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New fast test to detect ionising radiation

Scientists create a speedy finger-prick test to scan for radiation exposure in mice, Stat, By JULIET ISSELBACHERJULY 15, 2020  
Researchers have developed a simple finger-prick test that scans a single drop of blood to rapidly determine whether the body has been exposed to toxic levels of radiation.

Catastrophic radiological events — like nuclear detonations — can threaten massive populations with acute radiation syndrome, which wreaks havoc on the gastrointestinal system and destroys bone marrow, leading to infections and internal bleeding. In preparation for the possibility of such a public health disaster, scientists at Ohio State have devised a speedy and scalable method for estimating radiation exposure. They published their proof-of-concept research, conducted in mice, Wednesday in Science Translational Medicine.

Timing is key when it comes to assessing radiation dosage in members of an exposed population. Victims above a certain dose threshold require immediate and aggressive treatment, such as a blood transfusion or cytokine therapy.

“Early detection will save lives,” said Naduparambil Jacob, senior author of the study and a molecular biologist at Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center.
The current “gold standard” test for radiation exposure is a dicentric chromosome assay, which looks for hallmarks of radiation-induced DNA damage. The problem is that this test takes around three or four days to yield results — a waiting period that can make it harder for clinicians to know how to proceed and can potentially jeopardize patient outcomes.
“If it takes you four days to get the result, then it’s not helpful in immediate management,” said C. Norman Coleman, a researcher at the National Cancer Institute who was not involved with the study. “The idea of getting some kind of number pretty quickly that tells you what you need to do is useful for the medical system and also for the patient.”

The test Jacob’s team developed has the capability to turn out a number within hours……….

July 15, 2020 Posted by | radiation | Leave a comment

Citizen science and Fukushima radiation

Being Clear-Eyed About Citizen Science in the Age of COVID-19

An anthropologist explores the network of citizen monitoring capabilities that developed after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011 for what they might teach all of us about such strategies for the covonavirus pandemic. Sapiens MAXIME POLLERI / 15 JUL 2020 “……………  The earthquake and subsequent tsunami led to core meltdowns within some of the Fukushima power plant’s nuclear reactors. This malfunction, along with other technical incidents, resulted in the atmospheric release of radioactive pollutants, which spread predominantly over the northeastern part of Japan, forcing a widespread evacuation of Fukushima residents. By March 12, the area around the power plant had been evacuated; those living and working within 20 kilometers of the radius of the plant were forced to relocate. In the days, weeks, and months following this disaster, uncertainty around the scale and extent of contamination grew swiftly—much like what we see occurring throughout the world during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most notably, the public grew increasingly concerned about the legitimacy of institutional experts’ ability to control and explain the risks of residual radioactivity, while citizens like Natsuo were unable to get adequate information through traditional media venues. Initially, data about radioactive contamination came sporadically and was often explained in hard-to-understand metrics by scientists who were cherry-picked by the state to send reassuring messages to citizens.

Moreover, radioactive contamination was later found to be present in some food products and in school yards where children had been playing that lay beyond the official zone of evacuation. Over the ensuing months and years, the public lost confidence in the state’s response and began to take matters into their own hands, mobilizing expert practices of their own. Widespread grassroot actions led to citizen science networks in which people tracked radiation in their environment, organized learning workshops on radiation dangers, and tested food for contamination, often through local organizations or individual households.

As an anthropologist who conducted fieldwork on the Fukushima nuclear disaster between 2015 and 2017, I came to realize that citizen science can rise up to fill in the gaps of state responses toward crises, for better or for worse. As we’ve seen play out throughout the COVID-19 pandemic in various parts of the world, governance and leadership have often been confusing, mismatched, and at times utterly misleading. The case of Fukushima offers lessons about both the promises and pitfalls of citizen science and how civil society is playing an increasingly important role in managing various disasters, catastrophes, and crises.

The Geiger counter of Masayuki was not silent for long before it began to emit the distinctive “clicking” sound associated with radiation monitoring devices. The “click” grew louder in intensity as we located a hot spot, an area where the level of radiation is significantly higher than elsewhere. Masayuki dutifully noted the number provided by the device before leaving to search for another hot spot. We were standing in the Japanese village of Iitate, situated in the prefecture of Fukushima. It was common at this time for citizens to own their own Geiger counters—often purchased off the internet using international donations or made at home as DIY devices—to measure the level of radiation around them.

When I first came to this rural village in the spring of 2016, more than five years had passed since the nuclear disaster. The forced evacuation of citizens from Fukushima and the surrounding areas had proved short-lived; by 2012, the Japanese state had already embraced a policy of repatriation to irradiated areas like Iitate village, which is where I met Masayuki and citizens like him in 2016. ……….

While happy to be back in their beloved region, many residents were critical of the state radiation-monitoring networks that were supposed to provide them with adequate information to allow them to live safely in the village. Indeed, state data on radiation was often provided through fixed monitoring in precise locations or through an average radiation level taken in the village. This kind of information was not practical enough for residents, who wanted to know the specific radiation levels behind their houses or in their rice paddy fields.

Likewise, official depictions of radiation levels through clear-cut chromatic zones did little to offer the citizens reassurance. As a result of the perceived limitation of state measures, residents quickly decided to track radiation themselves as a means to keep the map of their village relevant—often finding contamination that was not evident from state mapping. In the house of one farmer, I witnessed homemade models that exhibited a 3D topography of Iitate’s geographical landscape. These models had been made using 3D printers, and the level of radiation had been monitored by the citizens themselves.

In particular, the local knowledge of the geography of Iitate helped citizens to attain a level of precision that far exceeded that of the government map. Citizens soon learned that radiation doses could be higher at the bottom of a hill than farther upslope or that the woods behind one’s home, having trapped radiation, might impact the radiation level inside houses. These practices helped strengthen a community that had previously felt helpless in the face of an imperceptible radiation threat. Geiger counters became the ears and eyes of citizens like Masayuki, enabling them to make sense of and gain some semblance of control over a hazard that cannot be registered by the senses.

After the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986, one of the main sources of radiation exposure stemmed from consumption of food products such as milk or wild mushrooms that had been contaminated by radioactive fallout. In an effort to make sure that this did not happen in Japan, the government took on the task of testing the food produced in Fukushima, implementing a limit to the allowable amount of radioactivity in food products.

Within months after the meltdowns, the government assured the public of the safety of its food products, encouraging citizens to consume foods sold at public fairs and other public events. However, citizens of Fukushima also consume food harvested from streams, forests, home gardens, and mountain areas—where state monitoring was largely absent or insufficient.

Again, citizens mobilized to fill in the gaps in food testing: With the help of public donations, citizen scientists were able to purchase scintillation detectors, which are used to measure radioactive contaminants in foodstuff. Such testing enabled citizens to gain an understanding of the types of foods most prone to radioactive contamination, such as mushrooms, green leafy vegetables, citrus, sea cucumber, and seaweeds. This in turn helped people avoid eating the most risky foods. Together with state monitoring, such citizen science practices resulted in lower consumption of contaminated foods.

While such examples demonstrate the power and potential of citizen science, there are inherent political complexities involved when citizens or nongovernmental organizations step in and claim expertise in areas typically reserved for state agencies and experts. Like those entities, citizen science has its own potential pitfalls……..


July 15, 2020 Posted by | Japan, radiation, Reference | Leave a comment

Ruthenium and Caesium radioactive isotopes over Europe due to mismanagement at a nuclear reactor – says IAEA

Low Levels of Radioisotopes Detected in Europe Likely Linked to a Nuclear Reactor – IAEA, 27/2020    The recent detection of slightly elevated levels of radioisotopes in northern Europe is likely related to a nuclear reactor that is either operating or undergoing maintenance, when very low radioactive releases can occur, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said today. The geographical origin of the release has not yet been determined.

Basing its technical assessment on data reported by its Member States, the IAEA reiterated that the observed air concentrations of the particles were very low and posed no risk to human health and the environment.

Estonia, Finland and Sweden last week measured levels of Ruthenium and Caesium isotopes which were higher than usual. They also reported the detection of some other artificial radionuclides. The three countries said there had been no events on their territories that could explain the presence of the radionuclides, as did more than 40 other countries that voluntarily provided information to the IAEA.

Seeking to help identify their possible origin, the IAEA on Saturday contacted its counterparts in the European region and requested information on whether the particles were detected in their countries, and if any event there may have been associated with the atmospheric release.

By Thursday afternoon, 37 Member States in the European region (Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Republic of Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, Republic of Serbia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and United Kingdom) had voluntarily reported to the IAEA that there were no events on their territories that explained the release. They also provided information about their own measurements and results……

Based on the IAEA’s technical analysis of the mix of artificial radionuclides that were reported to it, the release was likely related to a nuclear reactor, either in operation or in maintenance. The IAEA ruled out that the release was related to the improper handling of a radioactive source. It was also unlikely to be linked to a nuclear fuel processing plant, a spent fuel pool or to the use of radiation in industry or medicine.

Based on the data and information reported to the IAEA, no specific event or location for the dispersal of radionuclides into the atmosphere has yet been determined. To do this, the IAEA depends on receiving such information from a country where the release occurred.

July 4, 2020 Posted by | environment, EUROPE, radiation | Leave a comment

Fukushima radioactive reference layer found in Northern glaciers as they thaw

Terrawatch: unearthing snow’s ‘Fukushima layer’  

Chinese glaciologists have found the freeze-thaw process has concentrated discharge from the disaster  Kate Ravilious, @katerav Wed 1 Jul 2020  The Fukushima nuclear accident has added a distinctive signature to snow and ice across the northern hemisphere, new research published in Environmental Research Letters shows. Triggered by the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami off the coast of Japan on 11 March 2011, the disaster resulted in a month-long discharge of radioactive material into the atmosphere, ocean and soil.Feiteng Wang from the Tian Shan glaciological station in Lanzhou, China, and colleagues collected snow samples in 2011 and 2018 from a number of glaciers (spanning a distance of more than 1,200 miles (2,000km) in north-western China. They expected the Fukushima signature to have faded away by 2018, but to their surprise the freeze-thaw processing had made it more concentrated, creating a strong and lasting reference layer in the ice.

Many reference layers from the last 50 years (such as the Chernobyl nuclear disaster) have melted away in recent warming events, making it difficult to date the upper layers of ice cores. “Reference layers are crucial and a prerequisite for telling the story of the ice core,” says co-author Jing Ming. “The Fukushima layer will be useful for dating ice in one or two decades when the snow transforms to ice,” he adds.

July 2, 2020 Posted by | China, environment, radiation | Leave a comment

Radiation particles leak may have come from Russia’s super nuclear weapons, rather than from commercial reactor

Russia’s New Super Weapons May Be Cause Of Radiation Leak  H I Sutton   A recent nuclear leak may be related to new nuclear-powered strategic weapons Russia is developing. These are part of a range of new ‘super weapons’ unveiled by President Putin on March 1, 2018. Russia is testing a nuclear-powered mega-torpedo called Poseidon and a nuclear-powered cruise missile called Burevestnik. If either are to blame, then it would not be the first radiation spike caused by testing one of these weapons.On June 23, the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) revealed that scientists in Sweden had detected higher than usual levels of radiation. Based on analysis of the weather, the origin was projected to be in Northern Russia. Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo tweeted that they had detected “3 isotopes; Cs-134, Cs-137 & Ru-103 associated w/Nuclear fission.” He went on to say that “These isotopes are most likely from a civil source.” and that it is “outside the CTBTO’s mandate to identify the exact origin.”

