Published: Friday, 22 April 2011 03:57
Two different stories told on safety of local radioactivity
I opened the Alameda Sun on Friday, April 7, and read with horror its front page article, "Nuclear Scientist Counts Radiation Levels Locally," The article states that UC Berkeley professor Kai Vetter installed three radiation detectors, and began collecting rainwater on the roof of Etcheverry Hall on the Cal campus on March 17, in time for the radioactive plume's arrival on March 19. The article further states that Vetter says fallout in our area from the Fukushima disaster is nothing to worry about, and that "the extremely low levels of both iodine and cesium he measured should reassure people that there is little danger in the presence of these elements.
The levels were low to begin with and are even lower now." The article goes on to say that "Vetter told KTVU that even at the highest levels measured, a person would have to breathe that air for 2,000 years to be exposed to the same amount of radiation that one would experience from a cross-country flight. "You should not be worried about your dog going out and drinking some rainwater — he will not light up," he stated about the rain that recently fell."
Interestingly, an article appeared in Business Insider on April 4, just three days before this article showed up in the Sun, with the heading, "San Francisco Rainwater: Radiation 181 Times Above U.S. Drinking Water Standard." Apparently, the sample was taken "on the roof of Etcheverry Hall on the campus of UC Berkeley on March 23, 2011". The article opens with the following:
"Radiation from Japan rained on Berkeley, California, during recent storms at levels that exceeded drinking water standards by 181 times. A rooftop water-monitoring program managed by the University of California at Berkeley's Department of Nuclear Engineering detected substantial spikes in rain-borne iodine-131 during those torrential downpours. The levels exceeded federal drinking water thresholds, known as Maximum Contaminant Levels — or MCLs — by as much as 181 times or 18,100 percent. Iodine-131 is one of the most cancer-causing toxic radioactive isotopes spewed when nuclear power plants are in meltdown."
There's more: "Rising Risks: Fukushima radiation is blanketing most of the United States and Canada according to the data and visuals published regularly by the Norwegian Institute of Air Research. The risks of that radiation falling with rain, have been downplayed by U.S. government officials and others, who say its impacts are so fleeting and minor so as to be negligible. Nonetheless, radiation falling with rain can cover grass that is eaten by cows and other animals. It can also fall on food crops or contaminate reservoirs that are used for irrigation or drinking water. [Norwegian Institute of Air Research or NILU]"
I don't know about Alameda Sun readers, but I think it is criminally irresponsible for Vetter, a nuclear scientist, to lie to us about the safety and amount of radiation he is measuring, and that the public is being exposed to. Radiation is cumulative, is much more dangerous when it is ingested than when it is outside of you, and Vetter's own tests have shown the levels to be 181 times the MCLs on March 23.
And no, the levels will not be going down, as the Fukushima plant is now a permanent hot spot on this planet that will continue to spew every form of isotope imaginable, including the deadliest of all, plutonium.
As I write this on April 11, the Japanese government's nuclear safety agency has just raised the crisis level of the Fukushima Daiichi power plant accident from 5 to 7, the worst on the international scale. It is out of control, and they have no idea how to shut it down.
The nuclear industry has been bending over backwards in this tragedy to protect their continuing interests in building plants throughout the world.
They could care less about you or I or anything other than themselves, and by telling us that we have nothing to worry about from this ongoing disaster, and to let our dogs drink the rainwater, Vetter should be the last person to take advice from regarding this ongoing tragedy.
Karin Seritis lives in Alameda.