nuclear-news

The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

Hanford to use air surveillance to track down underground radioactive hotspots

Looking for Hanford’s radioactive hot spots from the air http://www.tri-cityherald.com/news/local/hanford/article160823189.html, BY ANNETTE CARY, acary@tricityherald.com  Hanford will use an airplane to save some employee legwork this week.

July 14, 2017 Posted by | radiation, USA | Leave a comment

Ionising radiation’s cancer effect far greater in females than in males

The highest incidence of cancer, looking across 60 years, was among those who were children when they were exposed. This is not news. The surprise is that in this group, females suffered twice as much cancer across their lives than did males.

The difference between male and female, with males more resistant to radiation harm, is measurable in all the age-of-exposure cohorts, even into old age

For every two men exposed in adulthood who died of cancer, three women died of cancer

Females Exposed to Nuclear Radiation Are Far Likelier Than Males to Suffer Harm http://www.passblue.com/2017/07/05/females-exposed-to-nuclear-radiation-are-far-likelier-than-males-to-suffer-harm/, by Mary Olson • July 5, 2017 • The new nuclear weapons ban treaty, to be most likely adopted by the United Nations General Assembly this week, arises from hope for our future. The negotiations for the treaty have elevated new information about the damage from ionizing radiation to the world stage. That is exactly where it needs to be heard.

More cancers are derived from radiation than national regulators now report. They may not be aware that both age-at-exposure and one’s sex determine how much harm we suffer from radiation.

Women exposed to ionizing radiation during childhood suffer from cancer at a rate 10 times higher than predicted by traditional models used by the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The models assume that “Reference Man” represents us all. Invented to simplify calculations, Reference Man is 25 to 30 years old, weighs 154 pounds, is 5 feet 6 inches tall, “Caucasian and has a Western European or North American” lifestyle.

There has never been a pause as more than 2,000 atomic tests since 1945 have been spreading radioactivity worldwide and hundreds of nuclear factories have proliferated. No one asked if Reference Man is an appropriate stand-in for all of humanity and radiation harm.

It turns out that adult males are hurt by radiation, but they are significantly more resistant than their mothers, sisters, wives or daughters. Use of Reference Man masks gendered impacts and therefore systematically underreports radiation harm.

My first paper on radiation, published in 2011, “Atomic Radiation Is More Harmful to Women,” answers a simple question from a woman who raised her hand at one of my public lectures in North Carolina a year earlier, asking, “Does radiation exposure harm me more than a man?” She did not mean in pregnancy; she meant her own body.

I was shocked. That was 2010; in decades of work on radioactive waste policy, I had never heard of gender as a factor in radiation harm. I could not even attempt an answer. When the literature yielded nothing, my mentor, Rosalie Bertell, suggested I look at the numbers myself. Bertell was a mathematician and a recipient of a Right Livelihood Award, which is called an alternative to the Nobel prizes. Bertell devoted her life to communities hurt by radiation, including the ones she pointed me to in order to examine the data.

Only one large data set includes all ages and both genders exposed together to a single flash of gamma and neutron radiation: the survivors of the US nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. They survived in shelters or other shielding amid the first horrific years. Sixty years of data on cancer incidences and fatality among the survivors — called the Hibakusha — was published by the US National Academy of Science in 2006.

I regret that this data even exists — it was my government that used the first nuclear bombs on cities full of people, and I certainly wish they had not. I nonetheless use the numbers. They hold a message for humanity: gender matters in the atomic age. That does not make it right.

The highest incidence of cancer, looking across 60 years, was among those who were children when they were exposed. This is not news. The surprise is that in this group, females suffered twice as much cancer across their lives than did males.

The difference between male and female, with males more resistant to radiation harm, is measurable in all the age-of-exposure cohorts, even into old age — the difference between genders is smaller when adults are exposed rather than when they are children.

For every two men exposed in adulthood who died of cancer, three women died of cancer. A 50 percent difference in the rate of cancer death from radiation exposure in adulthood is not insignificant to most female readers! Indeed, this finding is changing my own behavior in fieldwork.

The question, Why is gender a factor?, is waiting for researchers to tackle. A team lead by David Richardson in the Department of Epidemiology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, in 2016 showed that the A-bomb cancer data mirrors the outcomes of many smaller radiation exposures over time, adding up to the same exposure level as the Japanese survivors.

We are all getting these smaller radiation exposures.

The 10-females-to-1-male ratio cited here is the comparison of cancer outcomes from the youngest female survivors versus the 25- to 30-year-old males: the group that underpins Reference Man. This dramatic order-of-magnitude difference in biological research is like a siren blaring: pay attention!

It is time to retire Reference Man. Any level that is set for public exposure to radiation should be based on little girls. When we protect them, everyone is better protected. Unless we protect girls, our collective future is at stake.

The radiation and gender “siren”  has not been heard widely, but it has been heard. In 2014, I was honored to present my findings at the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons and exhilarated to read the draft treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons, where one basis for the need for the new treaty is the disproportionate harm to women and girls from ionizing radiation.

The treaty falls within the jurisdiction of humanitarian law, which includes the most human activity of all: making babies, from which flow future generations. For these countless people to come, I celebrate that the news on radiation has been heard at the UN as it takes the next vital step of voting on a new nuclear-ban treaty.

It is a sturdy seedling of hope.

July 10, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, radiation, women | Leave a comment

The very great difference in effects on the environment between nuclear bombs and nuclear meltdowns

Nuclear Bombs and Nuclear Reactor Meltdowns Affect the Environment in Very Different Wayshttp://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/nuclear-bombs-and-nuclear-reactor-meltdowns-affect_us_59499845e4b0c24d29f4784306/22/2017, Why do nuclear bombs leave little longtime radiation, while nuclear reactor meltdowns could last for centuries? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Viktor T. Toth, IT pro, part-time physicist, on Quora:

Why do nuclear bombs leave little longtime radiation, while nuclear reactor meltdowns could last for centuries? Well, for starters, there is the amount of fuel involved.

Little Boy (the bomb dropped on Hiroshima) contained 64 kilograms of highly enriched (weapons grade) uranium. Of this, less than a kilogram actually underwent nuclear fission, producing fission products including short-lived but dangerous isotopes, and also producing the neutron radiation “flash” that induced secondary radioactivity in some materials that absorbed those neutrons.

In contrast, an RBMK reactor like the one that blew up in Chernobyl contains 100–150 fuel assemblies, each with over 100 kg of partially enriched uranium. So right there, the amount of fuel in the reactor is several hundred times more than the amount of fission fuel in a nuclear bomb. And whereas a nuclear bomb uses its fuel rather inefficiently (the explosive fission process takes place in milliseconds), a reactor does a more thorough job consuming its fuel over the course of several months before a fuel assembly is replaced.

Furthermore, the fission byproducts remain in the fuel assembly. Depending on the reactor design, these may, in fact, include materials a lot worse than the uranium fuel, such as weapons grade plutonium. Then there are also all the irradiated parts of the reactor that have been continuously exposed to radiation, resulting in secondary radioactivity and more nasty byproducts.

When a nuclear bomb explodes, it is dispersed over a large area. In case of a reactor accident, some of the fuel is dispersed, but a lot of it remains in place, at the reactor site. So this represents a concentration of radioactive materials that just does not occur in case of a bomb. And because all of it sits on the ground, there is the chance of leakage, e.g., into the water table, contaminating the water supply of a large region.

A nuclear reactor site may also contain other sources of radiation. For instance, one of the biggest concerns after the Fukushima accident was due to spent fuel pools located near the meltdown sites.

Having said all that, let us not forget that the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone became possibly the biggest accidental wildlife sanctuary in Europe, if not the world. That is because while radioactive contamination takes its toll, it’s nothing compared to what humans do. Remove most of the humans and even if you add a substantial amount of radiation, Nature thrives.

June 23, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, environment, radiation, Reference | Leave a comment

Hibakusha were not treated for radiation damage: finally Radiation research foundation to apologize

Radiation research foundation to apologize for studying but not treating hibakusha https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170617/p2a/00m/0na/016000c  June 17, 2017 (Mainichi Japan)HIROSHIMA –– The chairman of a joint Japan-U.S. research organization studying the long-term effects of radiation exposure on humans is expected to apologize to hibakusha — survivors of the 1945 U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki — who were studied but generally not treated by the organization’s American predecessor, it has been learned.

June 19, 2017 Posted by | Japan, radiation, weapons and war | Leave a comment

US federal cutbacks mean closure of  Manhattan Radiation-Detection Lab

 Manhattan Radiation-Detection Lab To Close Due to Federal Budget Cut, The Chief ,By BOB HENNELL, Jun 16, 2017 The Department of Homeland Security will be closing its city-based National Urban Security Technology Laboratory which services the NYPD and the FDNY radiation-detection equipment used to detect an improvised nuclear device or a so-called dirty bomb, THE CHIEF-LEADER has learned. In addition to providing technical support to the city’s first-responders, the lab, under the post-9/11 Securing the Cities program, provides similar assistance to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey as well as local departments across the region.

Casualty of Trump Budget

In a letter obtained by this newspaper dated June 1, Adam R. Hutter, the NUSTL’s director, wrote to the lab’s Securing the Cities partners that to satisfy cuts required by President Trump’s proposed budget for the Federal fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 the DHS will close the facility that helps “to detect and protect against radiological and nuclear threats by conducting functional tests of law enforcement radiation detection equipment for Securing the Cities (STC), through an agreement with the New York City Police Department.”

 The lab at 201 Varick St. in lower Manhattan was established in 1947 as part of the Manhattan Project and has been a global leader in studying background atmospheric radiation. It provided critical scientific research that helped make the case for the 1963 Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. which banned testing on atomic bombs in the atmosphere, underwater or in outer space.

“NUSTL is honored to have tested nearly 20,000 units in support of the homeland security enterprise,” Mr. Hutter wrote. “Please be assured that we will continue to provide you with testing and support services until NUSTL’s closure is finalized.”

Union VP ‘Stunned’

“We were stunned,” said John Kada, who works at the lab and is the vice president of Local 42 of the American Federation of Government Employees. “Over the years we have built really good relations with first-responders throughout the region. We have one-on-one relations that grew out of our calibrating their equipment and providing the latest in training materials in this critical area.”…..http://thechiefleader.com/manhattan-radiation-detection-lab-to-close-due-to-federal-budget/article_9fa74bf6-3b11-11e7-b2ad-931dab76e901.html

June 19, 2017 Posted by | radiation, USA | Leave a comment

Ship at Bangladesh found to have illegal levels of radioactive material: too dangerous to scrap

High level radioactivity detected on North Sea Producer, report says https://www.energyvoice.com/oilandgas/142087/high-level-radioactivity-detected-north-sea-producer-report-says/Written by Reporter  14 June 17 Illegal levels of radioactive material have been detected on the North Sea Producer vessel, which was to be scrapped on a beach in Bangladesh, a news report said.

