Monday, December 10, 2012
I have to admit my knowledge of radioactive materials is limited. Yes it was covered briefly in my hazardous waste training but only the basics. The reason is simple. Workers who deal with the stuff must go through an additional 120 hours of training beyond the basic 80 hour Haz Mat course and even then I'd be certain they would be supervised closely by more experienced workers for a time. It takes about 3 years of field work to get good at most hazardous waste jobs so I can imagine the experience when dealing with radioactive materials.
But as I said we were taught the basics. Simply put a paper tyvec suit would protect you from alpha radiation. A metallic poly suit would protect from beta radiation and you'd better have a heavy lead suit when dealing with gamma radiation. Even then there are no guarantees with the latter. So my roll would be more of a support person in the event of a nuclear disaster like Fukushima. It would be a different story with a dirty bomb. But let me put your fears to rest on that front. The bulk of the contamination of a dirty bomb would be alpha radiation where a simple mask would protect most people. And the bulk of the damage would be more psychological than physical. I therefore might be called in to begin a lengthy process of vacuuming several city blocks with a HEPA vacuum. And I'm sure under the supervision of numerous government eyes and monitors. I recall the anthrax clean up and how it proceeded. Quite impressed with that operation as nothing like it had every been done before.
But now we have Fukushima that's been wiped from the headlines with more pressing things like an economic meltdown. Out of sight out of mind seems to be the order of the day. But the reality is that this catastrophe continues and governments and media are white washing the truth. Until recently everything looked as if it was going along nicely. A company had been commissioned and was working to contain the contaminants. "Clean up" as they call it. But there are some ugly facts now coming to the light of day. Truth has a way of seeping through the cracks of a cover up. In this case the primary company responsible for the clean up efforts has hired subcontractors or to put it more aptly borrowed workers from other lesser environmental companies in the country. While we might think nothing of that little fact in our country it's against the law in Japan. Their worker safety rules aren't up to our standards when it comes to who's responsible in the event a worker gets injured. But putting that issue aside the lesser workers were asked to cover their dose meters with lead strips in order to give lower radiation readings. That's something that would be considered criminal here in the U.S. and I'm sure in Japan as well. Charges have been brought but that's not the only issue here. It's who was responsible for the oversight of this project and what misinformation was presented to the general public as fact that's important.
Scientists from all over the world are there giving their expertise but the public is still being kept in the dark about the ongoing dangers present. One of our own university professors here has gone there many times studying the effects on insects and animals and comparing that to the Chernobyl disaster. His preliminary conclusions are that the public is being lied to with respect to radiation levels and their effects on wildlife. He has detected radiation levels far higher and as far away a Tokyo than what's being reported. Should we be surprised? But the real issue here is not only the higher levels but the effects of long term exposures to men and beast. There is a Chernobyl museum a sort of monument to the effects of the disaster in the Ukraine. In it they have a bear born with the deformities one might expect. Warning the next image you see might be disturbing but the truth can be ugly.
And this continues in Chernobyl to this day some 27 years later as animals and people migrate back into the contamination zone. Only four months after the disaster in Japan signs were put up not to warn residents to stay away from the beaches around Fukushima but to invite people to enjoy a good swim and the sun in an area that should have been banner taped off as an exclusion zone. With tides and currents it's certain that detection levels would be very hard to accurately be determined. And we know that much of the contamination went into the ocean. The long term effects will be felt for generations to come.
I will spare you the scientific details as only those who deal with the stuff on a daily basis know the exact safe radiation levels even if they were required to hide the facts. It is safe to say that the levels are much higher than reported and again that the effects will be felt for a long time to come.