is not that bad" but it does not say how bad it is. Furthermore, I cannot reconcile this post with what Wikipedia says about equivalent dose (which could be my problem).
Firstly, how bad is it? the Tepco report linked above indicates that, out of 1800 mSv/hr, 1 mSv/hr is gamma. This means that if you stay there 1 hour you get you legal limit for one year; if you stay there for 4 days even the most obstinate nuke propaganda will acknowledge that you develop at least a 1/20,000 chance of cancer in your lifetime. So, gamma rays wise, it is this bad.
Secondly, what I understand from Wikipedia is that the Wr factor for beta and gamma is the same (1) so, what is the difference? Also, "equivalent dose" means "has the same impact on health as" so 1800 mSv/hr (measured at 5cm, not 70 micrometer!) is quite large. Tepco itself mentions, that for skin, the hourly rate is 3.5 times the yearly limit (i.e. 30,660 times the limit hourly limit). Note that Tepco propaganda mentions the "管理値" limit: I believe this is the limit for nuclear professionals, which are expected to perform regular health checkups to limit their risk. The limit for general population would however be lower, 5 times lower I believe, which would make those 1800 mSv/hr 153,300 times the limit.
Finally, all of this reasoning holds while the water sits in the tanks: if it gets into your sushi the story is totally different.
I wrote what above to the best of my understanding, please feel free to correct me in case I said anything silly.


arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

Beppe, it is 70 micrometers, not 5 centimeters. 1mSv/hr gamma is at 1 centimeter, and that's also dose equivalent, and NOT the air dose rate of the area.

The air dose rate around the tank areas are between 15 microsieverts/hour to 100 microsieverts/hour, according to TEPCO's survey map.

Anonymous said...

Beppe, you've been in Japan too long, perhaps. You wouldn't believe unless it sounds bad.

NYUltraBuddha said...

Sorry to hear you were ill. When I saw you weren't posting for a few days I was hoping you were taking a much-deserved vacation for the holiday weekend. Feel better soon!

Anonymous said...

One more thing... environmental radioactivity nearby the tanks is irrelevant to us, only people working close to the tanks need to be careful.
However, the water in the tanks is loaded with beta emitters (mostly strontium) to the tune of 80,000,000 Bq/lt, strontium is soluble in water so I would expect it to flow into the sea more easily than cesium. In many cases food contamination is estimated measuring cesium only. Strontium tends to fix into your bones and from there irradiate you from a *very* short distance.
Considering what above and considering that these leaks have been classified as a level 3 INES accident by an institution in charge of promoting nuclear industry (IAEA) I am even more unhappy about this post.


Anonymous said...

Beppe, feel free to believe "1800 mSv/hr to kill in 4 hours". No one's stopping you.

Anonymous said...

Nicely put, however, 350 tanks with rubber gaskets getting bombarded with some quantity of gamma radiation. Even if it's a small fraction of a very high flux that is gamma, it's still going to degrade the molecules in the gaskets much faster than it was expected to.

We need some harder information about what is occurring to those gasket joints, for if a lot of these tanks acquire cumulative degradation and suffer routine stresses of heating-cooling expansion and contraction cycles, and/or shaking from seismic activity ... well, they are going to crack and leak .

We can get a rash of such leaks developing quickly. Your post, though reassuringly balanced and valid, does not re-assure much, as it points to the more serious leak dilemma to come.

(a) let the water leak in virtually uncontrolled ways into the plant's ground surface areas, preventing or severely attenuating future access.

(b) you release it before that, and well away from the plant .

I'm hoping it will be option (b), but I strongly suspect it will be option (a).

Anonymous said...

@anonymous, September 1st, 2:46 am

"I don't know about everyone else, but I don't pick and choose risks like people assume. I avoid them all."

You've got to be kidding!... it's impossible to avoid all risks!... if you do not use nuclear power as a means of generating electricity you must burn fossil fuels, which kill way more people during normal operation than nuclear does after a major accident.
Thats a fact.

Anonymous said...


"I am not too happy about this type of reporting either: it says "it is not that bad" but it does not say how bad it is."
Well, beppe, without resorting to the banana-equivalents, one could say that the 24 TeraBequerels estimated to have leaked from the tank (the 300 tons of water at 80kBq/cm3), even if they were all gammas and not betas, would be equivalent to the natural radiation from potassium-40 of 2 km3 of ocean water (12kBq/m3).
Even assuming that the 300 tons leaked from the tank(s) will reach the Ocean, dilution will do the rest.
The volume of the Pacific Ocean is 640 million km3, by the way.

Anonymous said...

KSFO said a San Francisco area restaurant closed for 3 days because of an e-coli outbreak. It would be incredible if you were included in those reported ill from that same shop.

Get well soon.

Smoking Caster

Anonymous said...


"Strontium tends to fix into your bones and from there irradiate you from a *very* short distance."

You are wrong on this too... strontium DOESN'T "fix into your bones", it temporarily resides into your bones, as a matter of fact strontium, like any other nuclide, once it enters your body it has a FINITE biological residence time, call it biological half-life.
A small excerpt:
"Strontium-90 is chemically similar to calcium; consequently, it accumulates in hard tissues rich in calcium such as bone, antlers, and eggshells. Strontium-90 has a biological half-life in hard tissue of 14 to 600 days (PNL-9394). Hard-tissue concentrations may profile an organism’s lifetime exposure to strontium-90. However, strontium-90 generally does not contribute much to human dose because it does not accumulate in edible portions of fish and wildlife."