Work to dismantle the North Sea Producer started in October, but the process was halted in November amid fears that the ship may still contain hazardous substances.

An inspection has since confirmed the presence of unsafe levels of radioactivity, and the Supreme Court has ordered environmental agencies to explain why they gave permission for the vessel to be scrapped at Chittagong, according to independent media research centre Danwatch.

The vessel, which was docked near Middlesbrough FC’s Riverside Stadium early in 2016, had been expected to sail to Nigeria.

But in October it emerged that the North Sea Producer, originally owned by Maersk, had been taken to Bangladesh instead.

Workers on the beach yards of Bangladesh lack basic safety equipment and routinely work in flip-flops and shorts. – 15/06/2017

June 16, 2017 Posted by | ASIA, radiation | Leave a comment

Accidential exposure to Plutonium: what this means for Japanese nuclear workers

Increase in Cancer Risk for Japanese Workers Accidentally Exposed to Plutonium http://allthingsnuclear.org/elyman/cancer-risk-for-japanese-exposed-to-plutonium#.WTxxNdgMNK8.twitter, ED LYMAN, SENIOR SCIENTIST | JUNE 9, 2017, 

 According to news reports, five workers were accidentally exposed to high levels of radiation at the Oarai nuclear research and development center in Tokai-mura, Japan on June 6th. The Japan Atomic Energy Agency, the operator of the facility, reported that five workers inhaled plutonium and americium that was released from a storage container that the workers had opened. The radioactive materials were contained in two plastic bags, but they had apparently ripped.

We wish to express our sympathy for the victims of this accident.

This incident is a reminder of the extremely hazardous nature of these materials, especially when they are inhaled, and illustrates why they require such stringent procedures when they are stored and processed.

According to the earliest reports, it was estimated that one worker had inhaled 22,000 becquerels (Bq) of plutonium-239, and 220 Bq of americium-241. (One becquerel of a radioactive substance undergoes one radioactive decay per second.) The others inhaled between 2,200 and 14,000 Bq of plutonium-239 and quantities of americium-241 similar to that of the first worker.

More recent reports have stated that the amount of plutonium inhaled by the most highly exposed worker is now estimated to be 360,000 Bq, and that the 22,000 Bq measurement in the lungs was made 10 hours after the event occurred. Apparently, the plutonium that remains in the body decreases rapidly during the first hours after exposure, as a fraction of the quantity initially inhaled is expelled through respiration. But there are large uncertainties.

The mass equivalent of 360,000 Bq of Pu-239 is about 150 micrograms. It is commonly heard that plutonium is so radiotoxic that inhaling only one microgram will cause cancer with essentially one hundred percent certainty. This is not far off the mark for certain isotopes of plutonium, like Pu-238, but Pu-239 decays more slowly, so it is less toxic per gram.  The actual level of harm also depends on a number of other factors. Estimating the health impacts of these exposures in the absence of more information is tricky, because those impacts depend on the exact composition of the radioactive materials, their chemical forms, and the sizes of the particles that were inhaled. Smaller particles become more deeply lodged in the lungs and are harder to clear by coughing. And more soluble compounds will dissolve more readily in the bloodstream and be transported from the lungs to other organs, resulting in exposure of more of the body to radiation. However, it is possible to make a rough estimate.

Using Department of Energy data, the inhalation of 360,000 Bq of Pu-239 would result in a whole-body radiation dose to an average adult over a 50-year period between 580 rem and nearly 4300 rem, depending on the solubility of the compounds inhaled. The material was most likely an oxide, which is relatively insoluble, corresponding to the lower bound of the estimate. But without further information on the material form, the best estimate would be around 1800 rem.

What is the health impact of such a dose? For isotopes such as plutonium-239 or americium-241, which emit relatively large, heavy charged particles known as alpha particles, there is a high likelihood that a dose of around 1000 rem will cause a fatal cancer. This is well below the radiation dose that the most highly exposed worker will receive over a 50-year period. This shows how costly a mistake can be when working with plutonium.

The workers are receiving chelation therapy to try to remove some plutonium from their bloodstream. However, the effectiveness of this therapy is limited at best, especially for insoluble forms, like oxides, that tend to be retained in the lungs.

The workers were exposed when they opened up an old storage can that held materials related to production of fuel from fast reactors. The plutonium facilities at Tokai-mura have been used to produce plutonium-uranium mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel for experimental test reactors, including the Joyo fast reactor, as well as the now-shutdown Monju fast reactor. Americium-241 was present as the result of the decay of the isotope plutonium-241.

I had the opportunity to tour some of these facilities about twenty years ago. MOX fuel fabrication at these facilities was primarily done in gloveboxes through manual means, and we were able to stand next to gloveboxes containing MOX pellets. The gloveboxes represented the only barrier between us and the plutonium they contained. In light of the incident this week, that is a sobering memory.

June 12, 2017 Posted by | - plutonium, health, Japan, radiation, Reference | Leave a comment

Legacy of improperly managed radioactive sites across Russia.

Russia’s radioactive past continues to haunt its citizens https://news.vice.com/story/russias-radioactive-past-continues-to-haunt-its-citizens  By Sara Jerving Anton Kolomitsyn has an unusual hobby: He searches the Russian countryside looking for remnants of past wars. Earlier this year, he made an unexpected find.

