Thursday, March 24, 2011

Plant worker radiation doses.

Two workers hospitalized for radiation exposure.
"As a result, their feet were exposed to 170 to 180 milliSieverts of radiation."
You cannot possibly know dose from something like that to such accuracy. Also, I've heard over the radio feed that water got into their boots.

Read what Sievert is. By it's very nature it is only an estimate and cannot have this kind of accuracy.
Elsewhere I even heard a figure of 173 milliSieverts. Right, 1% accuracy.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Fukushima: Disclosure vs secrecy.

In the discussions of the disaster that arose in the web, it became apparent that many people think that the data indeed has to be withheld from the public to avoid panic in the disaster such as the one at Fukushima nuclear power plant. Data such as high resolution pictures taken by US drone, disclosure or non-disclosure of which is up to Japanese government. Data which, it can be argued, is meaningless to the public.

I'm sure however that for anyone who ever thought about making a donation, it is obvious that full and accurate disclosure would help the cause. How much you donate to a particular cause is dependent on how bad it is.

Let's not engage too much in the thinking of how people who live there - people who are going to work as usual despite their anxiety over things they don't know - their anxiety over nondisclosure of the data - are less brave or less educated than you and would panic in case of public disclosure. That is deeply disrespectful of those people.

Let's instead be positive and think of the people more generous or more rich than us who can make the difference if they are moved by the data. Let's think of the companies right now developing new technologies, which would benefit from the data and which can donate something that no money can buy - the technologies that exist only in prototypes. Let's not forget of all the people smarter than us, who would be thinking how to make reactors safer - and can tell their ideas to a friend who happens to be a nuclear energy professional, over a cup of tea.

Let's be more humble and less narcissistic, let's not think that public is all dumber, less educated, and less brave than you. The public is not. Even if you happen to be a 'genius' with meaninglessly high score on IQ tests, there's members of the public who are smarter than you, those who are more educated, and have relevant experience. The public is varied. Some people actually care and can help a lot more than you or me could, if they have the information.

I came to know a few people who live in Tokyo, and come to work as usual. They don't deserve extra suffering from the anxiety over whenever the government is giving accurate figures. And they definitely don't deserve mockery with references to 'tin foil hat' from those of us who are fortunate to be living far away from any radiation incidents. If you happen to fancy yourself educated on the topic of radioactive contamination, you should be able to explain things instead of giving self important 'look i'm better than you' speeches. Reserve those speeches for unaffected, if you want to make speeches.

If you like this blog post and think that it is well written, please share it. If you disgree - you can comment negatively, as long as it is not disrespectful of the survivors, any comments are welcome.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Articles about radiation: Complex reality of the radioactive pollution.

As a departure from the primary topic of this blog, I am going to publish a few articles about radiation, to display support for the people affected by the terrible disaster that is unfolding in Fukushima.

Complex reality of the radioactive pollution:

There is a map that everyone must see before thinking about pollution from Fukushima.

The most common misconception is imagining contamination as having a neat falloff or smooth distribution. The distribution is smoothed over time but remained this unsmooth even after a decade. There could be a spot where you measure high levels of radiation, few meters away the levels can be normal, and few more meters away the level may be high again.

You shouldn't think of it as of contamination with 'radiation' that 'radiates' around. No, it is a contamination with dirt that goes around the way dirt does; the dirt itself is radioactive and can expose you either from outside over distance, or from inside through ingestion, inhalation, food chain, etc. The reactor pollutes environment with radioactive dirt. The radioactive dirts radiates the radiation. The radiation from the dirt does not itself make anything radioactive.

The 'radiation levels', unduly exact numbers in microsieverts/hour, are not a measurement of environment pollution with radioactive isotopes from the accident. They are merely an *indication* of a fact of pollution.
A counter would measure drastically different values whenever clean counter is held up in the air, the counter is directly held to a surface that has been collecting dirt from the air (and here it would drastically depend to the position of this surface), or the counter is allowed to collect dirt from the air [however that would pollute the counter]. The alpha and beta activity as measured by a counter held to a surface will drastically depend to the amount of *non* radioactive dirt that is mixed with radioactive dirt.

The meaningful pollution values are that of estimated curies (or becquerels) of particular isotope per square kilometre, per cubic metre of air, per cubic metre of water, etc. To measure air pollution by radioactive dust you have to run specific volume of air through the filter, then measure radioactivity of the filter.
Different isotopes have different presence in the human body even at same environmental concentration.
Furthermore, the radiation levels on the surfaces fall off quickly in first few rains even for long living isotopes due to the radioactive dirt being washed off and mixed up with a deeper volume of soil (picture radioactive dirt sitting on surfaces affecting the geiger counter a lot, then same radioactive dirt mixed up with soil and groundwater, largely not reaching the geiger counter; with a significant fraction of that dirt being washed off into rivers and then dispersed in the sea).

When you live 500km away from Chernobyl and you know of everyday things such as radioactive boars in Germany thousands kilometers away from Chernobyl, which are radioactive beyond permissible limits for meat because the boars eat truffles which concentrate radioactive isotopes, while humans and other animals whom do no routinely eat radioactive truffles (or radioactive boars) are not even remotely as much contaminated as those boars, you tend to appreciate the complexity of radioactive environment pollution which can't be represented by a mkSv/h number. Elsewhere, you do not know such things.

That is to say, the issue of pollution is very complicated and it is far more difficult to measure pollution than to hold a Geiger counter to something. So far I haven't seen any pollution figures from area around Fukushima. Only readings from Geiger counters indicating the fact of pollution.
Understandably, after earthquake and tsunami, they have other issues to be concerned with.