Russia’s nuclear energy body has denied that the radiation originated from its two nuclear power stations in the region. However, it is not only civilian power stations that use nuclear reactors. Tom Moore, a nuclear policy expert and former senior professional staff member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, believes that these military reactors cannot be ruled out:

“CTBTO radionuclide monitoring is intended to discriminate explosive events and to complement seismic monitoring. Not to effectively rule in or rule out a source of radionuclides as being civil or military reactors.”

Possible Cause: Burevestnik Cruise Missile

The first military system under development which comes to mind is the Burevestnik cruise missile. Its name means ‘Storm Bringer’ in Russian, after the Petral sea bird. It is more formally known by the designation 9M730 and NATO code name Skyfall. This is a nuclear-armed cruise missile that is designed to use a nuclear engine to give it virtually unlimited range. Burevestnik is the natural candidate because it is airborne, so any accident would likely release radioactive material into the sky.

This may have previously happened on August 9, 2019. There was a fatal radiation incident at the State Central Navy Testing Range at Nyonoksa. This is near to Severodvinsk in Russia’s arctic north, the same area that the CTBTO has pointed towards this time. Then it was caused by an explosion in a rocket engine. Many analysts believe that this was most likely related to the Burevestnik missile.

Possible Cause: Poseidon Drone-Torpedo

The other weapon in the frame is Poseidon. This is a massive nuclear-powered torpedo that is intended to be launched from specially built submarines. At 60-78 feet long it is about twice the size of a Trident missile. Its designation is believed to be 2m39 and it is known in NATO as Kanyon. Its virtually unlimited range and high autonomy would make it hard to classify. The U.S. government has described it as an intercontinental, nuclear armed, undersea autonomous torpedo. It is a weapon worthy of a Bond villain that would literally go underneath missile defenses. Its threat is slow but inevitable doom to coastal cities such as New York and Los Angeles.

While Poseidon probably doesn’t have very much shielding on its reactor, it is normally underwater, so any radiation leak may not reach the atmosphere. But it would be lifted out of the water after a test launch, so there is room for an incident that could get detected hundreds of miles away in Scandinavia.

Open Source Intelligence On The Suspects

Open source intelligence analysts have been following these weapons. Evgeniy Maksimov noted that flight tests of Burevestnik were probably being conducted. He noted two no-fly zones closed for June 22-27 at a missile test range. But the launch site was far south of where the radiation is believed to originate.

A better candidate may therefore be Poseidon. Vessels believed to be associated with its tests were active in the region at the time. The special support vessel Akademik Aleksandrov was at sea around June 18 to 23, in the area of interest. This ship is suspected of being involved in retrieving Poseidon weapons. Twitter user Frank Bottema found a matching vessel using radar satellite imagery.

We may never know for sure the cause of the heightened radiation levels. But Russia’s denials that it was from a civilian power plant, combined with the ongoing tests, point a finger at the nuclear-powered weapons. This reignites the debate about how safe these projects are, even in peacetime.

July 2, 2020 Posted by | radiation, Russia, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Radioactive particles in atmosphere: Russia tells IAEA it has had no nuclear incidents

Russia Tells IAEA It Is Incident-Free After Nuclear Particle Increase,  By Reuters
June 30, 2020  VIENNA
— Russia has told the U.N. atomic watchdog there have been no nuclear incidents on its territory that could explain elevated but still harmless levels of radioactive particles detected on the Baltic Sea last week, the U.N. agency said on Tuesday.

A separate body, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), which watches for nuclear weapon tests, said on Friday a monitoring station in Sweden had found higher-than-usual levels of caesium-134, caesium-137 and ruthenium-103. The CTBTO said they were produced by nuclear fission.

CTBTO chief Lassina Zerbo posted a borderless map online showing where the particles might have come from in the 72 hours before they were detected – an area covering the tips of Denmark and Norway as well as southern Sweden, much of Finland, Baltic countries and part of western Russia including St. Petersburg.

All those countries except Denmark, which has no nuclear power plants, and Russia, which has a history of not fully explaining incidents that emitted radioactive particles, told the International Atomic Energy Agency by Monday that there were no events on their territory that could explain the increase.

On Tuesday evening, however, the IAEA issued a statement saying the list of countries that had declared themselves incident-free had grown to around 40 and now included Denmark and Russia.

“Apart from Estonia, Finland and Sweden, none of the other countries which have so far provided information and data to the IAEA said they had detected elevated radioisotope levels,” said the IAEA, which asked member states for information over the weekend after the CTBTO announcement.

Asked on Monday if Russia was the origin of the elevated particle levels, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow had detected no sign of a radiation emergency.

(Reporting by Francois Murphy; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

July 2, 2020 Posted by | radiation, Russia | Leave a comment

Cloud with tiny levels of radioactivity detected over Scandinavia and European Arctic.

Radioactivity is blowing in the air for humans, but detectable for radiation-filters. A cloud with tiny levels of radioactivity, believed to originate from western Russia, has been detected over Scandinavia and European Arctic. By Thomas Nilsen, June 26, 2020

First, in week 23 (June 2-8), iodine-131 was measured at the two air filter stations Svanhovd and Viksjøfjell near Kirkenes in short distance from Norway’s border to Russia’s Kola Peninsula. The same days, on June 7 and 8, the CTBTO-station at Svalbard measured tiny levels of the same isotope.

CTBTO is the global network of radiological and seismic monitoring under the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization.

Norway’s nuclear watchdog, the DSA, underlines that the levels are very small.

“We are currently keeping an extra good eye on our air-monitoring system,” says Bredo Møller with DSA’s Emergency Preparedness unit at Svanhovd.

While iodine-131 is only measured in the north, in the Kirkenes area and at Svalbard, Swedish and Finnish radiation authorities inform about other isotopes blowing in the skies over southern Scandinavia.

Bredo Møller says to the Barents Observer that his agency can’t conclude there is a connection between what is measured up north and what his Scandinavian colleagues measured in week 24.