Anonymous said...

@ September 1, 2013 at 9:47 PM

I have seen people cite the estimated volume of the Pacific Ocean as a means of dispelling concern regarding radioactive waste flooding into it. The volume of the Pacific Ocean is irrelevant for this purpose. The isotopes will never be evenly distributed in the ocean - they will and are concentrating in the food web which means algae eaten by small fish which are eaten by larger fish etc.
The other reason is that the Pacific Ocean displays specific circulatory patterns which mean that the contaminates will be relatively isolated in a much smaller region of the Pacific. First, note that the Pacific currents above the equator circulate in one direction and the Pacific currents below the equator circulate in an opposing direction. While some mixing can occur, the diagrams of the northern pacific gyre typically look like the one from Wiki that I'll link below. Now imagine all that contamination being dumped into a much smaller circulation pattern and remember that the contaminants will never be distributed evenly throughout that much smaller mass of water.

Anonymous said...

" it temporarily resides into your bones, as a matter of fact strontium, like any other nuclide, once it enters your body it has a FINITE biological residence time, call it biological half-life."

This assumes that after being in a contaminated environment you have access to a clean environment. You cannot detox in a toxic environment.

Anonymous said...

@anonymous 9:00 PM,

What a thing this nuclear is, a "gift" to future humans so toxic, so deadly it never biodegrades, left by humans of the past as testament to the quality of their thought processes. A nuclear Call of Duty. A final flipping off of all life could have been.

How utterly, pathetically adolescent.

Mike said...

laprimavera: I hope you feel better soon!

Anonymous said...

About Sr-90:

If the biological half-life is, say 6 monthes AND you're exposed to continued contamination, that means the Sr-90 will necessarily accumulate within organisms like marine life.

The biological half-life calculation model is globally valid for a one-time contamination but even Tepco state recently contamination is continuous since march 2013 and THAT IS the largest issue I can point at.

BTW, Sr-90 biological half-life is much debated, I have much longer period in some of my documents (up to 6500 days) and up to 50 years in some study.

Anonymous said...

BTW, that antispam thing is much boring ;)

Anonymous said...

double check your link: 今回の測定でも床面から5cmの距離で測定した結果は1800mSv/hでした. This is what I am referring to. What happens if you sit on the floor there there for four hours...?

Anonymous said...

I am relieved to hear that strontium accumulates into the fish bones but will gentlemanly avoid my own. Further relief comes from its biological half life of only 6500 days (18 years) since the moment I stop eating it (which I do not know because almost no one measures strontium contamination). Or was it 50 years? Whatever. BTW, biological half life for potassium is much shorter, too lazy to look it up, sorry.

On the other hand, despair comes from further leaks: this time it's the pipes connecting the tanks. Further despair comes from Oi npp geological faults which today became officially inactive. More despair comes from the nuke boys writing here using banana examples and carefully avoiding to explain if and where I am mistaken on the equivalent dose concept.


Anonymous said...

Yeah maybe... maybe I have been here 2.5 years too long... Can't believe anything of what Tepgov says, not anymore.

Anonymous said...

how about

(c) in your neighbourhood


Anonymous said...

All right, so what happened at Minamata? The sea was not enough cooperative at diluting the methylmercury?

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

Beppe, sorry I wasn't referring to the height that TEPCO measured the dose. "70 µm dose equivalent" represents the equivalent dose value at a depth of 70 µm - i.e. skin.

Anonymous said...

Neutron release and capture is ongoing.

Anonymous said...

If one of those reactors water level goes near empty, the resultant explosion would be 15000 times greater than Hiroshima. That fallout would not only doom Japan, but the USA could forget about exporting food products. Has anyone noticed the environmentalist in Hollywood (Malibu) have their homes up for sale? Too numerous to mention. They know.

Anonymous said...

Just to put things in perspective, Minamata methylmercury half life in the blood is 50 days.

Anonymous said...

ok, so is this 70 micrometer thing mentioned in the Tepco report? Where does Tepco say 1800 is an equivalent dose? From what I understand it is just a dose rate.
I understand it is mostly beta so it does not travel far but, at the same time, you need to stay clear from the hotspot and anyways 1800 mSv/hr gives the idea that the water in the tanks is indeed dangerous, which is confirmed by the INES 3 accident rating.
Then we have madmen like 9:00PM who would like that water to be discharged far away from the plant. If leaks are level 3, what level would it be to slosh all the tanks?

Anonymous said...

- Quick Igor! Insert the banana control rods!
- Yes, master.

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

>is this 70 micrometer thing mentioned in the Tepco report?

Yes. TEPCO's announcement of 1800mSv/hr beta

"70μm線量当量率" is "70 micrometer dose equivalent"

Here's the English equivalent:

"70μm dose equivalent rate = dose equivalent rate to the skin, etc."

Anonymous said...

"strontium temporarily resides in your bones" for 18 to 50 years?
are you a lawyer or something?

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