June 9, 2017 Posted by | environment, radiation | Leave a comment

Exposure to ionising radiation; we all got a tiny increase due to Fukushima nuclear disaster

Fukushima accident gave everyone an X-ray’s worth of radiation By Andy Coghlan, 6 May 17 https://www.newscientist.com/article/2129988-fukushima-accident-gave-everyone-an-x-rays-worth-of-radiation/

“We don’t need to worry,” says Nikolaos Evangeliou at the Norwegian Institute for Air Research, whose team has conducted the first global survey of radiation exposure caused by the meltdown of three nuclear reactors at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan after a tsunami struck in 2011.

Evangeliou’s team has calculated the approximate exposure of everyone on Earth to two radioactive isotopes of caesium, using all the data available so far. Most of this came from the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization, which monitors radiation in the environment using a global network of measuring stations.

“More than 80 per cent of the radiation was deposited in the ocean and poles, so I think the global population got the least exposure,” Evangeliou told the annual meeting of the European Geosciences Union in Vienna, Austria, last month. He has estimated the dose that most individuals received to be 0.1 millisievert. “What I found was that we got one extra X-ray each,” says Evangeliou.

 Impact on wildlife

Even in Japan, the average person’s radiation dose was low: 0.5 millisieverts, which is close to the annual recommended limit for breathing in naturally occurring radon gas. In comparison, the average annual exposure from background levels of radiation in the UK is around 2.7 millisieverts a year.

Doses were unsurprisingly higher for residents of Fukushima and neighbouring areas during the first three months of the accident, ranging from 1 to 5 millisieverts. But such doses are still relatively low – a typical CT scan delivers 15 millisieverts, for example, while it takes 1000 millisieverts to cause radiation sickness.

But Evangeliou says that the effects on wildlife around the plant might be more severe. Already, he says, increased levels of radiation around Fukushima have been linked to declines in bird populations there between 2011 and 2014. “There have also been reports of declines in other species such as insects and some mammals,” he says.

However overall, Evangeliou says the hazards posed by fallout from the Chernobyl nuclear accident in Ukraine in 1986 are still much greater than those from Fukushima, because the fallout was larger, and it fell upon more densely populated areas.

May 8, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, radiation | Leave a comment

Time to pay attention to long term effects of low dose ionising radiation

The numbers of cases rose into the thousands, too high to dismiss, and in 1996 the WHO and the IAEA finally admitted that skyrocketing rates of childhood thyroid cancer were most likely due to Chernobyl exposures.

Today we know little about the non-cancerous effects that Soviet scientists working in contaminated zones reported in the late 1980s, and which they attributed to internal and external exposures to ionizing radiation. Are these effects as real as the childhood thyroid cancers proved to be? The Soviet post-Chernobyl medical records suggest that it is time to ask a new set of questions about long-term, low-dose exposures.

Chernobyl’s hidden legacy http://live.iop-pp01.agh.sleek.net/physicsworld/reader/#!edition/editions_Nuclear_2017/article/page-19330 Kate
Brown
 is a historian at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, US, e-mail kbrown@umbc.edu
 Historian Kate Brown argues that scientists should re-examine Soviet-era evidence of health effects from low doses of radiation

In June 1980 a doctor with the Oak Ridge Associated Universities in the US wrote a letter to a colleague at the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory in upstate New York. The pair were corresponding about a forthcoming study of employee health at the Knolls reactor, and the doctor, C C Lushbaugh, wrote that he expected “little ‘useful’ knowledge” from this study “because radiation doses have been so low”. Even so, he agreed that the study had to be done because “both the workers and their management need to be assured that a career involving exposures to low levels of nuclear radiation is not hazardous to one’s health”. The results of such a study, he surmised, would help to counter anti-nuclear propaganda and resolve workers’ claims. However, they could also be a liability. If a competing union or regulatory agency got hold of the employees’ health data, Lushbaugh fretted, it could be weaponized. “I believe,” he continued, “that a study designed to show the transgressions of management will usually succeed.”

Lushbaugh’s dilemma is characteristic of research on the human health effects of exposure to low doses of radiation. He assumed he knew the results – good or bad – before the study began, because those results depended on how the study was designed. The field was so politicized, in other words, that scientists were using health studies as polemical tools and, consequently, asking few open-ended scientific questions.

A few years after Lushbaugh posted this letter, reactor number four at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant blew up, killing 31 workers and firefighters and spreading radioactive material across a broad area of what was then the Soviet Union (now Ukraine and Belarus) and beyond. The accident also exploded the field of radiation medicine and, for a while, promised to rejuvenate it. In August 1986, months after the accident, the chief of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR), Giovanni Silini, advocated an enduring epidemiological investigation similar to research on atomic-bomb survivors in Japan [1]. Many other scientists concurred, hoping that Chernobyl could clear up ongoing controversies and uncertainties surrounding low-dose exposures.

It never happened. No long-term epidemiological study took place. That’s not to say there isn’t any information. A few summers ago I went to the Ukrainian national archives in the dusty, bustling outskirts of Kiev and asked the archivists for files on Chernobyl from Soviet Ukraine’s Ministry of Health. They laughed, telling me Chernobyl was a banned topic in the Soviet Union. “You won’t find anything,” they said.

They were wrong. I found dozens of collections labelled “The medical effects of the Chernobyl disaster”. I started reading and have not yet been able to stop.

