Wednesday, March 23, 2011

EPA & DOE Updates On Radiation Levels Here & In Japan

Mar 22: During a detailed analysis of four west coast RadNet air monitor filters, U.S. EPA identified trace amounts of radioactive iodine, cesium, and tellurium consistent with the Japanese nuclear incident. EPA said, "These levels are consistent with the levels found by a Department of Energy monitor last week and are to be expected in the coming days." The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) also released data recorded from its Aerial Monitoring System as well as ground detectors deployed along with its Consequence Management Response Teams. DOE said the information has also been shared with the government of Japan as part of the United States' ongoing efforts to support Japan with the recovery and response effort.
    EPA's samples were captured by three monitors in California and one in Washington State on Friday, March 18 and sent to EPA scientists for detailed laboratory analysis. The data was reviewed over the weekend and the analysis was completed Monday night (March 21). The radiation levels detected on the filters from California and Washington monitors are hundreds of thousands to millions of times below levels of concern. In addition, last night preliminary monitor results in Hawaii detected minuscule levels of an isotope that is also consistent with the Japanese nuclear incident. This detection varies from background and historical data in Hawaii. This isotope was detected at a fixed monitor in Hawaii, and it is far below any level of concern for human health. The sampling filter from this monitor is being sent to EPA's national radiation lab for further analysis.

    EPA said that in a typical day, Americans receive doses of radiation from natural sources like rocks, bricks and the sun that are about 100,000 times higher than what we have detected coming from Japan. EPA said, ". . .the levels we're seeing coming from Japan are 100,000 times lower than what you get from taking a roundtrip international flight." EPA is in the process of conducting detailed filter analyses for fixed monitors located in Oregon. EPA's RadNet filter results for San Francisco, Seattle, Riverside and Anaheim, California detected minuscule quantities of iodine isotopes and other radioactive particles that pose no health concern at the detected levels.
    DOE indicated in a release that on March 15, 33 experts from the Department's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) arrived in Japan along with more than 17,200 pounds of equipment. After initial deployments at U.S. consulates and military installations in Japan, these teams have utilized their unique skills, expertise and equipment to help assess, survey, monitor and sample areas for radiation. The 33 team members joined another six DOE personnel already in Japan. Since arriving in Japan, NNSA teams have collected and analyzed data gathered from more than 40 hours of flights aboard Department of Defense aircraft and thousands of ground monitoring points. The DOE data has been collected, analyzed and posted on the Department's website. Consistent with the President's commitment to share important information related to health and safety with the public, the Department will seek to update the data posted on its website daily.
    A release from Greenpeace citing information available from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) and the Ministry of Food Safety indicates that, "Tests carried by the Tokyo metropolitan government found 210 becquerels of iodine-131 per 1 liter of tap water in the city, more than twice the limit of 100 becquerels considered safe for: babies. [And,] the Japanese authorities have started reporting on the contamination levels found in 11 different vegetables. In many vegetables, such as broccoli and cabbage, from the Fukushima prefecture - the most contaminated area, the radioactivity levels exceeded safety limits set by the Ministry of Food and Safety. In Motomiya, 50 km East of the plant, the Ceasium-137 concentration in 'kukitachina' leaves was detected to be 82,000 becquerels per kilogram, 164 times the limit. Government called on consumers not to eat the 11 vegetables and food exports from the contaminated areas have been banned."
    In the release, Greenpeace said, "This alarming rise in reports of radioactive contamination in Japan's food chain and water supply once again demonstrates that the government's constant reassurances and downplaying of the Fukushima nuclear crisis and risks public health are at best unreliable. A few days ago, Tokyo Metropolitan Government stated that radiation levels had decreased in the city, yet today (March 23) warns that babies should not be given Tokyo tap water. The authorities may be trying to brave about the current crisis by trying to avoid causing panic, but are they risking people's health in the process?"

    "The Fukushima disaster once more demonstrates that it is impossible to guarantee public safety in the event of nuclear accident. Over the last two weeks, we've had inconsistent and unclear information from Japanese authorities, and often contradictory advice from international nuclear regulators. Any attempt to throw the nuclear industry a climate change lifeline in the wake of the Fukushima crisis is a dangerous deceit. The only smart response to this nuclear wake up call would be for governments around the world would be to heavily invest in energy efficiency and to redouble their efforts to harness safe and secure renewable energy sources."

    Environment America issued a release saying in part, "We must learn from this moment and never allow this fate for our children. More than 108 million Americans live within 50 miles of a nuclear power plant, and Tokyo is 150 miles from the Fukushima plant. We should be ensuring the relative safety of existing plants, putting a moratorium on any new plants, and beginning to phase out our use of nuclear power. In all cases the process should start, but not end, with plants on fault lines, near coasts or large bodies of water, in the hurricane zone or of the same design as the reactors in Japan. We can and must move away from energy technologies that put our environment and families' health at massive risk and repower our country with clean, renewable energy, like wind and solar power."

    A national opinion survey conducted by ORC International for the nonprofit and nonpartisan Civil Society Institute (CSI) of 814 Americans on March 15-16, 2011, indicates a widespread concern about nuclear power. In a release, the groups indicate, "While a drop in public support for nuclear power would be expected after an incident like the Fukushima reactor crisis, the nuclear disaster in Japan has triggered a much stronger response among Americans, a majority of whom would freeze new nuclear power construction, stop additional federal loan guarantees for reactors, shift away from nuclear power to wind and solar power, and eliminate the indemnification of the nuclear power industry from most post-disaster clean up costs." The poll found that 53% of Americans support a moratorium on new nuclear construction, and more than three in four Americans (76%) are more supportive now of making a transition from nuclear power to renewable energy, like wind and solar, than they were a month ago.
    Beyond major nuclear power policy questions, the survey also found a majority of Americans living near nuclear power plants ill equipped to deal with a major disaster. According to the survey, over half (52 percent) of Americans living within 50 miles of a nuclear reactor do not know "what to do in the event of nuclear reactor emergency," such as "the evacuation route and what other steps to take." The poll indicates that nearly one in four (24 percent) of Americans say they live within 50 miles of a nuclear power reactor.   

    Access a release from EPA including the data (click here). Access more information and updates from EPA's Japanese Nuclear Emergency: Radiation Monitoring website (click here). Access a release from DOE and link to the data (click here). Access DOE's Situation in Japan website for more information (click here). Access more information about NNSA's emergency response capabilities (click here). Access a release from Greenpeace with links to the cited information, a briefing on radiation and health, and more information on Greenpeace activities in Japan (click here). Access a release from Environment America (click here). Access a release from CSI on the opinion survey with details (click here). Access the March 23 update from the UN-IAEA with more information on the food and water contamination (click here). Access the IAEA website for more information (click here).
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