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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Video of the Japanese Reactor and the damage


Japan considers unusual fixes to contain radioactive leak


How will this radioactivity affect the people of Pennsylvania? The people of Moon Township? Our drinking water? Our agriculture? Our milk and food crops? This is dangerous folks! In addition, we have Marcellus Shale to be concerned about!

By Peter Grier, Staff writer / March 30, 2011 FROM THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR
As radiation continues to spread from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, Japanese and US officials are considering novel measures to try to corral the contamination.Sticky resin may help. On Thursday, Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) plans to test it, spraying this adhesive substance on an area of ground near the plant, said Japanese nuclear safety authorities on Wednesday. The idea is to glue down any fallen radioactive particles.
A giant tarp has also been proposed. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said nuclear experts might cover reactor buildings with a special material to try and stop emission of radioactive substances.
The US is readying a shipment of radiation-hardened robots to help the Japanese fight this problem, said Peter Lyons, acting assistant secretary of the US Department of Energy.
“We’re moving expeditiously to ship not only the robots but also operators who [would] train Japanese operators,” Dr. Lyons told a Senate committee on Tuesday.
That officials are considering such unusual approaches reflects the fact that, despite someprogress in restoring electricity to the Fukushima complex, the nuclear crisis has no end in sight.
“We are not in a situation where we can say we will have this under control by a certain period,” Mr. Edano told reporters at a Wednesday news briefing.

Highly radioactive water leak

The recent discovery of highly radioactive water in maintenance tunnels and reactor basements has quashed optimism in Japan that TEPCO might be on the verge of winning its nuclear battle.
On Wednesday, Japanese nuclear safety officials said that a sample of seawater taken some 300 yards from a plant wastewater outlet contained over 3,000 times the legal limit of radioactive iodine.
That suggests that the radioactive water found previously is now making its way into the ocean.
US officials believe that the radioactive water was an inevitable side effect of Japan’s “feed and bleed” approach to cooling Fukushima nuclear reactors.
This method has involved pouring hundreds of tons of water onto the reactors via fire hoses and helicopter drops, in an attempt to prevent nuclear fuel rods from melting down.
This water is leaking out and finding its way into structures and soil near the reactor units.
“The exact flow path of that leakage has not been determined, but it’s a result of the water that they’ve been injecting since shortly after the onset of the event,” said Bill Borchardt, executive director for operations at the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), at Tuesday’s Senate hearing.

Possible reactor damage

The NRC believes that Fukushima Daiichi reactor units 1, 2, and 3 have experienced partial fuel damage due to overheating. Ominously, units 2 and 3 appear to have “some primary containment damage,” said Mr. Borchardt.
In other words, they have been breached in some way and are leaking radioactivity.
Meanwhile, TEPCO chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata apologized for the trouble and anxiety cause by the Fukushima radiation leaks. He spoke to reporters on Wednesday in place of TEPCO’s president, Masataka Shimizu, who has been hospitalized for stress-related health problems.

Is Fukushima About to Blow?


Now that we know that Marcellus Shale has arsenic, benzene, and other toxic chemicals entering various watersheds and drinking wells, and rivers and streams because of the lack of regulation, regulators, and accountability demanded by Pennsylvania's Governor Tom Corbett, as well as his legislative cronies in Harrisburg, what will be the legacy of this natural gas extraction industry upon our economy, environment, health, safety and welfare of affected communities?  

March 28, 2011         The Doomsday Scenario   Mike Whitney     from Counterpunch.org     
Conditions at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant are deteriorating and the doomsday scenario is beginning to unfold. On Sunday, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) officials reported that the levels of radiation leaking into seawater at the Unit 2 reactor were 100,000 times above normal, and the airborne radiation measured 4-times higher than government limits. As a result, emergency workers were evacuated from the plant and rushed to safe location. The prospect of a full-core meltdown or an environmental catastrophe of incalculable magnitude now looms larger than ever. The crisis is getting worse.

If spent fuel rods catch fire from lack of coolant, the intense heat will lift radiation plumes high into the atmosphere that will drift around the world. That's the nightmare scenario, clouds of radioactive material showering the planet with lethal toxins for months on end. And, according to the Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics of Vienna, that deadly process has already begun. The group told New Scientist that:

"Japan's damaged nuclear plant in Fukushima has been emitting radioactive iodine and caesium at levels approaching those seen in the aftermath of the Chernobyl accident in 1986. Austrian researchers have used a worldwide network of radiation detectors – designed to spot clandestine nuclear bomb tests – to show that iodine-131 is being released at daily levels 73 per cent of those seen after the 1986 disaster. The daily amount of caesium-137 released from Fukushima Daiichi is around 60 per cent of the amount released from Chernobyl. ("New Scientist", March 24 ---thanks to Michael Collins "They said it wasn't like Chernobyl and they were wrong")
So, volatile radioactive elements are already being lofted into the jet stream and spread across continents. What's different here is that the quantities are much larger than they were at Chernobyl, thus, the dangers are far greater. According to the same group of scientists "the Fukushima plant has around 1760 tonnes of fresh and used nuclear fuel on site" (while) "the Chernobyl reactor had only 180 tonnes." The troubles at one nuclear facility now pose a direct threat to humans and other species everywhere. Is this what Obama meant when he called nuclear power, "Safe and green?"
This from CNN:
"Authorities in Japan raised the prospect Friday of a likely breach in the all-important containment vessel of the No. 3 reactor at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, a potentially ominous development in the race to prevent a large-scale release of radiation."
And this from the New York Times:
"A senior nuclear executive who insisted on anonymity but has broad contacts in Japan said that there was a long vertical crack running down the side of the reactor vessel itself. The crack runs down below the water level in the reactor and has been leaking fluids and gases, he said....
"There is a definite, definite crack in the vessel — it's up and down and it's large," he said. "The problem with cracks is they do not get smaller." (Thanks to Washington's Blog)
So, there's a breach in the containment vessel and radioactive material is being released into the sea killing fish and marine life and turning the coastal waters into a nuclear wasteland. This is from the Kyodo News:
"Adding to the woes is the increasing level of contamination in the sea near the plant....Radioactive iodine-131 at a concentration 1,850.5 times the legal limit was detected in a seawater sample taken Saturday around 330 meters south of the plant, near a drainage outlet of the four troubled reactors, compared with 1,250.8 times the limit found Friday, the agency said.
Nishiyama told a press conference in the morning that he cannot deny the possibility that radioactive materials are continuing to be released into the sea. He said later that the water found at the basement of the turbine buildings is unlikely to have flowed into the sea, causing contamination." ("Woes deepen over radioactive water at nuke plant", Kyodo News)
Predictably, the media has switched into full "BP Oil Spill-mode", making every effort to minimize the disaster and to soothe the public with half-truths and disinformation. The goal is to conceal the scale of the catastrophe and protect the nuclear industry. It's another case of profits over people. Still, the truth is available for those who are willing to sift through the lies. Radiation has turned up in the Tokyo water supply, imports of milk, vegetable and fruit from four prefectures in the vicinity of Fukushima have been banned, and the evacuation zone around the plant has widened to an 18 mile radius.

Also, monitors have detected tiny radioactive particles which have spread from the reactor site across the Pacific to North America, the Atlantic and Europe...According to Reuters: "It's only a matter of days before it disperses in the entire northern hemisphere," said Andrea Stahl, a senior scientist at the Norwegian Institute for Air Research."
Here's more from Brian Moench, MD:
"Administration spokespeople continuously claim "no threat" from the radiation reaching the US from Japan, just as they did with oil hemorrhaging into the Gulf. Perhaps we should all whistle "Don't worry, be happy" in unison. A thorough review of the science, however, begs a second opinion.
That the radiation is being released 5,000 miles away isn't as comforting as it seems.... Every day, the jet stream carries pollution from Asian smoke stacks and dust from the Gobi Desert to our West Coast, contributing 10 to 60 percent of the total pollution breathed by Californians, depending on the time of year. Mercury is probably the second most toxic substance known after plutonium. Half the mercury in the atmosphere over the entire US originates in China. It, too, is 5,000 miles away. A week after a nuclear weapons test in China, iodine 131 could be detected in the thyroid glands of deer in Colorado, although it could not be detected in the air or in nearby vegetation." (Washington's Blog)
The smoldering Fukushima hulk is a perpetual death machine poisoning everything around it--sea, sky and soil. Here's a clip from the Collin's article:
"...The soil contamination is really high. Soil found 40 kilometers away.... the levels on the soil were very high—in fact, a thousand times iodine, 4,000 times the cesium standard. And we just got a report from the Kyoto Research Reactor Institute, Dr. Tetsuji Imanaka, that said that—he had to look a little bit more into the sampling of the Japanese government, but depending on how the sampling was done, this level of contamination in the soil could be twice the amount that was compulsory evacuation for Chernobyl. Aileen Mioko Smith, March 24 (thanks to Michael Collins "They said it wasn't like Chernobyl and they were wrong")
Twice as high as Chernobyl already, and the disaster is likely to persist for months to come. Things are getting worse, much worse.

The Japanese government has been downplaying the crisis to make it look like they have matters under control, but it's all a sham. They control nothing. The rescue mission has been a flop from the get-go and now things are at a boiling point. The emergency effort has been overtaken by events and now it's a matter of "wait and see". We're approaching zero hour.
So why the cover up? Why is the media trying to soft-peddle the real effects of a nuclear cataclysm? Does the Japanese government really believe they can make things better by tweaking their public relations strategy? They should focus on saving lives and abandon "perception management" altogether. This is from the Union of Concerned Scientists website:
"Our assessment is that the Japanese government is squandering the opportunity to initiate an orderly evacuation from larger areas around the site–especially of sensitive populations, like children and pregnant women. It is potentially wasting valuable time by not undertaking a larger scale evacuation at this time."
The Japanese government is trying to protect the powerful nuclear lobby. The same is true of Obama, who continues to promote nuclear energy even while radiation belches from battered Fukushima. He's not thinking about the public; he's thinking about the deep pocket constituents who fill his campaign coffers.

Japanese workers are putting their lives on the line to regain control of the broken facility, but with little success. The probability of another fire, another monstrous explosion, or a full-core meltdown increases by the day. The Fukushima fiasco is gaining pace putting tens of thousands of people at risk of thyroid cancer, childhood leukemia and other life-threatening ailments.
On Saturday, Japan's prime minister, Naoto Kan, said the situation at the Fukushima nuclear plant was ''serious''. That might be the understatement of the century.

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He can be reached at:fergiewhitney@msn.com. , 

Monday, March 28, 2011

Poisoning The Water In Pavillion, Wyoming--Fracking

 (If you folks here in Pennsylvania don't believe that this story cannot happen in your own backyard, you are wrong!!! PA Governor Tom Corbett has done virtually nothing to make the Marcellus Shale industry accountable, transparent, and honest. These drillers and Frackers have been destroying communities here, and elsewhere. Who pays? But the citizens. Not the industry, which is stealing it from the landowner, and the taxpayers.)

Here is the story---------------Poisoning the Wells

Fracking the Wind River Country

By ANDREA PEACOCK   Pavillion, Wyoming. From Counterpunch.org

Jeff and Rhonda Locker’s water changed abruptly one day in the mid-1990s while Rhonda was doing the laundry. A Denver-based gas company was working over an old well in back of their house, when the wash water turned black. “It happened just like that,” Jeff Locker says. “I stopped him and asked him what he did to our water, and of course he didn’t do anything to our water… It’s been bad ever since.”
    Donna Meeks’ well water was so good, she used to haul it to town for the school office coffee pot. Neither she nor her husband Louis noticed anything wrong until her co-workers stopped drinking the coffee; it was 2004, and a Canadian company, EnCana, had just drilled a new well about 500 feet from the Meeks home. Some visiting friends later said they noticed the water tasted and smelled like gas, but didn’t want to be rude by saying anything about it.
    John and Cathy Fenton had no reason to suspect there was anything wrong with their water—it tasted fine. But just to be neighborly, they went along with the Lockers, the Meeks, and other Pavillion-area residents when the Environmental Protection Agency came in 2009 for an initial round of testing. That’s when they found out that their family had been drinking water laced with methane. Follow-up tests a year later found a whole soup’s worth of semi-volatile organic compounds in the family’s stock well.
   There’s something karmic about the possibility that Pavillion, Wyoming, might be the first community to prove its water damaged by natural gas production. While water literally is life everywhere in the arid West, here it’s the epicenter for deep social and political divisions.
Pavillion sits exposed to the wind and weather on the rolling high plains of the Wind River Valley’s northern flank. The town boasts two bars, two restaurants, one grocery, and serves as a social center for the community of farms and ranches that populate the Midvale irrigation district. It’s the schools—practically brand new—that bring people together here, says Jeff Locker, who sits on the school board. “Even retired people come to the ball games,” he says. By ball, Locker means basketball because this is a reservation town.
    The Eastern Shoshone chose the oblong-shaped valley as their home in 1868 for its relatively temperate winter weather. They were joined here nine years later by the Northern Arapaho, when the Great White Father in his infinite wisdom decided the traditional enemies ought to live together.
    The Bureau of Reclamation proclaimed in the early 1900s the Indians weren’t using their land to its fullest potential, so the feds opened up the reservation to homesteaders who settled the north side of the Wind River, with native communities concentrated on the south side. Rich with scenery and poor in industry, the towns all are small, none with more than a few traffic lights.
The Anglos immediately started digging ditches (Midvale being the largest) and diverting water for flood irrigation, decimating fisheries and essentially turning the Wind River into a slough at certain times of the year. The tribes fought back, as chronicled in Geoffrey O’Gara’s book What You See In Clear Water, eventually winning a 1989 U.S. Supreme Court decision that the water was theirs to allocate, but the state declined to enforce the ruling and the reservation communities still simmer with bitterness over this injustice.
    Water also links everyone—lakes and creeks from both the Anglo and Indian sides of the reservation empty into the Wind, connecting towns from Dubois at the far western end of the valley, 80 miles downstream to Riverton. What biologists call the nation’s charismatic megafauna populate the mountains that ring and define the basin: grizzlies and wolves, moose and lion haunt the Owl Creek, Wind River, Absaroka, and Granite ranges.
    Now, Pavillion area farmers and ranchers have learned that this water they fought so hard to control is—in places—undrinkable.
    Louis Meeks has a schtick for visitors. He fills up a mason jar full of tap water, swirls it around, then offers it up. The dizzying fetor of gasoline is unmistakable. “Would you drink that?” he asks, his voice full of frustration. When Meeks started his family after returning from Vietnam more than 40 years ago, they lived in town, in a trailer. He worked the oil fields, which was good money, but not the kind of life he wanted for his kids. “When we first bought it, we only bought that house and three acres,” he says. “Then we added another eight, and then the 40 across the road.
    “I wanted my kids to rodeo and stuff like that. I’ve always loved to garden and live in the country. Even now we’ve got a little bunch of chickens, we raise our own lamb and our own beef… We’ve got apple trees, a couple pear trees out there. We’ve got plum trees and cherry trees. So you know, it was a pretty nice place.”
    The Meeks kids are grown now, but Louis and Donna are not relaxing into retirement. Instead, they find themselves shuttling between town and the farm, alternatively choosing between their home and their health. Louis was diagnosed with neuropathy and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and Donna has endured eight operations for polyps in her lungs. Donna moved in with their daughter for a while, then back with Louis, because she didn’t want him out there all by himself. The federal government has warned the Meeks and their neighbors to vent their bathrooms while showering, and avoid open flames and running water in the same room due to the danger of explosion from methane in their drinking water. The Meeks family heats with a propane boiler and pellet stove; these warnings effectively render their home uninhabitable in the winter.
    Louis helps out his daughter by picking his seven-year-old granddaughter up after school. He serves her dinner on paper plates—afraid to feed her from dishes washed with tap water—and won’t let her bathe at the farm. “What are they going to do if me and my granddaughter and my wife are here and this house blows up and kills us all?” he says. “Isn’t anybody going to feel bad about it?”
    Just a couple years ago, the dynamics of energy development in the United States changed dramatically. Where a 2008 U.S. Geological Survey inventory of oil and gas resources had predicted we would exhaust our undiscovered onshore federal natural gas reserves of roughly 200 trillion cubic feet in 50 years, more or less, industry researchers announced later that year that by combining two technologies—hydraulic fracturing and directional drilling—some companies had been able to wrest gas from shale in Pennsylvania and Texas. This innovation exploded established estimates, with more than 500 trillion cubic feet possibly lying trapped in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale alone; theoretically, this success could be reproduced in shale formations all over the country.
    Hydraulic fracturing has been around for more than 100 years, but is nonetheless a marvel of human ingenuity. Basically it involves leaving perforations in the cement casing that lines an oil or gas well, pumping water, sand and a variety of chemicals into the well through these holes at such high pressures that the surrounding rock cracks and releases whatever fossil fuel treasures it holds. Some of the liquids and chemicals used in the process are recovered—often much is not.
A 2004 EPA study on the effects of hydraulic fracturing on groundwater in coalbed methane deposits found that a third of fracturing fluids are expected to get left behind, and that these “will likely be transported by groundwater flowing according to regional hydraulic gradients.” There are more than 30 water-bearing formations lying under the Wind River Valley; according to the USGS, a lot of intermingling goes on down there.
    But EnCana is skeptical. A spokesman from America’s largest natural gas producer and owner of the Pavillion area fields declined an interview, but answered questions in writing. Randy Teeuwen explains that the weight of the overlying rock keeps fracking chemicals from mixing with other zones. “It’s based on the law of physics,” he writes. “The volume of fluids required to create a fracture from several thousand feet below the surface that would push through layers of solid rock to a domestic well several hundred feet below the surface is significantly greater by an order of magnitude than any fracture operations ever employed in Pavillion.”
    The state of Wyoming has the strictest fracking disclosure requirements in the nation. Tom Doll, of the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (the state permitting and watchdog agency), says he believes that despite whatever happened in the past, Wyoming’s current layers of rules make contamination unlikely. “As part of their plan… they have to run their surface casing at least 120 feet deeper than the deepest permitted water supply well,” he says. “They have to identify to us any groundwaters that they might drill through… And then when they do the well stimulation, they have to provide us with the estimated pressures and the estimate height of the frack and the length of the frack as part of their plan.” Wyoming also now requires companies to divulge the kinds and amounts of chemicals they frack with—the first state to do so. If all that information comes together, Doll says, it becomes “easy to prove” that contamination hasn’t happened.
    While the EPA is now conducting a study about the effects of fracking chemicals on people’s drinking water (with a initial results due out by the end of 2012), fracking was exempted from the requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act in President Bush’s landmark 2005 Energy Policy Act (this exemption is often referred to as the Halliburton Loophole), and regulation was left to the states.
    But as the U.S. ramped up its domestic onshore exploration and production, disturbing reports began leaking out of Pavillion and the rest of the country’s gas fields. In the documentary Gasland, Americans were treated to footage of people lighting their tap water on fire, ostensibly because of contamination from hydraulic fracturing. People repeated the refrain to journalists from the nonprofit ProPublica and anyone else who would listen: Our water was good and now it’s bad. But they had no baseline data, which allowed industry executives to appear before a Congressional committee in 2009 and deny any connection, correctly pointing out that no one has proved such a link. Not anywhere. Not ever.
    Gas-related water pollution has turned farmer John Fenton into a reluctant activist. "I've met with people from all over the country. You might be in a different state, it might look different, the people might have a different accent, but the stories are the same... I just don't know when people are going to realize that you can't drink dirty water and you can't breathe dirty air. And once that stuff is messed up, it may never be fixable."
    The state capital in Cheyenne is called the People’s House. Like a lot of Western legislatures, it is populated by part-time representatives who travel here for 40 day sessions every other year. They used to wear Carhartt and cowboy hats at their real jobs, but the gas boom in Wyoming has changed all that. “Now it’s filled with suits,” Jeff Locker says. “It’s different.”
    Which could account for Louis Meeks’ frustration as he tried to get someone to help him with his water. He called EnCana, the federal Bureau of Land Management and the state Department of Environmental Quality. In 2005, Meeks decided to just drill himself a new water well. At 240 feet, it exploded. “They figured it was making two million cubic feet of gas,” he says. The DEQ asked EnCana to test the Meeks water repeatedly, at least eleven times in between 2004 and 2007. The results always came back clean. The governor’s office finally asked Meeks not to call any more.
    At the same time, Meeks’ neighbors were struggling as well. Rhonda Locker’s neuropathy was crippling. “When it first started, she described it has someone driving, running a knife through her bones in her legs,” her husband Jeff says.
    She went to the University of Denver for toxicological tests, but was told that unless they knew what to look for, “well, there’s so many tests and they’re so expensive that you can’t do it.” The toxicologist told the Lockers the chemicals that might have precipitated her illness had probably not lingered long enough to be identified. “The damage is there, but the evidence is gone,” Jeff says. “And sometimes I wonder if we still should be living there, but I don’t know. That’s our home.”