The aftermath

In the years between 1986 and 1991, doctors and sanitation officials wrote to the Ministry of Health in Kiev with alarming accounts of widespread, chronic illness among the hundreds of thousands of children and adults living in contaminated territories. They recorded increases in tonsillitis, upper respiratory disease and disorders of the digestive tract and immune system. Between 1985 and 1988, cases of anaemia doubled. Physicians from almost every region in the zone of contamination reported a leap in the number of reproductive problems, including miscarriages, stillbirths and birth malformations. Nervous-system disorders surged. So did diseases of the circulatory system. In 1988, in the heavily contaminated Polesie region of northern Ukraine, 80% of children examined had upper respiratory diseases and 28% had endocrine problems. In Ivankiv, where many cleanup workers lived, 92% of all children examined had a chronic illness.

I also went to Minsk to check the archives in Belarus. There, I read reports that sounded eerily similar to the Ukrainian documents. These reports were classified “for office use only”, meaning that at the time, scientists were not free to exchange this information across districts or republics of the Soviet Union. Even so, independently, they were reporting similar, bad news. The problem grew so dire in Belarus that in 1990 officials declared the entire republic, which received more than 60% of Chernobyl fallout, a “zone of national ecological disaster”.

The Ukrainian and Belarusian reports, hundreds of them, read like a dirge from a post-catastrophic world. Doctors wrote from clinics in Kharkiv, far outside the contaminated zone, and described similar health problems among evacuees who had settled there. Physicians sent telegrams from Donetsk, where they were treating a complex of illnesses among young miners who had burrowed under the smouldering reactor in the days after the accident. Medical workers sent in to examine people in contaminated regions also fell ill.

In response, the Union of Soviet Radiologists penned a petition to alert Soviet leaders of the ongoing public health disaster. The president of the Belarusian Academy of Science sent a detailed summary of scientists’ findings to Minsk and Moscow. Even a KGB general, Mikhailo Zakharash, sounded the alarm. Zakharash, who was also a medical doctor, conducted a study of 2000 cleanup workers and their family members in a specially equipped KGB clinic in Kiev. In 1990, summing up four years of medical investigation, he wrote, “We have shown that long term, internal exposures of low doses of radiation to a practically healthy individual leads to a decline of his immune system and to a whole series of pathological illnesses.”

Chronic radiation

These findings track with what Soviet doctors had long described as chronic radiation syndrome, a complex of symptoms derived from chronic exposure to low doses of radiation. Researchers working on Chernobyl discerned a pattern of disease that tracked with pathways of radioactive isotopes entering the body, paths that began in either the mouth and headed towards the gastrointestinal tract or started in the lungs and followed blood into circulatory systems. Radioactive iodine sped to thyroids, they hypothesized, causing endocrinal and hormonal damage.

Critics, mostly in Moscow and the ministries of health, acknowledged the growth in health problems, but denied a connection to Chernobyl. A E Romanenko, the Ukrainian Minister of Health, is credited with inventing the word “radiophobia” to describe a public fear of radiation that induced stress-related illness. He and his colleagues also pointed to a screening effect from mass medical monitoring. Local doctors, they said, were projecting the diagnoses of chronic radiation syndrome onto their patients, blaming it for any illness found after Chernobyl.

There are some problems with these arguments. From 1986 to 1989, Chernobyl was a censored topic in the Soviet Union. Doctors could not exchange information about health problems, nor did they have access to maps of radioactive contamination. They only learned to be “radiophobic” by judging the bodies they examined. In the same years, doctors were also fleeing contaminated areas en masse, leaving hospitals and clinics in those regions staffed at 60%. As physicians left, so too did the chance for diagnosis, meaning that under-reporting of illnesses was more likely than a screening effect. Moreover, doctors from the northern regions of the Rivne province, which were at first judged clean and only in late 1989 designated contaminated, reported the same growth of illness as areas originally deemed “control zones,” regions with counts of more than 5 curies per square kilometre. The president of the Belarusian Academy of Science, V P Platonov, pointed to a vacuum of knowledge: “Until this time, no population has ever lived with continual internal and external exposures of this size.” Risk assessments assuring safe levels in the contaminated zones were extrapolated from the Japanese Atomic Bomb Survivor Lifespan Study, but these began only in 1950, five years after exposure. “Much is uncertain,” Platonov continued, “about fundamental aspects of the effects of low doses of radiation on human organs,” [2].

What happened to the 1980s Chernobyl health studies, which might have led to a renaissance in the field of radioecology? Essentially, they were overlooked. To figure out why, I went to the headquarters of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, to the UN’s archives in New York and the archives of UNSCEAR in Vienna. There, I found evidence of a conflict between branches of the WHO and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) over which organization would control the studies of Chernobyl health effects.

By 1989 angry crowds were questioning the Soviet Union’s handling of Chernobyl, and Soviet leaders asked foreign experts for help in assessing the disaster’s health impacts. The IAEA agreed, and Fred Mettler, a radiologist and American delegate to UNSCEAR, was appointed to head the medical section of an IAEA team. In 1990, as he and his team examined 1726 people in six contaminated zones and six control zones, Soviet doctors gave him 20 slides from children diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Thyroid cancer is very rare in children: before the Chernobyl accident, doctors saw eight or nine cases per year in all of Ukraine. Twenty cases in just three provinces was hard to believe. Dubious, Mettler brought the slides to the US to have them verified. They indeed indicated thyroid cancer.

Cancer cluster

Mettler mentioned this major medical finding in the 1991 International Chernobyl Project (ICP) technical report, but strangely, he also stated that there was “no clear pathologically documented evidence of an increase in thyroid cancer” [3]. The report concluded that there were no detectable Chernobyl health effects and only a probable chance of childhood thyroid cancers in the future. In a 1992 publication on thyroid nodules in the Chernobyl territories, Mettler failed to mention the 20 verified cases at all [4].

