Radiation Update

UPDATED AT 1:30 AM JAPAN TIME, FRIDAY

As of 11 pm Thursday (10 am EDT), radiation in Tochigi City near my office was down even farther since Wednesday’s report to only 0.183 microsieverts per hour (μSv/hr). Recent history of this measurement:

  • 0.224 μSv/hr Mar 16 at 12 pm
  • 0.216 μSv/hr Mar 16 at 4 pm
  • 0.195 μSv/hr Mar 17 at 10 am
  • 0.189 μSv/hr Mar 17 at 4 pm
  • 0.183 μSv/hr Mar 17 at 11 pm

Wind across Fukushima is heading southeast at 1-10 meters per second, still blowing emissions over the Pacific.

The situation at the plant looks worse, however, and the concern is that the containment vessel will be breached and that the spent-fuel pool is without water and emitting radiation.

“Right now we have indications at the site of radiation levels that … would be lethal within a fairly short period of time,” Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko told the House Energy Committee Wednesday. “So they are very significant radiation levels. It is certainly a more recent development that we have seen these very, very high readings. … We believe at this point that Unit 4 may have lost a significant inventory, if not lost all, of its water. … There is no water in the spent-fuel pool and we believe that radiation levels are extremely high, which could possibly impact the ability to take corrective measures.”

Thus, while radiation levels are low now, they may not stay that way. I’ll keep monitoring and update as I can, and include other measurement station data.

The US military began voluntary evacuations at four military bases in Japan. See the article in Stars and Stripes and consult the map below:

US bases in Japan

Going to bed. Tempted to stay there. More this evening, US time.

BELOW HERE NOT UPDATED

Both conditions continue boding well for the Tokyo area. At the stricken Fukushima Dai-Ichi power station, conditions are more worrisome.

Helicopters are dumping water on a pool storing spent fuel at the No. 3 reactor in an attempt to cool uranium and plutonium rods that foreign nuclear regulators said were exposed and might be emitting radiation.

Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency says there may be no water in the No. 4 reactor spent fuel cooling pool. They see no smoke or steam rising from the reactor, however.

The US Embassy in Tokyo is advising Americans to stay at least 50 miles from the plant. America is becoming more involved and one of its immediate goals is to better ascertain what’s going on and share status more quickly and completely than the Japanese government has done. That would be excellent.

I’ll update throughout the day here, night in America.

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36 Comments

  1. Bill
    Posted March 18, 2011 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    Jason you need to get out as soon as you can. Everyone appreciates your reporting but you need to get out. Is there anything you need? I hear from my sister-in-law that people are hoarding and there is no food in the stores. Do you need us to send anything? Our prayers are with you and the Japanese. I will even pray to Jizo for your safe travel.

    Bill

    • Posted March 18, 2011 at 11:41 am | Permalink

      Thanks, Bill. I have options in front of me, constantly updated. I can evacuate to a second work location in Kyushu, probably more quickly than I can get a military airlift — but not sure yet. I don’t want to leave but will do so if necessary. So far, radiation levels are remaining low and the worst has not come to pass at the plant.

  2. Naif Baidoon
    Posted March 18, 2011 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    I trust your reports more than I do watching CNN. Thanks for doing this.

  3. Jack D.
    Posted March 18, 2011 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    Jason,

    You are reaching more people than you can possibly know with your updates and messages of hope. Dont get discouraged, hang tough and Soldier On! You are a brave and courageous man…you should have been in the military! Keep up the excellent reporting!

    With prayers and highest regards,

    Jack Dona
    MSG, U.S. Army (Ret)

  4. Conrad
    Posted March 18, 2011 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    Saying a prayer for you, Jason.

  5. Bob
    Posted March 18, 2011 at 5:31 am | Permalink

    Here is a good source of information…
    http://www.nei.org/newsandevents/information-on-the-japanese-earthquake-and-reactors-in-that-region/

    It is from the Nuclear Energy Institute.

  6. Neal Kane
    Posted March 18, 2011 at 3:55 am | Permalink

    Hi, I am praying for the safety of Japan. I am also praying for your well being. Thank you for your updates. You are very courageous. Neal Kane

  7. Gregory Iwan
    Posted March 18, 2011 at 2:31 am | Permalink

    One has to wonder if the North Korean nut cases might not consider trying something while Japan reels in this mess. Then things coujld get REALLY interesting.

  8. benn fine
    Posted March 18, 2011 at 2:24 am | Permalink

    Although not everyone would agree with all his economic writings, there has been some excellent analysis on the nuclear energy emergency at Karl Denniger’s site. In particular, it might be best to take Mr Jaczko’s comments with a grain of salt:

    http://market-ticker.org/akcs-www?post=182469

  9. michael nettrour
    Posted March 18, 2011 at 2:21 am | Permalink

    Unfortunately, looks like those fuel rods are going to cause trouble. I will go in early this morning and see if I can give you a little more situational awareness on the rods and potential emissions. Will go ahead and send the socks.

  10. Henry Pope
    Posted March 18, 2011 at 2:08 am | Permalink

    Thanks for all your reporting. It’s been brilliant, reasoned, to the point without the emotional extras, meant to scare and entice readers.

    The situation is bad enough without all the crap.

    It would be good to hear more from nuclear engineers, who might have a clearer assessment of the situation. hp

  11. Brett
    Posted March 18, 2011 at 2:01 am | Permalink

    Not sure if this has been shared, but a colleague of mine has written a great post regarding nuclear energy and the situation in Japan (she is a nuclear engineer and so am I). Please check it out if you have questions about how nuclear plants work and what’s going on with the accident.

    http://plainenglishnuclear.blogspot.com

  12. Melanie
    Posted March 18, 2011 at 1:58 am | Permalink

    Jason, please be careful. We’re praying for you. Thank you for the continued updates.

  13. Ralph Allswede
    Posted March 18, 2011 at 1:55 am | Permalink

    Jason, Thanks for the updates, we have friends in Tokyo and are concerned for them as well as you. Take care of yourself. Socks are on the way.

  14. kj
    Posted March 18, 2011 at 1:00 am | Permalink

    farther? futher? thx for the real info….

  15. Dabney
    Posted March 18, 2011 at 12:49 am | Permalink

    Just want to add my voice to those thanking you for the updates, Jason.

  16. Yanet cuevas
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

    Hang in there, we are all praying for your safety. Everything will be okay.

  17. Lee
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

    Jason,

    Thank you so much for your updates…a steady, calm voice amidst so many uninformed and emotional news stories. I really appreciate your efforts!

  18. Dale Buckeridge
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

    Jason thank you so much for your updates. Please keep it coming as you are an important link and so many of us are glued to you for what is happening there because we do care.

  19. Paul Tardif
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

    Jason,
    I have never thought highly of the US media to provide unsensationalized information. But that said, it is obvious the situation there is highly fluid ( no pun intended). If they have resorted to dropping water from helicopters and now waters cannons it would seem that a serious nuclear discharge could happen any day. If at the same time the winds change you could be in some serious danger very quickly which is supported by the fact the US Gov’t is now providing flights out. I hope you have an escape plan and you may want to consider taking the free flight and selling coffee in CO for a week so. Good Luck!!

    • Posted March 18, 2011 at 2:13 am | Permalink

      Thank you, Paul. Am hearing that a lot from friends and family, and considering all options.

  20. Nathan Spear
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

    Jason, you’re covering the events in Japan with the same approach you use in investing. You’re using the best information you have access to and reporting to your readers from various perspectives without being sensational – but being objective. This is a wonderful example to follow and adds credibility to your already stellar reputation. Count this as an endorsement 🙂

  21. Alexander M
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    I found out about Jason Kelly when I bought his book, “Financially Stupid People Are Everywhere” it was a great eye opening work. Jason gained my trust and now I feel as if I have my own confidant in Japan giving me the one up on the situation in JPN. Thank you Jason!

  22. Posted March 17, 2011 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

    Your updates are the best source of information I have. Your philosophy of digging into the raw details and drawing your own conclusions is most logical and could apply to many things, including investments. Please keep up the good work and tell our Japanese friends we care about them.

  23. dianne
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

    I really appreciate the updates. Its alway unfortunate for the general public who have only the regular television news to go buy. We have nuclear experts here in Canada that have been on the radio and tv saying that they doubt there will be any catastrophic explosions and that it is nothing like Trenobal (sp?) etc. One expert said that the temperature inside the cylinders is probably around 100C (boiling) – and that was Tuesday. He said they are cooling everyday. The news, (US and Canada) would have you believe that more expolosions are imenent. I never did trust the news much – too much sensationalism.

  24. David Duchesne
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

    Jason,
    This process of cooling the rods with seawater seems to be treating the symptom. What about the root problem, the close association of rods-which cannot be moved because of the meltdown and the high radiation.. They are barely keeping up with the heat release at this point. I have my doubts that there will be a solution, especially as so many reactors are side by side and spent fuel rods are being kept in the reactor building.

    Is it just a matter of increasing the flow of water? Is there any other strategy planned?

    I don’t like having a bleak outlook, but I have read nothing to suggest a real long term solution. I think people should be moved from the 25 km zone immediately. The government is not being cautious enough. They don’t want to destabilize the rest of the country with 400,000 refugees.

  25. Sean
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

    thanks for the update Jason. It doesn’t seem like anyone really knows what’s going on at these plants.

  26. George Collins
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

    Jason,

    In our age of information management where the indicia of safety ordinarily lag and too often mislead. I’m concerned about your reliance on certain data reports and would much prefer your taking a more protective posture in the Market of safety/wellness management.

    George

  27. james jarvis
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    thanks Jason, for your updates. Do you think our market is overreacting?

  28. Monica
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, Jason. Over the years, I have come to trust you to do your best to give us accurate assessments of the different siutaions. Thus your updates of this nuclear crisis is very much appreciated and for someone living in Japan, I really need relaible information from a fellow resident.
    Thank you once again.

  29. Cam
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    Jason,

    As a U.S. expat living in Tokyo, I can totally agree with your sentiment on the hyperbole in the media. It’s difficult to sift facts let alone anything unanimously agreed upon out of the headlines and articles. I must say that your emails have proven more useful than hours spent at news aggregation sites. Thanks very much for your informative work during these critical times.

  30. Rick
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    Jason, we appreciate your “news from the front”. Keep them coming (if you can).

    The word I’m reading here as well is the containment vessel in [#4?] is possibly/probably breached, the water gone and a “partial” meltdown may be unavoidable. I think the calm civility of the culture has served well the population as a whole. But there are some in the scientific community who are suggesting truly heroic (as in self-sacrificing) efforts may be now the only recourse. The thought is saddening and truly tragic. Whatever bizarre notion of “good” radiation some may cling to, the workers who may be asked to clean the seawater pumps and reattach/refill the cooling plumbing are facing lethal dosages – if it comes to that, their names should be remembered.

  31. Dan Stage
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    Dear Jason,

    You are doing a marvelous job reporting the real facts of the situation in Japan in general and the radiation threat in particular. I have passed your first account to many of my friends and family members,

    Thanks VERY much. After this is all over, I’d like to renew my earlier subscription, despite my current stock market losses.

    Best regards,

    Dan

  32. Gregory Iwan
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    It’s not clear to me whether there is some regulatory “gap” here, in Japan, whether the Japanese nuclear regulator has requested specific technical help (and if so, what that says about their future competence in managing nuclear power), or whether the “help” from the Americans is overreaching and an embarrassment to the indigenous government or people. If this all marks a genuine act of national altruism, voluntarily given, then that’s really terrific. But with the blood money “deal” in Pakistan, I wouldn’t be sure my government (USA) can be trusted with even a 52-card deck.

  33. Tom Luciani
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    Jason, Godbless!

    I thought you may be interested in this:
    A Glowing Report on Radiation
    by Ann Coulter (more by this author)
    Posted 03/16/2011 ET
    Updated 03/16/2011 ET

    With the terrible earthquake and resulting tsunami that have devastated Japan, the only good news is that anyone exposed to excess radiation from the nuclear power plants is now probably much less likely to get cancer.

    This only seems counterintuitive because of media hysteria for the past 20 years trying to convince Americans that radiation at any dose is bad. There is, however, burgeoning evidence that excess radiation operates as a sort of cancer vaccine.

    As The New York Times science section reported in 2001, an increasing number of scientists believe that at some level — much higher than the minimums set by the U.S. government — radiation is good for you. “They theorize,” the Times said, that “these doses protect against cancer by activating cells’ natural defense mechanisms.”

    Among the studies mentioned by the Times was one in Canada finding that tuberculosis patients subjected to multiple chest X-rays had much lower rates of breast cancer than the general population.

    And there are lots more!

    A $10 million Department of Energy study from 1991 examined 10 years of epidemiological research by the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health on 700,000 shipyard workers, some of whom had been exposed to 10 times more radiation than the others from their work on the ships’ nuclear reactors. The workers exposed to excess radiation had a 24 percent lower death rate and a 25 percent lower cancer mortality than the non-irradiated workers.