    Even if the Lockers decided to leave, they’d have an awfully hard time finding a buyer for their house. In 2009, John and Cathy Fenton pushed the issue with the county appraiser’s office, protesting their property tax valuation on seven different grounds related to the impacts of oil and gas. As a result, nine Paradox-area families have had their taxes reduced—and their home values cut in half.
    In the meantime, Meeks ran out of patience with the state of Wyoming. In 2008, he got through to the regional EPA in Denver. By early 2009, the feds were on the scene.
The EPA narrowed their focus to domestic water wells within a four-mile radius of a gas well pad just north and west of the Meeks house, affecting the drinking water of an estimated 123 people. They flushed each water well three times its volume to ensure they were getting at the groundwater itself. Then they tested for a whole range of chemicals not commonly included in water analyses, and looked for contaminants at levels far below public health standards (though many of these constituents, EPA project director Greg Oberley says, are so uncommon there are no health standards for them).
    They found two so-called “contaminants of concern” in six wells: two forms of a volatile organic compound called adamantane, and 2-butoxyethanol (2-BE), a solvent that is used in fracking foaming agents, and is suspected of causing a whole range of ailments, from cancer to respiratory issues to nervous system problems. And the EPA found methane in eight wells. Investigators began referring to the contamination as a plume.
    The second round of tests in 2010 confirmed the initial contaminants, and as well found petroleum compounds in 17 out of 19 water wells tested. The EPA sank three monitoring wells that caught more petroleum compounds—benzene, xylene and naphthalene; a component of jet fuel called methylcyclohexane; and phenol, which is used to make resin-coated sand for fracking—in the groundwater itself.
     Fracking could have polluted the water, the EPA says, but so could have any of the 32 reserve pits lying around the field, used by gas companies over the years to temporarily store mud and liquids from the drilling and production process. EnCana has entered three of these pits into the state’s voluntary remediation program.
    A third possibility would be the gas wells themselves. According to Tom Doll, of the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, there are several which have caught regulators’ eyes as possibly having poor structural integrity.
    One of the chemicals found—2-BE—is an ingredient in household cleaners. EnCana—which acquired the fields in 2004 when it bought out the Denver-based Tom Brown company—is quick to offer these and other alternatives, though the idea leaves locals like Jeff Locker wondering how many gallons of Simple Green he would have had to pour down his 460-foot well for it to have shown up on EPA tests after all the purging.
    Without any other kind of major industry anywhere near this rural landscape, the list of culprits is short. The EPA’s Greg Oberley says methane has a fingerprint which can be analyzed and linked—or not—to the gas EnCana has been producing.
EnCana spokesperson Randy Teeuwen points out that the groundwater in the Wind River Basin historically has been marginal, with high levels of salt, sulfate and total dissolved solids. Teeuwen notes as well that derivatives of adamantanes are used in vaccines and hydraulic fluid, and 2-BE can come from rubber gaskets and washers. “In all cases,” he writes, “we don’t believe these compounds are associated with oil and gas.”
    John Fenton can tick off all the usual ways oil and gas affects rural people: it’s noisy and smelly; workers treat locals like they’re the intruders; he has a heck of a time irrigating around the equipment and well pads; the gas companies take shortcuts around the rules, while government inspectors might as well be invisible. And his family’s health is at risk.
His wife’s parents bought this farm 40 years ago, and the Fentons moved in next door to live a different kind of life. He had been working as welder for the gas companies, and while he makes it clear he begrudges no one their choice of jobs, the work left a bad taste in his mouth.
“We were making $50 an hour and we could work all the hours we could work. We’d make in a month what we make in a year now” he says. “But I felt like a hypocrite because I was already starting to see what was going on.  And we just decided that… we'd rather be poor and have a clean conscience.”
    Now there are four generations living on the property, including John and Cathy’s baby granddaughter. Cathy and her mother have both lost their sense of taste and smell. Their youngest son developed epilepsy after the move to the farm. And John’s got headaches and chronic fatigue that only went away once when he left to spend a week in the clean environment of Washington, D.C.
     “This should be as clean as it gets,” he says, gesturing at the view of the valley and mountains outside their picture window. “There’s no way to tell how it was caused, but it sure is a hell of a coincidence.”
    Like a lot of folks who live in the gas patches of America, Fenton understands the big picture better than the average American. The true cost of this so-called clean energy, he says, is paid for by workers with their health as well as by families like his. Wyoming has the worst job-related fatality record in the nation, and much of that is due to the oil and gas fields. To make matters worse, he reads that companies are building liquefied petroleum ports in Oregon and the Gulf Coast. “They can get people all riled up and say, ‘We’ve got to get rid of the Arab oil so we can be independent,’ and in the meantime they’re making plans to ship it overseas so they can make more money off it.
    “It’s false patriotism, the biggest hypocrisy in the world.”
    Which leaves him wondering what to do for his family. “The problem is that this is not really just a job, you know. It’s a whole lifestyle when you live like this,” he says. “You want to hold out and prove that they can’t destroy your way of life, but then you question, is it worth it? If you’re damaging yourself, or your children, your future, is it worth fighting the fight? Because after all, it is just a piece of land.”