How could such a lapse occur? I found a confidential 1990 UN memo that seems relevant, particularly in light of the study-design problem set out in Lushbaugh’s letter a decade earlier. The memo suggests that the IAEA was conducting the ICP study to “allay the fears of the public” in service of “its own institutional interest for the promotion of peaceful uses of nuclear energy” [5]. The experiences of Keith Baverstock, then head of the radiation protection programme in the WHO’s European office, likewise reveal an institutional aversion to bad news. In July 1992 Baverstock planned to go to Minsk to examine childhood thyroid cases in Belarus, where doctors reported an astounding 102 new cases. At the last minute, officials from the WHO and the Commission of European Communities inexplicably pulled out of the mission. In an interview with me, Baverstock, an expert on the effects of ionizing radiation, said that a WHO official told him he could get fired if he went to Minsk.

He went anyway. With Belarusian scientists, he published news of the thyroid cancer epidemic in Nature. A top IAEA official complained angrily to the WHO, and the two agencies put pressure on Baverstock to retract his article. He refused, and a barrage of letters followed in Nature disputing the connection between the cancers and Chernobyl exposures [6]. Leading scientists from the US Department of Energy, the National Cancer Institute, Japan’s Radiation Effects Research Foundation and the IAEA argued that cancers were found because of increased surveillance. They called for a suspension of judgment and for further study. Repetitive and dismissive, their letters read like an orchestrated pile-on.

We now know that these global leaders in radiology were wrong. The numbers of cases rose into the thousands, too high to dismiss, and in 1996 the WHO and the IAEA finally admitted that skyrocketing rates of childhood thyroid cancer were most likely due to Chernobyl exposures. Today, the UNSCEAR maintains that the health consequences of the Chernobyl accident are limited to 31 direct fatalities – plus 6000 cases of children’s thyroid cancer [7].

Lingering questions

The question is – so what? Despite the 1991 ICP report’s erroneous claim of no health effects, UN agencies eventually recognized the cancer epidemic. What difference did a few years make? A great deal, it turns out. The ICP report also recommended that resettlements from the most contaminated regions should cease [8]. Consequently, the planned resettlement of 200,000 people living in areas contaminated with high levels of radiation (between 15 and 40 curies per square kilometre) slowed tremendously. The UN General Assembly had also been waiting for the report before raising funds for Chernobyl relief. The $646m budget (equivalent to about $1.1bn today) included medical aid, resettlement funds and a large-scale epidemiological study of Chernobyl health effects. The assertion by important UN agencies that there were no detectable health effects deflated that effort. Before the report, Japan had given $20m to the WHO, but afterwards it gave no more and complained about the funds being wasted. A few other countries gave sums totalling less than $1m, while the US and the European Community begged off entirely, citing the ICP report as a “factor in their reluctance to pledge” [9].

In subsequent years, IAEA and UNSCEAR officials cited the ICP report when discouraging Chernobyl-related health projects. In 1993 UNSCEAR scientific secretary Burton Bennett recommended that UN agencies suspend all programmes aimed at Chernobyl relief because they were unnecessary. He and IAEA administrator Abel Gonzalez, who led the ICP assessment, widely shared their views among UN agencies about “misinformation surrounding the Chernobyl accident” [10]. When the WHO, nonetheless, started a pilot study on Chernobyl health effects, Gonzalez wrote that he could not imagine what the WHO “expects to be able to detect for the level of doses in question”. Irked that WHO officials would examine any effects but psychological ones, he charged, “The World Health Organization seems to ignore, expressly or tacitly, the conclusions and recommendations of the International Chernobyl Project,” [11].The consequences of this moment of deviant science continue 30 years later. Today we know little about the non-cancerous effects that Soviet scientists working in contaminated zones reported in the late 1980s, and which they attributed to internal and external exposures to ionizing radiation. Are these effects as real as the childhood thyroid cancers proved to be? The Soviet post-Chernobyl medical records suggest that it is time to ask a new set of questions about long-term, low-dose exposures.