    Isn’t that just incredible? I mean, that the Department of Energy spent $10 million doing something useful? Amazing, right?

    In 1983, a series of apartment buildings in Taiwan were accidentally constructed with massive amounts of cobalt 60, a radioactive substance. After 16 years, the buildings’ 10,000 occupants developed only five cases of cancer. The cancer rate for the same age group in the general Taiwanese population over that time period predicted 170 cancers.

    The people in those buildings had been exposed to radiation nearly five times the maximum “safe” level according to the U.S. government. But they ended up with a cancer rate 96 percent lower than the general population.

    Bernard L. Cohen, a physics professor at the University of Pittsburgh, compared radon exposure and lung cancer rates in 1,729 counties covering 90 percent of the U.S. population. His study in the 1990s found far fewer cases of lung cancer in those counties with the highest amounts of radon — a correlation that could not be explained by smoking rates.

    Tom Bethell, author of the “Politically Incorrect Guide to Science,” has been writing for years about the beneficial effects of some radiation, or “hormesis.” A few years ago, he reported on a group of scientists who concluded their conference on hormesis at the University of Massachusetts by repairing to a spa in Boulder, Mont., specifically in order to expose themselves to excess radiation.

    At the Free Enterprise Radon Health Mine in Boulder, people pay $5 to descend 85 feet into an old mining pit to be irradiated with more than 400 times the EPA-recommended level of radon. In the summer, 50 people a day visit the mine hoping for relief from chronic pain and autoimmune disorders.

    Amazingly, even the Soviet-engineered disaster at Chernobyl in 1986 can be directly blamed for the deaths of no more than the 31 people inside the plant who died in the explosion. Although news reports generally claimed a few thousand people died as a result of Chernobyl — far fewer than the tens of thousands initially predicted — that hasn’t been confirmed by studies.

    Indeed, after endless investigations, including by the United Nations, Manhattan Project veteran Theodore Rockwell summarized the reports to Bethell in 2002, saying, “They have not yet reported any deaths outside of the 30 who died in the plant.”

    Even the thyroid cancers in people who lived near the reactor were attributed to low iodine in the Russian diet — and consequently had no effect on the cancer rate.

    Meanwhile, the animals around the Chernobyl reactor, who were not evacuated, are “thriving,” according to scientists quoted in the April 28, 2002 Sunday Times (UK).

    Dr. Dade W. Moeller, a radiation expert and professor emeritus at Harvard, told the Times that it’s been hard to find excess cancers even from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, particularly because one-third of the population will get cancer anyway. There were about 90,000 survivors of the atomic bombs in 1945 and, more than 50 years later, half of them were still alive. (Other scientists say there were 700 excess cancer deaths among the 90,000.)

    Although it is hardly a settled scientific fact that excess radiation is a health benefit, there’s certainly evidence that it decreases the risk of some cancers — and there are plenty of scientists willing to say so. But Jenny McCarthy’s vaccine theories get more press than Harvard physics professors’ studies on the potential benefits of radiation. (And they say conservatives are anti-science!)

    I guess good radiation stories are not as exciting as news anchors warning of mutant humans and scary nuclear power plants — news anchors who, by the way, have injected small amounts of poison into their foreheads to stave off wrinkles. Which is to say: The general theory that small amounts of toxins can be healthy is widely accepted –except in the case of radiation.

    Every day Americans pop multivitamins containing trace amount of zinc, magnesium, selenium, copper, manganese, chromium, molybdenum, nickel, boron — all poisons.

    They get flu shots. They’ll drink copious amounts of coffee to ingest a poison: caffeine. (Back in the ’70s, Professor Cohen offered to eat as much plutonium as Ralph Nader would eat caffeine — an offer Nader never accepted.)

    But in the case of radiation, the media have Americans convinced that the minutest amount is always deadly.

    Although reporters love to issue sensationalized reports about the danger from Japan’s nuclear reactors, remember that, so far, thousands have died only because of Mother Nature. And the survivors may outlive all of us over here in hermetically sealed, radiation-free America.

    • Marc
      Posted March 19, 2011 at 2:30 am | Permalink

      I have seen this article just about everywhere. But NOWHERE can I find anything to back up her claims, can you? She leaves no links to her sources and Google produces nothing. I suggest you get your information from someone other than the liar and sensationalist Ann Coultier

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