Andrea Peacock is a 2010 Alicia Patterson Foundation Fellow and the author of Wasting Libby, published by CounterPunch/AK Press. She can be reached at: apeacock@wispwest.net
This work is supported by the Alicia Patterson Foundation (Washington, DC), founded in 1965 to promote independent journalism.


Comparing Japan's Radiation Release to "Background Radiation"

Just like the Marcellus Shale industry and their CongressionalCashBots want us to believe, hydraulic fracturing and drilling is all good and safe, just like the sweet smell of background radiation that surrounds us. If we are going to mine Marcellus Shale natural gas in Pennsylvania, then this state, and the others, must legislate that the state will use this gas to power its power electric plants, and vehicles, and not have it shipped overseas for others to use, while we continue to use oil from the Middle East by the tanker load.

Here is the myth about background radiation and how "radiation is safe" written in washingtonsblog.com on Saturday the 25th of March.

Apologists for the type of old, unsafe nuclear reactors which are leaking in Japan argue that the amount of radiation released from Fukushima is small compared to the amount of "background radiation".
There Are NO Background Levels of Radioactive Caesium or Iodine
Wikipedia provides some details on the distribution of cesium-137 due to human activities:
Small amounts of caesium-134 and caesium-137 were released into the environment during nearly all nuclear weapon tests and some nuclear accidents, most notably the Chernobyl disaster. As of 2005, caesium-137 is the principal source of radiation in the zone of alienation around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Together with caesium-134, iodine-131, and strontium-90, caesium-137 was among the isotopes with greatest health impact distributed by the reactor explosion.

The mean contamination of caesium-137 in Germany following the Chernobyl disaster was 2000 to 4000 Bq/m2. This corresponds to a contamination of 1 mg/km2 of caesium-137, totaling about 500 grams deposited over all of Germany.Caesium-137 is unique in that it is totally anthropogenic. Unlike most other radioisotopes, 
caesium-137 is not produced from its non-radioactive isotope, but from uranium. It did not occur in nature before nuclear weapons testing began. By observing the characteristic gamma rays emitted by this isotope, it is possible to determine whether the contents of a given sealed container were made before or after the advent of atomic bomb explosions. This procedure has been used by researchers to check the authenticity of certain rare wines, most notably the purported "Jefferson bottles".
As the EPA notes:
Cesium-133 is the only naturally occurring isotope and is non-radioactive; all
other isotopes, including cesium-137, are produced by human activity.
So there was no "background radiation" for caesium-137 before above-ground nuclear testing and nuclear accidents such as Chernobyl.Japan has already, according to some estimates, released 50% of the amount of caesium-137 released by Chernobyl, and many experts say that the Fukushima plants will keep on leaking for months. See this and this. The amount of radioactive fuel at Fukushimadwarfs Chernobyl.
Likewise, iodine-131 is not a naturally occurring isotope. As the Encyclopedia Britannicanotes:

The only naturally occurring isotope of iodine is stable iodine-127. An exceptionally useful radioactive isotope is iodine-131...

And New Scientist reports that huge quantities of iodine-131 are being released in Japan:
Austrian researchers have used a worldwide network of radiation detectors – designed to spot clandestine nuclear bomb tests – to show that iodine-131 is being released at daily levels 73 per cent of those seen after the 1986 disaster.
(Indeed, some experts are saying that the amount of radioactivity released in Japan alreadyexceeds Chernobyl.)Naturally-Occurring Radiation
There are, of course, naturally occurring radioactive materials.
But lumping all types of radiation together is misleading ... and is comparing apples to oranges.
As the National Research Council's Committee to Assess the Scientific Information for the Radiation Exposure Screening and Education Program explains:

Radioactivity generates radiation by emitting particles. Radioactive materials outside the the body are called external emitters, and radioactive materials located within the body are called internal emitters.
Internal emitters are much more dangerous than external emitters. Specifically, one is only exposed to radiation as long as he or she is near the external emitter.

For example, when you get an x-ray, an external emitter is turned on for an instant, and then switched back off.

But internal emitters steadily and continuously emit radiation for as long as the particle remains radioactive, or until the person dies - whichever occurs first. As such, they are much more dangerous.

Dr. Helen Caldicott and many other medical doctors and scientists have confirmed this. See 
this and this.