“As part of our good Nordic cooperation we are currently exchanging data,” he says.

Møller tells about radiation just above detectable levels. “We found 0,9 microBq/m3 at Svanhovd and 1,3 microBq/m3 at Viksjøfjell.”

Finland’s Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK) detected on June 16 and 17 small amounts of the radioactive isotopes cobalt, ruthenium and cesium (Co-60, Ru-103, Cs-134 and Cs-137).

STUK says the measurements were made in Helsinki where analysis is available on the same day. “At other stations, samples are collected during the week, so results from last week will be ready later.”

Likely from a reactor

All these isotopes indicate that the release comes from a nuclear-reactor. Iodine-131 has a half-life of 8 days, and given the small amount measured in the north, this isotope could be gone before the radioactive cloud reached the southern parts of Finland and Sweden a week after the first measurements in the north. That be, if the release was somewhere in the Arctic or northwestern Russia and winds were blowing south or southwest.

Neither of the Scandinavian radiation agencies will speculate about the origin.

“It is not possible now to say what could be the source of the increased levels,” writes the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority in a statement. Also the Swedes underline that the levels are low and do not pose any danger to people or the environment.

In the Netherlands, though, the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) has analyzed the data from Scandinavia and made calculations to find out what may have been the origin of the detected radionuclides.

“These calculations show that the radionuclides came from the direction of Western Russia,” RIVM concludes.

Calls for info-exchange

Senior Nuclear Campaigner with Greenpeace Russia, Rashid Alimov, says to the Barents Observer that the composition of the isotopes strongly indicates that the source is a nuclear reactor or a spent fuel element from a reactor.

“The Russian monitoring systems have not reported any unusual levels of radioactivity in June,” Alimov says, emphasizing that could be due to delayed publication of data.

Greenpeace calls for rapid international cooperation that includes Russia.

“We think information exchange is crucial,” Rashid Alimov says.

June 29, 2020 Posted by | environment, EUROPE, radiation | Leave a comment

Russia denies its nuclear plants are source of radiation leak, 28 June, 20

Russia has said a leak of nuclear material detected over Scandinavia did not come from one of its power plants.

Nuclear safety watchdogs in Finland, Norway and Sweden said last week they had found higher-than-usual amounts of radioactive isotopes in the atmosphere.

A Dutch public health body said that, after analysing the data, it believed the material came “from the direction of western Russia”.

It said the material could indicate “damage to a fuel element”.

But in a statement, Russia’s nuclear energy body said its two power stations in the north-west – the Leningrad NPP and the Kola NPP – were working normally and that no leaks had been reported.

“There have been no complaints about the equipment’s work,” a spokesperson for the state controlled nuclear power operator Rosenergoatom told Tass news agency.

“Aggregated emissions of all specified isotopes in the above-mentioned period did not exceed the reference numbers.”

Radiation levels around the two powers stations “have remained unchanged in June”, the spokesperson added.

Lassina Zerbo, executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) tweeted on Friday that its Stockholm monitoring station had detected three isotopes – Cs-134, Cs-137 and Ru-103 – at higher than usual levels but not harmful to human health.

The particles were detected on 22-23 June, he said.

The Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment in the Netherlands said on Friday that the composition of the nuclear material “may indicate damage to a fuel element in a nuclear power plant”.

The International Atomic Energy Agency – the UN’s nuclear watchdog – said on Saturday it was aware of the reports and was seeking more information from member states.

June 29, 2020 Posted by | radiation, Russia | Leave a comment

Testing for radiation in Fukushima – the continued anxiety

Nine years on, Fukushima’s mental health fallout lingers

As radiation from the Fukushima nuclear accident subsides, a damaging social and psychological legacy continues, Wired

By SOPHIE KNIGHT 24 June 20,  If it were not illegal, Ayumi Iida would love to test a dead body. Recently, she tested a wild boar’s heart. She’s also tested the contents of her vacuum cleaner and the filter of her car’s air conditioner. Her children are so used to her scanning the material contents of their life that when she cuts the grass, her son asks, “Are you going to test that too?”

Iida, who is 35, forbids her children from entering the sea or into forests. She agonises over which foods to buy. But no matter what she does, she can’t completely protect her children from radiation. It even lurks in their urine.

“Maybe he’s being exposed through the school lunch,” she says, puzzling over why her nine-year-old son’s urine showed two-and-a-half times the concentration of caesium that hers did, when she takes such care shopping. “Or maybe it’s from the soil outside where he plays. Or is it because children have a faster metabolism, so he flushes more out? We don’t know.”

Iida is a public relations officer at Tarachine, a citizens’ lab in Fukushima, Japan, that tests for radioactive contamination released from the 2011 accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Agricultural produce grown in the area is subject to government and supermarket testing, but Tarachine wants to provide people with an option to test anything, from foraged mushrooms to dust from their home. Iida tests anything unknown before feeding it to her four children. Recently, she threw out some rice she received as a present after finding its level of contamination – although 80 times lower than the government limit – unacceptably high. “My husband considered eating it ourselves, but it’s too much to cook two batches of rice for every meal. In the end we fed it to some seagulls.”

Tarachine is one of several citizen labs founded in the wake of the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, which obliterated a swathe of the country’s northwest coast and killed more than 18,000 people. The wave knocked out cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, triggering a meltdown in three of the reactor cores and hydrogen explosions that sprayed radionuclides across the Fukushima prefecture. More than 160,000 people were forced to evacuate. A government decontamination programme has allowed evacuation orders to be lifted in many municipalities, but one zone is still off limits, with only short visits permitted.

Driven by a desire to find out precisely how much radiation there was in the environment and where, a group of volunteers launched Tarachine in Iwaki, a coastal city that escaped the worst of the radioactive plume and was not evacuated, through a crowdfunding campaign in November 2011. It is now registered as a non-profit organisation, and runs on donations.

In a windowless room controlled for temperature and humidity and dotted with screens showing graphs, two women sort and label samples, either collected by staff or sent in by the public: soil from back gardens, candied grasshoppers, seawater. In the beginning, mothers sent in litres of breastmilk. Tarachine initially charged a tenth of what a university lab would charge to make the testing accessible to as many people as possible; last year, they made it free.

To test for caesium-137, the main long-term contaminant released from the plant, staff finely chop samples and put them inside a gamma counter, a cylindrical grey machine that looks like a centrifuge. Tarachine’s machines are more accurate than the more commonly accessible measuring tools: at some public monitoring posts, shoppers can simply place their produce on top of a device to get a reading, but this can be heavily skewed by background radiation (waving a Geiger counter over food won’t give an accurate reading for the same reason). Tarachine tries to get as precise readings as possible; the lab’s machines give results to one decimal place, and they try to block out excess background radiation by placing bottles of water around the machines.

Measuring for strontium, a type of less penetrative beta radiation, is even more complicated: the food has to first be roasted to ash before being mixed with an acid and sifted. The whole process takes two to three days. Tarachine received training and advice from university radiation labs around the country, but the volunteers had to experiment with everyday food items that scientists had never tested. “There was no recipe like ‘Roast the leaf for two hours at so-and-so Celsius’, you know?” says Iida. “If it’s too burnt it’s no good. We also had to experiment with types of acid and how much of the acid to add.”

Japanese government standards for radiation are some of the most stringent in the world: the upper limit of radioactive caesium in food such as meat and vegetables is 100 becquerels per kilogram, compared with 1,250 in the European Union and 1,200 in the US (the becquerel unit measures how much ionizing radiation is released due to radioactive decay). Many supermarkets adhere to a tighter limit, proudly advertising that their produce contains less than 40 becquerels, or as few as 10. Tarachine aims for just 1 becquerel.

“How I think about it is, how much radiation was there in local rice before the accident? It was about 0.01 becquerel. So that’s what I want the standard to be,” says Iida. Continue reading

June 25, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima continuing, radiation, social effects | Leave a comment

Explaining ionising radiation -a film about nuclear fallout

Invisible Fallout,June 21, 2020

  New film helps us find it, measure it and understand it, By Linda Pentz Gunter, 

There are many ways to teach people about radiation. But if you want to make that lesson accessible, compelling and even moving, then this film is the way to do it.

Let’s go on a journey. A journey to learn about radiation exposure from fallout after a nuclear power plant accident. We have the perfect guide. It is the independent French radiation research laboratory known as CRIIRAD, and its director, Dr. Bruno Chareyron.

The organization’s full name in French is Commission de Recherche et d’Information Indépendantes sur la RADioactivité, hence the acronym. In English it is translated as Commission for Independent Research and Information about RADiation.

For those not familiar with CRIIRAD, our journey begins with a little history, and so does CRIIRAD’s brilliant new 45-minute film — Invisible Fallout (Invisibles retombées is the French title), which can be viewed in its entirety on YouTube and above. The film, written and produced by CRIIRAD staff and directed by Cris Ubermann, is in French and Japanese with English subtitles.

When the Chernobyl nuclear disaster hit in April 1986, the French government engaged in a notorious cover-up, claiming that France “has totally escaped any radioactive fallout.” The whole thing was a lie. Five days before the government denial, Chernobyl’s radioactive cloud had covered all of France.

As Invisible Fallout recounts, after Chernobyl, it took 15 years until the French government published fallout maps of France. But the CRIIRAD laboratory, formed right after Chernobyl precisely to establish that France’s immunity was a myth, had already done the work that debunked the official line that the disaster was just a Soviet problem. French citizens not only got dosed by Chernobyl fallout, but would live in perpetual danger of a similar catastrophe at home, with a country almost 80% reliant on nuclear-generated electricity from its 58 reactors.

But Invisible Fallout does not linger long in the past. It segues quickly to the next nuclear catastrophe — the 2011 Fukushima-Daiichi meltdowns in Japan — and it is there that the CRIIRAD team, led by Chareyron, take us to learn about the effects of radiation exposure from nuclear power plants.

Just sixteen days after the Fukushima disaster, Japanese citizens began to detect fallout. They desperately needed to do independent monitoring but found it hard to get their hands on Geiger counters. The downplays and cover-ups by Japanese authorities, attempting to minimize the dangers and avoid mass evacuations, meant official figures could not be trusted.

An unlikely leader stepped forward in the person of composer and artist, Wataru Iwata, who, one month after the disaster, asked CRIIRAD for Geiger counters. They sent them, along with email tutorials on radioactivity, its health risks and how to protect against them. The laboratory also prepared a series of simple, clear, instructional “emergency” videos in English, designed for non-specialists, which they put online for everyone to access. This included an instructional segment on how to use a Scintillometer, one of the dozen devices CRIIRAD had sent to the Japanese activists.

We then get a short instructional video of our own on exactly how the Scintillometer is able to rapidly detect Gamma radiation in counts per second, and what those measurements mean. It glides into clarity for us, abetted by the smooth tones of the film’s excellent French narrator, Nicolas Planchais. We forget completely we are in class. Everything is, indeed, illuminated.

And we see Iwata taking his device into Fukushima Prefecture where he helps others measure the radiation levels. At a restaurant 55km away from the destroyed reactors, where people were going about their daily lives, he is shocked to record radiation levels that are 50 times higher than normal. In other areas, levels are 1,000 times higher.

Two months after the accident, CRIIRAD decided to show up in person, and Japan’s Citizens Radioactivity Monitoring Stations (CRMS), were born. CRIIRAD set up nine CRMS in Fukushima Prefecture and one in Tokyo.

Quickly realizing that ingestion of radioactively contaminated foodstuffs was as much of a threat as external exposure, Iwata asked for ways to measure radiation in food. This would help the people who had stayed — or who had been forced to remain — in contaminated areas to make informed choices about the food they consumed. CRIIRAD brought over a device sensitive enough to detect radiation in food, then conducted a seminar for residents of Fukushima City on on how to use it. We too, as viewers, get the tutorial.

