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Fukushima’s Suicide Squads

They call them “gamma sponges” and “glow boys.” The teams are called “suicide squads.”

Richard “Rich Rad” Meserve, former Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission — and now head of a mindless Washington pro-nuclear lobbying think-tank — calls them “jumpers” as if it were something fun to do. Or perhaps he considers the job healthy exercise. The suits are certainly very heavy, the work arduous, tedious, and dangerous.

Everyone learned to called them “liquidators” after Chernobyl, but there, they called themselves “bio-robots.”

Why? Because they had to replace the robots that didn’t work, on account of the fancy electronics don’t work in highly radioactive environments. That’s true today, too.

Their job? In Chernobyl it was to do things like: Heave sand and lead from a helicopter. For a total time over the reactor of just a minute or two.

A couple of trips. Then it’s someone else’s turn.

Or shovel radioactive graphite off the roof of the building for 45 seconds.

Then it’s someone else’s turn.

Or run in and turn a valve part way.

Then it’s someone else’s turn.

It required approximately 800,000 such young men to “clean up” Chernobyl (and I use the term “clean up” very, very loosely!). Virtually all were conscripted.

Now, they’re dropping like flies. It’s called the Chernobyl Syndrome:

“Heart, stomach, liver, kidneys… nervous system… our whole bodies were radically upset [by the radiation and chemical exposure].” — testimony of a liquidator, from the movie Battle for Chernobyl (highly recommended).

Their children and the children of people who were downwind from Chernobyl often wear what’s called the “Chernobyl Necklace”. It’s the scar across their throat, left over from thyroid surgery.

Far worse abnormalities and deformities await many others, as well. Thyroid cancer is just the tip of the iceberg, though perhaps the easiest one to prevent and to cure.

The authorities supposedly kept track of everyone’s radiation exposure, but really it was bogus. Needles on radiation detectors were pegged on “high.” Radiation detectors themselves were in short supply. Cumulative dose badges were practically unavailable. Nearly everyone’s exposure was projected, estimated, and calculated instead. These bogus records were then used by the Soviet state later, to deny that Chernobyl was the cause of their comrade’s illnesses.

In Japan it’s happening again: Needles are pegging on “high”, detectors are in short supply, and exposures are being crudely estimated.

The “heros” — as the media have aptly dubbed them — who are working at the highly-irradiated Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant right now — are reportedly receiving 20 times their normal day’s pay for a day at Fukushima Daiichi.

And perhaps a thousand times their normal daily radiation dose.

Hardly worth it, but thank goodness somebody is willing to do it at any price. The world appreciates their effort. The problem is, nothing’s working. Polymer sponge diapers (I kid you not, that’s what they’re trying) aren’t working. Concrete isn’t working. Sawdust and shredded newspaper (I kid you not…) isn’t working. The plant is still leaking enormous amounts of radioactivity.

And they say that could go on for years.

Every nuclear power plant has the potential to become the next Fukushima. The next Chernobyl. Or the next “worst industrial accident ever” — worse than Chernobyl. Worse than Fukushima.

Shut ’em down. This is crazy. We sacrifice our fellow citizens. We sacrifice ourselves. We sacrifice our future. We sacrifice our children. Shut ’em down forever.

SIDEBAR

Here’s an initial Fukushima cancer forecast from Richard Bramhall at the Low Level Radiation Campaign:

417,000 cancers forecast for Fukushima 200 km contamination zone by 2061

Scientific Secretary of the European Committee on Radiation Risk (ECRR), Professor Chris Busby, has released calculations of the cancer incidence to be expected in fallout areas of Japan. Using data from the International Atomic Energy Agency and official Japanese web sites he has used two methods to estimate the numbers of cancer cases. He compares these results with estimates derived from ICRP modelling.

The “Tondel” Method is based on a conservative study by Martin Tondel in northern Sweden. This examined cancer incidence during 10 years after Chernobyl. It differentiated the varying levels of land contamination and found that the disease increased by 11% for each 100 kiloBecquerels of fallout per square metre of land surface. Professor Busby has applied this factor to the zone up to 100 km from the reactors, where IAEA has reported, on average, 600kBq per sq.m radioactivity. In the 3.3 million population of this 100 km zone a 66% increase over and above the pre-accident rate is predicted in 10 years. This implies 103,329 extra cancers due to the Fukushima exposures between 2012 and 2021.

Similarly applying the “Tondel” method to the ring between 100 km and 200 km from Fukushima (population 7.8 million but lower concentrations of fallout) 120,894 extra cancers are to be expected by 2021.

Assuming permanent residence and no evacuation the total predicted yield according to the “Tondel” method is thus 224,223 in ten years.

The second method is derived from weighting factors advised by the ECRR on the basis of the different ways in which different radionuclides behave in biological systems. This predicts 191,986 extra cancers in the 0 – 100km circle and 224,623 in the outer ring. Probably half of these will be expressed in the first ten years and the remainder between 10 and 50 years.

Assuming permanent residence and no evacuation the total predicted yield according to the second method will be 416,619 of which 208,310 will appear in the first ten years. There is thus good agreement between the two methods.

The ICRP method predicts 6158 additional cancers in 50 years which, among the 2½ million cancer cases expected normally in that population over half a century, would be invisible and deniable. (The report with all methods, assumptions and data is a pdf linked from the front page: http://www.llrc.org/)

RUSSELL D. HOFFMAN lives in Carlsbad, California. He is an educational software developer and bladder cancer survivor, as well as a collector of military and nuclear historical documents and books. He is the author and programmer of the award-winning Animated Periodic Table of the Elements. He can be reached at: rhoffman@animatedsoftware.com

 

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