As Hirose Takashi 
All of the information media are at fault here I think. They are saying stupid things like, why, we are exposed to radiation all the time in our daily life, we get radiation from outer space. But that’s one millisievert per year. A year has 365 days, a day has 24 hours; multiply 365 by 24, you get 8760. Multiply the 400 millisieverts by that, you get 3,500,000 the normal dose. You call that safe? And what media have reported this? None. They compare it to a CT scan, which is over in an instant; that has nothing to do with it. The reason radioactivity can be measured is that radioactive material is escaping. What is dangerous is when that material enters your body and irradiates it from inside. These industry-mouthpiece scholars come on TV and what to they say? They say as you move away the radiation is reduced in inverse ratio to the square of the distance. I want to say the reverse. Internal irradiation happens when radioactive material is ingested into the body. What happens? Say there is a nuclear particle one meter away from you. You breathe it in, it sticks inside your body; the distance between you and it is now at the micron level. One meter is 1000 millimeters, one micron is one thousandth of a millimeter. That’s a thousand times a thousand: a thousand squared. That’s the real meaning of “inverse ratio of the square of the distance.” Radiation exposure is increased by a factor of a trillion. Inhaling even the tiniest particle, that’s the danger.
[Interviewer] So making comparisons with X-rays and CT scans has no meaning. Because you can breathe in radioactive material.
[Takashi] That’s right. When it enters your body, there’s no telling where it will go. The biggest danger is women, especially pregnant women, and little children. Now they’re talking about iodine and cesium, but that’s only part of it, they’re not using the proper detection instruments. What they call monitoring means only measuring the amount of radiation in the air. Their instruments don’t eat. What they measure has no connection with the amount of radioactive material. . . .
There are few natural high-dose internal emitters. Bananas, brazil nuts and some other foods contain radioactive potassium-40, but in extremely low doses.

As the American Journal of Public Health 
noted in 1962:
Of the radioisotopes originally present in rock-type formations, some may become internal emitters through natural processes. They may be leached or dissolved into ground and surface waters, thus gaining access to man's water and food supply. For either physical or biological reasons, only a few of the naturally radioactive heavy atoms are important sources of internal radiation exposure. The three most important are believed to be radium 226, the most abundant natural isotope of radium; lead 210, a daughter of radium 226 and of radon 222, and radium 228, a daughter of natural thorium.

Radon 222 has a half life of less than 4 days. Radium has a much longer half-life. However,radium ions do not form complexes easily, due to highly basic character of ions. Radium compounds are quite rare, occurring almost exclusively in uranium ores.Some parts of the country are at higher risk of exposure to naturally-occurring radium than others. It is not only those built on top of uranium mines. For example, the American Journal of Public Health article notes:

Water derived from surface sources such as rivers, lakes, or wells penetrating unconsolidated sand or gravel deposits were, in general, found to contain considerably lower concentrations of radium 226 than wells penetrating deep sandstone formations of Cambrian or pre-Cambrian ages.
In contrast, cesium-137 - one of the main types of radioactivity being spewed by the Japanese plants - has a much longer half life, and can easily contaminate food and water supplies. As the New York Times noted recently:

Over the long term, the big threat to human health is cesium-137, which has a half-life of 30 years.
At that rate of disintegration, John Emsley wrote in “Nature’s Building Blocks” (Oxford, 2001), “it takes over 200 years to reduce it to 1 percent of its former level.”
It is cesium-137 that still contaminates much of the land in Ukraine around the Chernobyl reactor.
Cesium-137 mixes easily with water and is chemically similar to potassium. It thus mimics how potassium gets metabolized in the body and can enter through many foods, including milk.
As the EPA notes in a discussion entitled " What can I do to protect myself and my family from cesium-137?":
Cesium-137 that is dispersed in the environment, like that from atmospheric testing, is impossible to avoid.
Radioactive iodine can also become a potent internal emitter. As the Times notes:
Iodine-131 has a half-life of eight days and is quite dangerous to human health. If absorbed through contaminated food, especially milk and milk products, it will accumulate in the thyroid and cause cancer.
The bottom line is that there is some naturally-occurring background radiation, which can - at times - pose a health hazard (especially in parts of the country with high levels of radioactive radon or radium).

But cesium-137 and radioactive iodine - the two main radioactive substances being spewed by the leaking Japanese nuclear plants - are not naturally-occurring substances, and can become powerful internal emitters which can cause tremendous damage to the health of people who are unfortunate enough to breathe in even a particle of the substances, or ingest them in food or water. Unlike low-levels of radioactive potassium found in bananas - which our bodies have adapted to over many years - cesium-137 and iodine 131 are brand new, extremely dangerous substances.

And unlike naturally-occurring internal emitters like radon and radium - whose distribution is largely concentrated in certain areas of the country - radioactive cesium and iodine are spreading not only nationally, but world-wide.

At the very least, it is important to note that each individual internal emitters behaves differently. They each accumulate in different places in the body, target different organs, mimic different vitamins and minerals, and are excreted differently (or not at all). Therefore, comparing radioactive cesium or iodine with naturally occurring radioactive substances - even those which can become internal emitters - is incorrect and misleading.
This is not to say that we're all going to get cancer. Most of use probably won't. This is solely an attempt to counter the misleading propaganda from apologists for old, unsafe nuclear reactors. For background information on "safe" radiation levels, see this.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Radiation levels at Japan nuclear plant reach new highs

The Washington Post/ Foreign Policy/ World

TOKYO — Already-grave conditions at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant worsened Sunday with the highest radiation readings yet, compounding both the risks and challenges for workers trying to repair the facility’s cooling system.
Leaked water sampled from one unit Sunday was 100,000 times more radioactive than normal background levels — though the Tokyo Electric Power Co., which operates the plant, first calculated an even higher, erroneous, figure that it didn’t correct for several hours.
Tepco apologized Sunday night when it realized the mistake; it had initially reported radiation levels in the leaked water from the unit 2 reactor as being 10 million times higher than normal, which prompted an evacuation of the building.
After the levels were correctly measured, airborne radioactivity in the unit 2 turbine building still remained so high — 1,000 millisieverts per hour — that a worker there would reach his yearly occupational exposure limit in 15 minutes. A dose of 4,000 to 5,000 millisieverts absorbed fairly rapidly will eventually kill about half of those exposed.
The latest confusion in the operation to stave off a full-scale nuclear meltdown at the crippled facility underscores the immense challenges for the several hundred workers in a desperate battle to restart the critical cooling systems. Seventeen workers have been exposed to high levels of radiation, including three who were hospitalized last week, as technicians conducted highly nuanced electrical work in dark conditions that one nuclear industry expert termed “hellish.”
Japanese authorities say efforts to control Fukushima’s overheated reactors will take months and during that time radiation will continue to leak into the environment, extending a nuclear emergency that already ranks as the world’s most serious in a quarter-century. Several hundred workers now shoulder the responsibility for limiting the crisis, amid potentially lethal radiation levels, and on Saturday the chief of Japan’s nuclear agency called on Tepco to improve its worker safety.

Evidence of rising contamination in and around the plant has tempered optimism from one week ago, when engineers began work to restore power to the first of the damaged reactor buildings. Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said Sunday that a new measurement of seawater taken about 1,000 feet from the facility showed an iodine level 1,850.5 times the legal limit, higher than a reading taken the previous day. The dangers in unit 2 merely add to the growing challenges. Radioactive water is pooling in four of Fukushima’s six turbine rooms and engineers have no quick way to clean it up, although they have begun efforts to do so in unit 1.

While a Tepco spokesperson said Sunday he did not know how the radioactive water was leaking from the reactor cores, Yukio Edano, chief cabinet secretary, said in a televised interview Sunday morning that the reactor itself had not been breached.
He said it was clear that water that could have been inside the unit 3 reactor had leaked, but said the reactor had not been breached. Still, he said that “unfortunately, it seems there is no question that water, which could have been inside the reactor, is leaking.’’
Unlike in newer reactor designs, the older boiling water reactors at Daiichi are pierced by dozens of holes in the bottom of their reactor vessels. Each hole allows one control rod — made of a neutron-absorbing material that quickly stops nuclear fission inside the reactor — to slide into the reactor from below, as happened when the earthquake shook the plant March 11. During normal operations, a graphite stopper covers each hole, sealing in highly radioactive primary cooling water, said Arnie Gundersen, a consultant at Fairewinds Associates with 40 years of experience overseeing boiling water reactors.
But at temperatures above 350 degrees Fahrenheit, the graphite stoppers begin to melt.
“Since it is likely that rubble from the broken fuel rods . . . is collecting at the bottom of the reactor, the seals are being damaged by high temperature or high radiation,” Gundersen said. As the graphite seals fail, water in the reactor will leak into a network of pipes in the containment buildings surrounding each reactor — the very buildings that have been heavily damaged by explosions. Gundersen said that this piping is probably compromised, leaving highly radioactive water to seep from the reactor vessels into broken pipes — and from there into the turbine buildings and beyond.
To stabilize the facility, workers are trying to repair the elaborate cooling system, necessary to keep the reactor cores and spent fuel pools from overheating. But for the moment, they are conducting this work in dark, steamy conditions. Workers must wear respirators, face masks and bulky suits. Nuclear safety experts say they must shift out of the most dangerous areas every 30 minutes to an hour, to prevent radiation overexposure.
Meantime, they’re racing to repair motor pumps the size of automobiles. Their environment resembles a cavern of cables. Some of the equipment was damaged during the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Other equipment has been corroded by saltwater, which was poured into the facility during earlier efforts to cool the reactors.
“To a layman, you’d be scared to death,” said Lake Barrett, a nuclear engineer who directed the cleanup of Three Mile Island. “You’re working with saltwater around your feet. This is not the way electricians usually work.”
The number of workers at the Fukushima plant fluctuates from day to day, ranging between 500 and 1,000. But Tepco employees account for only a part of the labor force. Last Tuesday, for instance, there were 700 people at the plant, a nuclear agency official said. The figure included 500 Tepco employees, 100 subcontracted workers and 100 members of Japan’s Self Defense Forces or the Tokyo Fire Department.
One subcontracted worker who laid cables for new electrical lines March 19 described chaotic conditions and lax supervision that made him nervous. Masataka Hishida said neither he nor the workers around him were given a dosimeter, a device used to measure one’s exposure to radiation. He was surprised that workers were not given special shoes; rather, they were told to put plastic bags over their street shoes. When he was trying on the gas mask for the first time, he said the supervisor told him and other subcontractors, “Listen carefully, I’m only going to say this one time” while explaining how to use it.
When Hishida finished his work shift, an official scanned his whole body for radiation. He came up clean, except for the very tip of his beard. He was sent into a shower where he lathered up and scrubbed his beard. He was tested again and passed.
A few days later, still worried about the extent of his radiation exposure, he trimmed his beard.
Don't believe this cannot happen here. Don't believe that hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale cannot create disasters, either. Drilling is not safe. Fracking is not safe.