Indeed, all of these lessons in science are subtly woven into the film, but cleverly attached to the lived experiences of real people in Japan, making it relevant and relatable.

And then, as we learn how to measure radiation levels and what they mean, we start to meet the people to whom it matters the most. We encounter a farmer who abided by the rules not to sell contaminated crops but whose family ate the food themselves so it would not go to waste. And we watch his palpable emotion as he recounts his attachment to the land and the known risks he and his family took.

CRIIRAD and its Japanese partners begin to find radioactive particles everywhere— on rooftops, in soil and vegetation, at the foot of trees, in the cracks of tarmac, even inside greenhouses.

At a school which, in denial, refused to have radiation measurements taken, Iwata is shown taking readings in the school grounds. They start at 6,000 to 7,000 counts per second, but rise to 27,000 counts per second at ground level.

The CRIIRAD team encounter what they describe as their most difficult moment when an elderly peasant farmer asks them to conduct measurements on her land just 30km away from the nuclear site. She herself was forced to evacuate, but her farm was not in the zone designated for permanent evacuation. So she came back with CRIIRAD to assess the situation.

We watch them take measurements, then gently show the results to her. She begins to sob. Then she tells them, “Thank you for coming all this way. I was in darkness and you have brought me light.”  But, she knows she must now abandon the farm forever.

After an interlude for another lesson, this time on gamma rays, we are back to some chilling truths about their effects. In Fukushima City, we learn that at an elementary school there, children are asked to frequently change places in class so that the same children are not always sitting by the window where the radiation levels are higher.

This prompts CRIIRAD to remind us that, “when it comes to radiation protection, there is no threshold below which it is harmless.” And they point out that the Japanese decision to raise the annual allowable radiation dose from 1mSv to 20mSv, “means accepting a risk of cancer 20 times higher, and this applies equally to children and pregnant women” for whom such doses present a far higher risk.

CRIIRAD warns that people living in the contaminated region will be exposed for decades and across vast areas. They will be exposed to external radiation from powerful gamma rays emitted by the soil and contaminated surfaces. They will be exposed through inhalation of radioactive dust suspended every time the wind blows, and by activities such as sowing crops, ploughing and construction work. And they will be exposed through eating foodstuffs cultivated on contaminated land in contaminated soil.

But thanks to CRIIRAD, many of them will now know how to measure these levels, what they mean and how to protect themselves. It’s a lesson that’s well worth learning for all of us.

For more information, please see the CRIIRAD website, in its original French, and in English.

June 22, 2020 Posted by | 2 WORLD, radiation | Leave a comment

Radioactive cloud over Europe in 2017 came from a civilian nuclear reactor

June 14, 2020 Posted by | environment, EUROPE, radiation, Reference | Leave a comment

Research is needed into health effects of 4G and 5G radiation

Professor Kromhout: ‘Research into future exposure to 4G and 5G radiation is warranted’  This week and next week, Innovation Origins is looking at the growing influence of wireless communication within today’s society and in particular at data transmission via electromagnetic with ever-higher frequencies, such as 5G.

Research is needed to map out exactly what the exposure to electromagnetic fields is as soon as the new frequencies come into effect for communicating data wirelessly with 5G. In the interim, 4G will coexist with 5G. This means that levels of electromagnetic fields might experience an overall increase. So says Professor Hans Kromhout, who is chair of the Exposure Assessment and Occupational Hygiene group at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands. Kromhout is also chair of the Committee Electromagnetic Fields (EMF) Health Council of the Netherlands. This committee is investigating the possible health risks associated with 5G at the request of the Dutch House of Representatives. The advisory report is due by the end of July, as stipulated by the Health Council of the Netherlands.

“The level of expected exposure to radiofrequency fields can be easily mapped out. The people who devised the technology for 5G are very smart physicists. They should be able to do this.”

Resistance to 5G

Several individuals and groups in The Netherlands are actively opposing the introduction of 5G because they are convinced that radiofrequency waves are harmful. Some claim that there is a conspiracy to harm the population. Over the past few months, it has frequently been reported in the news that activists had set fire to telecom companies’ masts. Some of these new 5G antennas will have to be placed on the same masts that are currently used for 4G.

Another group has filed a preliminary injunction against the government which is to auction off the new frequencies starting this summer.

Several documents circulate among activists, such as a pamphlet written by Martin Pallan, an American emeritus professor of biochemistry at the University of Washington. The pamphlet claims that electromagnetic fields used for 5G can lead to, among other things, damage to DNA, increased risk of infertility, cancer, ADHD, and Alzheimer’s disease.

No scientific evidence linked to cancer

According to Kromhout, there isn’t any substantiated evidence-based scientific research that proves that such diseases are caused by the use of mobile phones and exposure to radiofrequency fields from transmission masts. Kromhout himself participated in research into the effect that mobile phone usage might have on the onset of headaches, tinnitus (a hearing disorder whereby you constantly hear peeping sounds in your ear when in reality there’s no sound), hearing impairment and insomnia. This study did not show a connection between the radiofrequency fields and the health complaints that were studied. Although it did show a connection with the (excessive) use of a mobile phone.

Kromhout also took part in a study into the effect of electromagnetic fields on people who consider themselves to be ‘electrohypersensitive.’ This experimental double-blind study showed that the test subjects were unable to perceive whether or not they were exposed to electromagnetic fields. This made the claim that their complaints were related to these fields far more improbable.

Research into the effect of static magnetic fields from MRI scanners on nurses and workers in the production of MRI scanners showed that after prolonged exposure, they are more likely to suffer from dizziness, abnormal bleeding in the uterus, and an increased risk of developing high blood pressure. “The levels of radiation to which these people are exposed are significantly higher than those of people using a mobile phone,” Kromhout adds. “You cannot use those tests to determine any potential effects of 4G or 5G on health.”