References

  1. Giovanni Silini 1986 “Concerning proposed draft for long-term Chernobyl studies” Correspondence Files, UNSCEAR Archive
  2. V P Platonov and E F Konoplia 1989 “Informatsiia ob osnovynkh rezul’tatakh nauchnykh rabot, sviazannykh s likvidatsiei posledstvii avarii na ChAES” RGAE 4372/67/9743: 490
  3. International Chernobyl Project, Proceedings of an International Conference (Vienna: IAEA 1991): 47. Mettler also admitted that the slides checked out at the Vienna conference convened to discuss the report. For a discussion of thyroid cancer, see The International Chernobyl Project, Technical Report, Assessment of Radiological Consequences and Evaluation of Protective Measures (Vienna: IAEA 1991): 388
  4. Fred Mettler et al. 1992 “Thyroid nodules in population around Chernobyl” Journal of American Medical Association 268 616
  5. From Enrique ter Horst, Asst Sec Gen, ODG/DIEC to Virendra Daya, Chef de Cabinet, EOSG, 16 April 1990, United Nations Archive, New York S-1046 box 14, file 4, acc. 2001/0001
  6. Baverstock et al. 1992 “Thyroid cancer after Chernobyl” Nature 359 21; Kazakov et al. 1992 “Thyroid cancer after Chernobyl” Nature 359 21; I Shigematsu and J W Thiessen 1992 “Childhood thyroid cancer in Belarus” Nature 359 680; V Beral and G Reeves 1992 “Childhood thyroid cancer in Belarus” Nature 359 680; E Ron, J Lubin, A B Scheider 1992 “Thyroid cancer incidence” Nature 360 113
  7. The Chernobyl accident: UNSCEAR’s assessments of the radiation effects” UNSCEAR website
  8. The International Chernobyl Project: an Overview (Vienna: IAEA 1991): 44
  9. “International co-operation in the elimination of the consequences of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant accident” 24 May 1990, UNA S-1046/14/4; “Third meeting of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Chernobyl” 19–23 September 1991, WHO E16-445-11, 5; “Briefing note on the activities relating to Chernobyl” 3 June 1993, Department of Humanitarian Affairs DHA, UNA s-1082/35/6/, acc 2002/0207; Anstee to Napalkov, 17 Jan 1992, WHO E16-445-11, 7
  10. Gonzalez to Napalkov, 10 August 1993, WHO E16-445-11, 19; B G Bennett 1993 “Background information for UNEP representative to the meeting of the Ministerial Committee for Coordination on Chernobyl” 17 November 1993, New York, Correspondence Files, UNSCEAR Archive, Vienna
  11. Gonzalez to Napalkov, 10 August 1993, WHO E16-445-11, 19

April 26, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, radiation, Reference, Ukraine | Leave a comment

Anomalies in wildlife and the ecosystem around Chernobyl and Fukushima

 

Dr. Timothy Mousseau, Professor of Biological Sciences, University of South Carolina. Mousseau discussed his many studies on the health impacts on wildlife and biota around Chernobyl and Fukushima which soundly debunk the notion that animals there are “thriving.”

April 9, 2017 Posted by | radiation | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution continues to monitor Pacific Ocean fish for radiation

 

Why is this headline so melodramatic, when the content of this article is quite restrained?

 

Fukushima nuke radiation POISONING world’s water – including FISH Brits eat, Daily Star UK 29 Mar 17 BRITS could be eating salmon and tuna containing nuclear radiation from the Fukushima disaster according to a study. Salmon caught in the Pacific Ocean, which are imported for sale as a luxury product in UK shops, were found to contain worrying amounts of radiation.

Highly toxic Cesium-134, the nuclear fallout from Fukushima, was recently found in Tillamook Bay and Gold Beach, in the US state of Oregon. The terrifying discovery was reported by researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.Cesium-134 was also detected in 2015 in Canada when a salmon pulled from a river in British Columbia was found to contain radiation….

….Japanese fish have tested positive for dangerous levels of radiation and now, it seems, fish as far away as the US have been infected by the waste.

Alaskan Salmon is imported for sale in most major UK supermarkets when Scottish salmon is out of season. After being caught in the Pacific, these fish then make a 22,000 mile journey via China to supermarket shelves here in Britain.

A statement on the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution website said: “For the general public, it is not direct exposure, but uptake by the food web and consumption of contaminated fish that is the main health concern from the oceans.

“Most fish do not migrate far from their spawning grounds, which is why some fisheries off Fukushima remain closed.

“But some species, such as the Pacific bluefin tuna, swim long distances and could pick up cesium in their feeding grounds off Japan before crossing the Pacific.” Ken Buesseler, a senior scientist at the institution, said that the levels of radiation should not affect anyone eating the salmon, but admitted that he would be closely monitoring radiation levels.

“We don’t expect to see health concerns from swimming or fish consumption, but we would like to continue monitoring until (the radiation level) goes back down again,” he said.

“In Japan, at its peak celsium-134 levels were 10 million times higher than what we are seeing today on the West Coast.”

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservations (DEC), in conjunction with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services and other state, federal, and international agencies, continues to test Alaska seafood for any potential impacts resulting from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan.

Testing performed in previous years showed no detectable levels of Fukushima-related radionuclides. Testing in 2016 also confirmed the quality and health of Alaska seafood has not been impacted by the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Fish species were chosen for testing based on their importance to subsistence, sport, and commercial fisheries and because they spend part of their life cycle in the western Pacific Ocean.

These species include: king salmon, chum salmon, sockeye (red) salmon, pink salmon, halibut, pollock, sablefish, herring, and Pacific cod. Samples of fish were taken by DEC Environmental Health Officers during regular inspections of commercial fishing processors throughout the state.

The results of testing conducted on Alaska fish in 2016 showed no detection of Fukushima-related radionuclides Iodine-131 (I-131), Cesium-134 (Cs-134), and Cesium-137 (Cs-137). more http://www.dailystar.co.uk/news/latest-news/600099/Fukushima-radiation-nuclear-waste-poisoning-world-water-fish-Brit-eat-supermarket

March 31, 2017 Posted by | oceans, radiation | Leave a comment

At Svanhovd, Norway, another tiny measurement of radioactive iodine – ongoing release?

Another tiny measurement of radioactive iodine at Svanhovd https://thebarentsobserver.com/en/ecology/2017/03/another-tiny-measurement-radioactive-iodine-svanhovd
Norwegian Radiation Protection Authorities (NRPA) without any suspected source. 
Thomas Nilsen March 23, 2017

The very small amount of radioactive iodine was measured in week 10, between March 6 to 13, by the authorities’ instruments at Svanhovd, a few hundred meters from Norway’s border to the Kola Peninsula in the north.

