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Friday, March 11, 2011

Watch the dice

Update, August 11: 

We report on the first measurements of short-lived gaseous fission products detected outside of Japan following the Fukushima nuclear releases, which occurred after a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011. The measurements were conducted at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), (46°16’47″N, 119°16’53″W) located more than 7000 km from the emission point in Fukushima Japan (37°25’17″N, 141°1’57″E). First detections of (133)Xe were made starting early March 16, only four days following the earthquake. Maximum concentrations of (133)Xe were in excess of 40 Bq/m(3), which is more than ×40,000 the average concentration of this isotope is this part of the United States.
2011. Published by Elsevier Ltd.
View north from the roof
Today, for the first time, it's positively pleasant out with some prospect of getting things done. Risa has mowed, moved grass clippings to the beds, planted out some thirty or so Walla Walla onions, and thrown more old-growth collards to the poultry. Underneath the plastic, in Bed Number Four, she's planted peas.
View south from the roof
Across the creek, where she got the clippings, she has black plastic killing sod for potato patches. Last year's patch, which was a moderate success, shows up as a brownish spot by the back fence.

Sorting garden goodies
Risa likes that the birds are singing, the sun is shining, the grass is growing, and she's out working in her shirt sleeves. But her mind is on the leak at the power plant in Japan. Things are horrible enough for the people there without that.

But if the cooling system goes, things could get moderately horrible even here. We're downwind. It's a reminder that we are one world, and there's nowhere to run and nowhere to hide when Big Corporatism has bet their lives and yours. Surely we will finally realize it's not just about the shareholders?

Got food and water? Ready to stay indoors awhile? Will the crops be contaminated? Watch the dice for the next few days. Pray they don't come up snake eyes.


Update: I've been taken to task by conservative readers for that last paragraph. Noted; the plumes currently reported, while hardly benign, don't have a lot of reach. But it's still true that Big Corporatism along with its handmaiden Big Government has been caught lying about spills, leaks, and explosions so many times that it's simply hard to get hold of good science on risk any more. Too much money at stake.

That said, here is a scientist I trust: Jeff Masters. He points out that seven days over water certainly shakes a lot of poison out of the plume (he doesn't say what that does/does not do to the life in that ocean, though). The iodine isotope has a very short half life. But the cesium doesn't. Not to mention the plutonium in Number Three, which has not yet been secured. I ache for what Japan is going through, which was done by an earthquake, not (or not so much, yet) by Tepco. But I'm also not happy about the current state of energy production and management in my world. If one Big Expensive Idea misses killing us off, several others seem lined up right behind it, itching to have a go.

No one lives forever; I'd be a happier camper if I left thinking about these things to Those Wiser than I. But my examination of the record leaves me with the feeling that Those Wiser Than I do not include Monsanto, Tepco, Archer Daniels Midland, Goldman Sachs, or Freddie and Fannie, or the Koch Brothers.

Smarter, maybe. But much of what they call wisdom is simply theft. Sorry if I don't trust them completely when they say, "Move along. Nothing to see here." I have children.


[update] It is a month later, April 9. I am still not amused, and have begun tapping into my pre-bottled 100 gallons of water. Call some of scaremongers if you like; given our experience of official pronouncements as seen in retrospect, perhaps we are simply prudent.
[update May 19]

Japan’s Fukushima Reactor May Have Leaked Radiation Before Tsunami Struck, Bloomberg by Yuji Okada, Tsuyoshi Inajima and Shunichi Ozasa, May 19, 2011 6:21 am EDT:

[...] Japan’s government in April raised the severity rating of the Fukushima crisis to the highest on an international scale, the same level as the Chernobyl disaster. The station, which has experienced hundreds of aftershocks since March 11, may release more radiation than Chernobyl before the crisis is contained, Tepco officials have said.


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