Absence of test procedures for determining health effects stemming from 5G

In spite of this, Kromhout thinks it is appropriate to carry out research into any eventual effects. “When a company introduces a new medicine, it has to go through all kinds of test procedures to be certain that they are safe to public health. This hasn’t taken place at all here.”

It is difficult to establish with 100% certainty that there is no damage to health without scientific research because you just don’t know exactly what the influence of 4G and 5G is. “But I don’t think it’s likely that the damage could be more severe as a result of the use of these higher frequencies. Electromagnetic fields with lower frequencies are able to penetrate deeper into your head. These seem to me to be more dangerous than high frequencies like 5G. Research should, therefore, focus more on the skin. Skin is what is most likely to come into contact with electromagnetic fields at higher frequencies.”

The fact that there will be more transmission masts as a result of 5G does not necessarily lead to more exposure, Kromhout believes that as the increasingly higher frequencies that will come into use have a shorter range than existing lower frequencies. “Exposure to radiation in the times of 1G and 2G was many times higher than it is now.”

Yet as 5G will become active alongside 4G, and in light of the fact that there will be a greater number of applications, the total amount of exposure to radiation is still likely to increase for today’s user.

Read other IO articles about 5G via this link.

May 30, 2020 Posted by | radiation | Leave a comment

Pacific nuclear bomb tests interfered with rain patterns in UK

Pacific nuclear bomb tests made it rain 1,000s of miles away in UK, Reading University scientists find, Berkshire Live 

During the Cold War, detonations in locations as remote as the Nevada Desert or Pacific islands had unforeseen consequences elsewhere in the world  By Ian Hughes 17 MAY 2020  

Nuclear bomb tests during the Cold War changed rainfall patterns thousands of miles from the detonation sites, according to scientists at the University of Reading.

They found electric charge released by radiation from detonations – carried out predominantly by the US and Soviet Union in the 1950s and 1960s – affected rain clouds at the time.

It means tests in remote locations such as the Nevada Desert or Pacific islands, had an effect on precipitation as far away as the Shetlands – 300 miles off the coast of Scotland.

A study used historic records between 1962-64 from a research station on the Scottish island.

Scientists compared days with high and low radioactively-generated charge, finding that clouds were visibly thicker, and there was 24 per cent more rain on average on the days with more radioactivity…………

It is thought researchers will now have a better understanding of important weather processes.

Although detonations were carried out in remote parts of the world during the Cold War, radioactive pollution spread widely throughout the atmosphere.

Radioactivity ionises the air, releasing electric charge.

The researchers, from the Universities of Reading, Bath and Bristol, studied records from well-equipped Met Office research weather stations at Kew near London and Lerwick in the Shetland Isles.

Shetland, in particular, was relatively unaffected by other sources of anthropogenic pollution.  This made it well suited as a test site to observe rainfall effects which, although likely to have occurred elsewhere too, would be much more difficult to detect.

The Shetland rainfall on more than 150 days showed differences which vanished after the major radioactivity episodes were over.

The study was published in Physical Review Letters.


May 17, 2020 Posted by | radiation, UK, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Do-it-yourself radiation monitoring

The next step in do-it-yourself radiation monitoring

By Dahyun Kang, April 28, 2020  Watching the HBO drama Chernobyl about the nuclear disaster that occurred in April 1986 gave me a whole new perspective on how destructive radioactive particles can be. One scene depicted local men and women fearfully looking toward the nuclear site, a dim red glow against the night sky. Highly radioactive cesium-137-contaminated dust fell like snow on children running in the streets. Plant workers and firefighters died gruesomely after exposure to acute radiation doses unleashed by the debris that exploded from the nuclear reactor. No one knew what to do because Soviet bureaucrats delayed accident announcements and evacuation orders.

The lack of information about radiation levels meant that people were exposed to radiation for a longer duration than if they had received timely warnings. The Chernobyl drama not only helped me realize the disastrous consequences and hazards of radiation, but also inspired me to create a radiation estimator that could provide estimations of environmental radiation levels in places where there are no stationed detectors.

A focus on Fukushima. To develop my estimator, I focused on the Fukushima region in Japan. I chose this area because of the nuclear disaster there in March 2011, when three nuclear power plant cores melted down and released radionuclides into the atmosphere. The Japanese government chose this region to hold a couple of events that are part of the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics and Paralympics, branded as the “Reconstruction Olympics.”

The environmental group Greenpeace has raised concerns about whether people attending these Olympic events—which have now been postponed until 2021—could be exposed to lingering radiation. In a report published last month, Greenpeace claimed measurements taken by a survey team detected radioactive hotspots at the Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium near Fukushima City, in the area around the city’s central station, and at the J-Village sports complex where the Olympic torch relay will start. According to Greenpeace, the highest measurement at J-Village on October 26, 2019, was 71 microsieverts per hour close to the ground, a reading more than 1,750 times higher than pre-2011 background levels. The forested mountains covering roughly 70 percent of the Fukushima prefecture cannot be decontaminated and therefore pose a recontamination risk to areas when heavy rainfall or typhoons mobilize radionuclides, which Greenpeace says happened during two intense typhoons in 2019.

Japan’s Shinzo Abe administration plans to host the Olympics baseball and softball games at the Azuma stadium, approximately 80 kilometers from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant site where the nuclear accident occurred. J-Village, where the torch relay will begin, is located about 20 kilometers south of Fukushima Daiichi.

How I built my radiation estimator. The nonprofit organization Safecast, which collects radiation readings taken by volunteers and makes them publicly available at no charge, provides data for a number of locations worldwide—particularly in Japan, where the monitoring network began as a response to the Fukushima disaster. Using the Safecast website, I collected data from the Fukushima prefecture. With the help of mathematical software called Mathematica, I then developed a mathematical equation that takes the Safecast Fukushima data and provides estimates of radiation values at any other location in Fukushima. With the help of a relative who works as a coding programmer, I also created a Radiation Estimation website that uses the mathematical equation to estimate radiation values, in microsieverts per hour, for any latitude and longitude entered by a user.

For example, if the user enters the latitude and longitude of the Azuma stadium, the equation gives an estimate of 0.103 microsieverts per hour. According to the International Commission on Radiological Protection, anything less than 0.23 microsieverts per hour is considered a safe dose, based on the recommended public dose limit of 1 millisievert per year (1 millisievert is equivalent to 1,000 microsieverts).

Future efforts. Currently, my radiation estimator inevitably contains some degree of uncertainty due to limited available data from the Fukushima prefecture, which covers about 13,700 square kilometers. The estimates would be more precise and could be applied beyond Fukushima if there were more disclosed data available to reference.

What about the radiation levels in my own city and others in the United States? Unfortunately, I was unable to find enough open radiation data available to make a good estimate. The US Environmental Protection Agency runs a nationwide environmental radiation monitoring system, RadNet, which has 140 radiation air monitors spread across 50 states, mostly in the heart of big cities. Although these monitors run 24/7, collecting near-real-time measurements of gamma radiation, the number and locations of the monitors are inadequate to cover all of the United States.

There are 96 US nuclear power reactors in operation. Who can assure the American public that no nuclear catastrophe on the scale of Chernobyl or Fukushima will occur in the United States? It is natural for the public to be worried and to insist that the US government install more radiation monitors near reactors and the surrounding populated areas to protect the public. Information collected by the monitors should also be disclosed to the public.

Once sufficient environmental radiation data are available, my radiation estimator would be applicable in my own city and others in America as well. I hope to raise awareness of environmental radiation and offer people information about what kind of environment they are living in. Since my radiation estimator is only a first step in that direction, I hope that someone with more expertise can build upon my idea to create a more precise tool that provides information about environmental radiation anywhere on the globe.

April 30, 2020 Posted by | radiation, USA | Leave a comment

Occupational Radiation Exposure: Serious Risks and Safety Solutions

Occupational Radiation Exposure: Serious Risks and Safety Solutions,    Mina S. Makary, MDNicholas Mannix, BS-April 6, 2020, Patient SafetyDI ExecutiveWhile the radiation doses utilized in image-guided procedures are generally considered low, recent studies have demonstrated significant effects of chronic low-dose radiation exposure to the procedural staff. Recent work demonstrated an alarming incidence of brain cancer, higher incidence of skin, thyroid, breast cancers and melanomas, higher incidence of stroke and atherosclerotic disease, increased risk of developing cataracts, decreased memory and verbal fluency, and a higher frequency of chromosomal abnormalities in those who performed fluoroscopically-guided interventional procedures compared to control groups.

The deleterious effects of radiation exposure are not only related to dose thresholds of specific exposures, but they are also a function of the cumulative doses over one’s lifetime exposure. These risks prompt increased awareness and education, improved radiation protection techniques, and further research efforts.

Robust radiation safety and risk reduction approaches are multi-faceted. It goes without saying that the ALRA (as low as reasonably achievable) principle is the cornerstone guiding rule. This means using intermittent fluoroscopy whenever possible, minimizing the pulse rate for standard fluoroscopy, minimizing the frame rate for digital angiography/digital subtraction angiography, collimating and avoiding magnification if feasible, and utilizing the “last image hold” function rather than obtaining new unwarranted images.

Next, capitalizing upon the nature and distribution of scatter radiation, which is the primary source of occupational exposure, further reduces one’s dose. This translates to stepping back as far as possible from the radiation source and angulating the tube towards the operator when oblique views are desired to avoid back scatter. Furthermore, utilizing shielding is the third effective strategy, and this approach includes personal aprons, caps, thyroid shields, eyewear, table shields, mounted side shields, and patient drape shields. Lastly, monitoring of the amount of radiation utilized, staff doses, and patient exposure rates utilizing personal dosimeter and equipment data is key to addressing any significant doses that were delivered.

In addition to protecting the procedural team, good radiation safety habits are good patient care. Minimizing fluoroscopy time and overall dose as reasonably achievable reduces patient exposure. Interestingly, techniques, such as collimation, actually improve image contrast and quality in addition to reducing the dose – an ultimate win-win situation. With the growth of both diagnostic imaging and imaging-guided procedures that require ionizing radiation, patient exposures have significantly increased at an alarming rate over the past three decades, and it is estimated that medical imaging contributed to 48 percent of the public’s radiation exposure in 2006 compared to only 15 percent in the 1980s.

For patients, the most concerning effects are due to direct radiation beam exposure, such as radiation skin burns, but rarer risks may potentially include cataracts and sterility. In addition to the previously discussed occupational radiation reduction techniques, additional approaches to reduce patient dose include using non-ionizing radiation for procedural guidance, such as ultrasound and MRI, as much as possible, maximizing pre-procedural imaging for planning to minimize procedural time, and avoiding unnecessary procedures.

Occupational radiation safety is critical for many reasons. It protects our proceduralists and staff, as well as our patients while also ensuring the patient receives the best care possible. Challenges, such as hardware costs, buy-in of institutional stakeholders, staff training, the heavy weight of shielding, and time to setup do exist, but education and awareness of the significant health risks, the benefits of appropriate protection, good habits, a culture of safety, and research efforts can overcome any barriers. The risks are real. The benefits are real. Radiation safety is both an occupational safety issue, as well as a patient care issue. It is not a luxury, and chronic low-dose radiation does matter. The time is now to prioritize radiation safety in our daily practice.

Mina Makary, M.D., is an interventional radiologist at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. He also serves on the Diagnostic Imaging Editorial Board. This article was co-written wth Nicholas Mannix, BS, a medical student at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.

April 21, 2020 Posted by | radiation | Leave a comment