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Absence of a radioactive iodine hazard in the U.S. from Japanese nuclear reactors

Discussion in 'Addressing Biotoxin, Chemical & Food Sensitivities' started by richvank, Mar 17, 2011.

  1. richvank

    richvank Senior Member

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    Hi all.

    I am saddened by the nuclear reactor disasters occurring in Japan, compounding the misery from the earthquake and the tsunami that the people there have had to endure, and I hope and pray that they will be able to get control of the situation soon.

    There are apparently many people concerned that radioiodine from the Japanese reactors could make it to California, and there is a run on potassium iodide supplements for protection from this possibility.

    I just want to note that I think it would be virtually impossible for this to be a problem.
    First, the iodine isotope of concern is I-131, which has a half-life of about 8 days. When the fission reaction is stopped, no further I-131 is produced, and what is there decays with an 8-day half-life, so that in a few multiples of 8 days, essentially none is left.

    Even more important is that there is a great deal of water between Japan and California. The chemistry of iodine and water is well-known. Iodine will readily dissolve in water to form iodide and iodate ions, and the gaseous form, I2, will cease to exist. The huge volume of ocean water will dilute these ions, and their radioactivity will decay with the 8-day half-life.

    The nuclear community was reminded of this years ago when the Three-Mile Island accident occurred. Part of the core melted, and some of the radioactive xenon and krypton (noble gases) was released, but there was no iodine release, because plenty of water remained within the containment dome, and the iodine dissolved in it and was converted to iodide and iodate. This was in contrast to what happened at the Chernobyl accident, in which the water was lost in the fire fueled by the burning graphite moderator. Graphite is not used in boiling water reactors or pressurized water reactors of the types built in Japan, the U.S. and elsewhere for power generation.

    It's true that if there is a large thermal convection produced by heat release from the reactors, radionuclides can be carried up into the upper atmosphere, and can circle the globe without contact with ocean water. However, there is a big dilution factor in this case, and it will take some time for rainout of the soluble radionuclides to occur, limiting the dose rate again in two ways.

    So the bottom line is that it would be virtually impossible for radioiodine to travel through the atmosphere across the ocean from Japan to the U.S.

    This does not rule out travel of other radionuclides, and I would be surprised if the sensitive radiation detecting instruments worldwide would not be able to detect some.
    However, considering the long distance between Japan and the U.S., and the associated dilution in the ocean and the atmosphere, the resulting dose rates will likely be very low.

    I am not in any way minimizing the magnitude of this tragedy, especially for the Japanese people, but I think it is important for people in the U.S. to understand the limits on the possible direct consequences of radiation exposure from a source of release so far away.

    Best regards,

    Rich
  2. Wayne

    Wayne Senior Member

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    Ashland, Oregon
    Hi Rich,

    Thanks much for your description of the relative risks of the nuclear fallout from the Japanese nuclear reactors. My partner has been fairly concerned about this, since we live on the west coast of the US. Interestingly, I have way less concern. With all the time in my hands, I've been able to listen various experts/commentators report some very similar things to what you're saying, and I've perceived them to be objective and credible (in stark contrast to some of the lines put out by the nuclear energy lobbying entities).

    Another reason for my relative calmness about this situation is because of the ME/CFS health challenges I deal with. I've tested positive for Lyme, and feel quite certain I've had it for the past 30 years or so. I think there's a good chance I may test positive for XMRV, which leaves me with a great deal of uncertainty. In short, the health challenges I currently face feel far more relevant and urgent than the possibility that radioactivity from across the ocean may further impact my health (not to minimize the dangers faced by the nation and citizens of Japan).

    Thanks again for your post. It always helps to have calm and objective analysis during times like these.

    Best Regards, Wayne
  3. Sing

    Sing Senior Member

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    New England
    I think it may turn out to be trickier than this analysis suggests, because, first of all--It ain't over.

    And next, radioactive particles take what--30,000 years to become harmless? So whatever is released onto the soil or objects or people or the sea, etc. will affect whatever it comes in contact with, with radioactivity. By this means it will circulate through the environment, even though most of the particles may stay local--I don't know.

    To me this is enormously sad for Japan, and for the Earth. I see it as a deeply serious wound, or illness, which is beyond our collective skill to heal. Maybe some day we will know how to turn this around, stop the radioactivity and deal with the waste. It would be a very fine thing for scientists to master.

    Sing

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