Trace amounts of radioactive iodine-131 have been found in Europe, while iodine-131, cesium and tellurium have been found in Hawaii and along the West Coast of the U.S. As we should expect from a mainstream media that is now virtually ignoring the disaster in Japan, we have been reassured that these materials are far below the threshold to be detrimental to human health:
Besides the Hawaii readings, the Environmental Protection Agency has found trace amounts of radioactive iodine, cesium and tellurium at four RadNet air monitor filters on the West Coast — three in California and one in Washington. These levels are consistent with what a U.S. Department of Energy monitor found last week, the EPA said Monday.
Americans typically get exposure to radiation from natural sources such as the sun, bricks and rocks that are about 100,000 times higher than what has been detected in the United States.
As B’Man points out in an excellent post, the constant references to normal exposure to radiation are completely bogus, particularly when we consider that some of the elements used in the Japanese plants do not occur naturally on earth. It is therefore meaningless to compare our exposure to the radiation from, say, the sun or an x-ray, to the totally unnatural exposure resulting from the Japanese nuclear disaster. Any exposure to radioactive material is unhealthy, and given the enduring nature of these materials – with a half-life exceeding 700 million years in some cases – it is unconscionable for governments to suggest otherwise.
The situation in Japan is truly frightening, and it is readily apparent that the government is trying desperately to prevent the grave reality of the situation from reaching the outside world. Given all that is at stake, it is hard to imagine their intentions in doing so. Yes, they might save face in the short-term, but in the long run they are dooming untold numbers of people to death from cancer and other radiation-related illnesses, not to mention the global impact that this catastrophe may have on the marine ecosystem.
At the same time, it is unclear what might be done to avert further disaster. If the plants are experiencing partial meltdowns, how can they be stopped? The Japanese government still seems to be operating under the assumption that the plants are partially salvageable, which has prevented them from taking the drastic measures that are undoubtedly required at this time.
The Israeli nuclear expert Uzi Even warns that the situation is far more dire than most realize:
‘In my assessment, the damage is liable to be far more extensive in scope than is being reported and for a very long period of time,’ Even said. …
‘Those reactors are old. The core of a reactor that has been operated for 40 years is full of cracks, fissures and rust. The fact that the Japanese have been unable for four days to lower the high temperatures in the reactors is telling,’ he said.
Even charged Japan had also failed to report a switch to using highly toxic plutonium oxide last September.
I can’t find a link now, but Even was recently on Al Jazeera discussing the Japanese government’s failure to decisively address the situation. Even asserted that it was apparent from the earliest days that the plants were not salvageable, and therefore the government should have initiated what has become known as the Chernobyl Protocol. In essence, the Chernobyl Protocol entails burying the reactors with immense quantities of concrete, in the hopes of sealing off the radioactive waste indefinitely. It is unclear whether such a strategy would be successful in the Japanese case, but the government’s unwillingness to admit the true urgency of the situation prevents the consideration many possible courses of action. In the meantime, more people will be exposed to dangerous levels of radiation, and the consequences will continue to mount.
The Japanese disaster highlights the global nature of nuclear accidents, and the pressing need for transparent international discussion on the issue of nuclear power. Deception by the Japanese government, and the willing complicity of Western governments and media outlets, will have ramifications for people around the world. It is imperative that continue to monitor the situation in spite of the media blackout, and demand total transparency and accountability from our governments.