«We measured 0,35 microbecquerels of iodine-131. We didn’t detected any other radioactive isotopes,» says Head of section for emergency preparedness with NRPA, Astrid Liland, in an e-mail to the Barents Observer.

The radiation authorities says no other measurements of iodine are found anywhere else in Norway for the period.

NRPA underlines that no radiation is measured at Svalbard where the measurement filters are connected to the CTBTO network with the purpose of monitoring the nuclear test ban treaty.

This is the second time this winter that radioactive iodine is measured at Svanhovd. Following the traces measured in January, a series of tweets started to spread claiming the source to be a possible Russian nuclear weapon test at Novaya Zemlya. No other evidence supported such weapon test.

Ongoing release?

Nuclear physicist with the Bellona Foundation, Nils Bøhmer, says this second period of measurement indicates that there are some kind of ongoing releases.

«If it is iodine-131, it is serious because that likely means a continuing release still going on. Iodine-131 has a half-life of only 8 days, so what was measured in January are long gone,» Bøhmer says to the Barents Observer.

A possible ongoing release is supported by measurements in Finland a week before the trace was detected in Norway’s northeasternmost corner.

In late February, the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority of Finland detected radioactive Iodine-131 in Rovaniemi. Levels were at 0,3 microbecquerels per cubic meter of air. Norwegians have not reported any traces of the isotope for that period. The January trace of radioactive Iodine-131, still of unknown origin, was first detected at Svanhovd near Kirkenes in northern Norway. Shortly afterwards, the isotope was detected over large areas in Europe, first in Rovaniemi in Finnish Lapland. Within the next two weeks, traces of radioactivity, although in tiny amounts, were measured in Poland, Czech Republic, Germany, France and Spain, the Barents Observer reported.

March 24, 2017 Posted by | environment, EUROPE, radiation | Leave a comment

Why milk is nature’s perfect radioactivity delivery system

radiation-emanatingWhat’s up with milk and radiation? , Connect Savannah, 14 Sept 2011, 

1. It’s a food. While an external dusting of radionuclides isn’t healthy, for efficient long-term irradiation of vulnerable organs there’s no substitute for actually ingesting the stuff.

2. It’s fast. Not to knock potatoes and chicken, but growing these items can take weeks or months. With milk, the fallout simply drifts over the pasture and lands on the grass, which the cows then eat. The radioactive particles are deposited in the cows’ milk, the farmers milk the cows, and in a day or two the contaminated product shows up in the dairy case.

3. Because it’s processed quickly, milk makes effective use of contaminants that would otherwise rapidly decay. A byproduct of uranium fission is the radioactive isotope iodine-131. Iodine is critical to functioning of the thyroid gland, and any iodine-131 consumed will be concentrated there. However, iodine-131 has a half-life of just eight days. The speed of dairying eliminates this impediment.

4. Milk also does a good job of delivering other radioactive contaminants, such as cesium-134 and cesium-137. Although not important for human health, radioactive cesium mimics potassium, which we do need, and is readily absorbed by the body. Another uranium breakdown product is strontium-90, which is especially hazardous to children, since it can be incorporated into growing bones. In contrast to radioactive iodine, strontium-90 has a half-life of about 29 years, so once it gets embedded in you, you are, as the Irish say, fooked.

5. That brings us to the most fiendish property of radioactive milk-it targets the young. Children (a) drink a lot more milk and (b) are smaller, which when you add it up means they get a much stiffer dose. Some cancers triggered by radioactivity have a long latency period; older people may die of something else first, but kids bear the full brunt.

For all these reasons, testing milk and dumping any contaminated is at the top of the list of disaster-response measures following a nuclear accident, and it’s unusual, though not unknown, for bad milk to find its way into the food supply. For example:

• Iodine contamination during the 1979 Three Mile Island accident was negligible, 20 picocuries per liter. The FDA’s “action level” at the time was 12,000 picocuries per liter; the current limit of 4,600 picocuries is still far in excess of what was observed.

• After the problems with the Fukushima reactors in Japan, one batch of hot milk did test at nine times the current limit, and milk and vegetable consumption was prohibited in high-risk areas. But most bans were rescinded after a couple months.

• In 1957, after a fire at the Windscale plutonium processing plant in the UK, radiation levels of 800,000 picocuries per liter and higher were found in local milk. Though contamination of milk wasn’t well understood at the time, authorities figured 800,000 of anything involving curies can’t be good and banned the stuff.

• Then there’s Chernobyl. Milk sales were banned in nearby cities after the 1986 reactor explosion, but feckless Soviet officials let the sizable rural population fend for itself. Not surprisingly, 6,000 cases of thyroid cancer subsequently developed, proving there’s no catastrophic situation that stupidity can’t make worse.

One last thing. We’ve been talking about cow’s milk, but be aware that iodine-131, strontium-90, and other radioactive contaminants can also be transferred through human milk…..http://www.connectsavannah.com/savannah/whats-up-with-milk-and-radiation/Content?oid=2135647

March 4, 2017 Posted by | radiation, Reference | Leave a comment

Radiation ‘sniffer plane’ over Europe

questionA radiation ‘sniffer plane’ is reportedly searching for the source of a cloud of nuclear isotopes floating across Europe, news.com.au FEBRUARY 23, 2017 A CLOUD of radioactive particles is floating across Europe — and no one knows where it came from.  First detected in mid-January, spikes in the level of a radioactive isotope called Iodine-131, have been recorded all the way from Norway to Spain.

February 25, 2017 Posted by | environment, EUROPE, radiation | Leave a comment