Sunday, March 13, 2011

Radiation from Japan

It looks like the Japanese are downplaying the amount of radiation that is leaking from their reactors. Here's a bit from an article in the NY Times:
The Pentagon was expected to announce that the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan, which is sailing in the Pacific, passed through a radioactive cloud from stricken nuclear reactors in Japan, causing crew members on deck to receive a month’s worth of radiation in about an hour, government officials said Sunday.

The officials added that American helicopters flying missions about 60 miles north of the damaged reactors became coated with particulate radiation that had to be washed off.
I'm guessing one reason why Japan was slow off the mark in responding to this crisis was the "face saving" inability to expressly state facts. That means a catastrophe is never presented clearly and is slowly revealed over time. But time is of the essence in responding to an emergency. Sadly, the Japanese culture is dysfunctional because of its inability to communicate facts honestly and quickly. Sad.

This bit of the article is worrisome:
“We’re all worrying about it,” said Robert Alvarez, a nuclear expert who, from 1993 to 1999, was a policy adviser to the secretary of energy, who runs the nation’s nuclear complex.

“It’s going to be very important,” he added, “for the Japanese and U.S. authorities to inform the public about the nature of the plumes and any need for precautionary measures.”

The plume issue has arisen before. In 1986, radiation spewing from the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine was spread around the globe on winds and reached the West Coast in 10 days. It was judged more of a curiosity than a threat.


While federal officials expected little danger in the United States from Japanese plumes, they were taking no chances. On Sunday, Energy Department officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the agency was working on three fronts.

One main player is the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. Officials said they had activated its National Atmospheric Release Advisory Center, which draws on meteorologists, nuclear scientists and computer scientists to forecast plume dispersal.

Separately, energy officials said the agency was readying plans to deploy two-person monitoring and sampling teams, if necessary. The teams would travel to consulates, military installations and Navy ships to sample the air in a coordinated effort to improve plume tracking.

Finally, the department was preparing what it calls its Aerial Measuring System. Its detectors and analytical equipment can be mounted on a variety of aircraft. Officials said the equipment and monitoring team are staged out of the department’s Remote Sensing Laboratory at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, and are on two-hour call.

“We’re on top of this,” a department official said.

No comments: