True Strange News wondered, while troubleshooting unexplained health issues, if radiation from Fukushima might be hitting the Northern Coast of California. To find out, we purchased a Nuclear Radiation Detector and got on the radiation network map as a new data point where previously there was none. You can likely see our current readings right now on the GMC Radiation map as Mendo Coast Station. (7:10 am 2/19/2020: Currently their web site is down, check back later.) While the GMC radiation map looks pretty well populated in the big picture…
If you zoom in to the pacific coast, there is not much coverage, only MrMarkel near Eureka for the whole north coast before we added our data station for the city of Mendocino area.
Be sure to look at the date if you see a reading that stands out. The one with 2450 CPM in the bay area on this may is not recent (9-24-2019) and tech support at GQ said that if you do see a current reading this high, it may be someone testing a radioactive sample, or the detector has gone bad, or someone is manually entering data and just put in that number. Check the History if it is available when you click the pin on the map and you can get additional information that way.
We purchased the GMC-320 Plus Nuclear Radiation Detector and configured it to connect to the server. (Not too difficult if you follow the instructions that come with it.) As long as the power stays on, you should see it providing continual radiation level updates to the map, for the good of all.
One person in an Amazon review said he exposed the monitor to a known radioactive sample and it did not show any change. While that sounds concerning there are some limits to the monitor. If a sample is emitting only alpha radiation, for example, it would not be detected by this monitor.
Here are the specifications showing exactly what our radiation monitor is supposed to detect.
The Mendo Coast Station monitor’s only 0.25 to 3.5 MeV beta, and 0.1 to 1.25 MeV gamma, and 0.03 to 3.0 MeV x-ray radiation. One MeV is a million electron volts. An electron volt is a specific amount of kinetic energy, the energy it takes to accelerate a single electron rest through an electric potential difference of one volt in vacuum. When you look at 0.25 MeV, it helps to know that this is the same as 250 KeV. KeV are Kilo electronvolts, thousands of electron volts. If an isotope of Iodine has an average beta emission energy of 971 keV, it should be detected by this meter, because it falls within in the meter’s specs (0.25 to 3.5 MeV beta).
Why Monitor California Coast Radiation?
We think continuous publicly available decentralized data on radiation levels should be available for everyone, especially in light of the unknowns. The clean up of the May 11, 2011 Fukushima nuclear plant disaster was predicted to take at least 40 years and some think it could get worse before it gets better.
“Fukushima is the biggest industrial catastrophe in the history of mankind,” – Arnold Gundersen, a former nuclear industry senior vice president.
The level-7 nuclear meltdowns (three full reactor meltdowns) were caused by a savage tsunami, which itself was caused by a massive 9.0-magnitude earthquake, the fourth most powerful ever recorded on earth since record keeping started in the year 1900.
It was reported in August 2013 by Japanese official Yushi Yoneyama that the plant was still pouring an estimated 300 metric tons of highly radioactive water into the ocean daily.
The Tokyo Electric Power Company is pumping water nonstop through the three reactors to cool melted fuel that remains too hot and radioactive to remove. About 400 tons of water pass through the reactors every day, including groundwater that seeps in. The water picks up radiation in the reactors and then is diverted into a decontamination facility.
Highly radioactive water from Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant is pouring out at a rate of 300 tonnes a day, officials said on Wednesday, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ordered the government to step in and help in the clean-up ….
“We think that the volume of water (leaking into the Pacific) is about 300 tonnes a day,” said Yushi Yoneyama, an official with the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, which oversees energy policy.
Upcoming Huge Release
There is likely a million metric tons of contaminated water in storage tanks and Japan is considering dumping it into the Pacific Ocean because they are running out of space.
Currently, more than 1m tonnes of contaminated water is held in almost 1,000 tanks at the Fukushima Daiichi site, but the utility has warned that it will run out of tank space by the summer of 2022. (Guardian)
Where will it go?
You may have seen this scary chart below. Some claimed it shows radiation measured from the plant in Japan as it traveled across the Pacific Ocean. This is actually, however, only a map of wave heights after the tsunami. Snopes, a fact checking site, stated that this map “… had (and has) nothing to do with the flow or spread of radioactive seepage from Fukushima.” Okay. Whew.
We believe that the above is indeed a map of wave heights because we found others in the same style on several sites. Here’s another example.
Earth Radiation Detection From Space
Does NASA even have the ability to measure radiation plumes like this from space?
In 2011 the official answer was no. NASA said they could detect gamma rays from a large nuke, but not gamma rays from a nuclear core meltdown, not from space anyway. They also said that background radiation in space makes detecting beta radiation on earth too difficult.
However, NASA’s Earth-observing satellites are unable to directly measure radiation-containing plumes, such as those experts fear may have wafted from a damaged Japanese nuclear plant in Fukushima prefecture. … Trying to pick out the Fukushima radioactivity from the huge number of charged particles in outer space would be like finding the proverbial “needle in the haystack.” So, unfortunately, we have to rely on ground-based particle detectors, like the common Geiger counters … (NASA)
They can detect light from very distant galaxies despite all the constant light pollution from the sun, how is that any different? We think the answer is that light shielding is way easier to do than gamma radiation shielding for directional detection. It makes sense that the noise pollution would not be so easily filtered out for ionizing radiation as it is for visible light. Just our guess.
Fukushima Debris Reached California
In any case, when looking at the scary map of wave heights from the 2011 tsunami in Japan, it still makes intuitive sense that those decreasing wave heights emanating from the tsunami source equate to wave propagation. If that is the case, the map would be related to ocean currents and, thus, the flow of debris from Japan across the Pacific Ocean. That’s the way it seems to us. Debris from Japan’s 2011 tsunami has been found in California. For example, a small boat washed ashore near Crescent City, Calif in April of 2013.
The tsunami dragged some 5 million tons of debris into the Pacific Ocean, according to Japanese government estimates. Much of it likely sunk shortly thereafter, but about 1.5 million tons floated away from Japan’s coast, and this tsunami debris is still washing up far afield. (Yahoo)
Some isotopes of concern after a nuclear accident
Many different types of radioactive isotopes are released from a nuclear plant disaster (Source). From the sample list below our Mendo Cost Station should be picking up the isotopes highlighted below, but not any that are too powerful or too weak or have only an alpha decay mode. This is due to the specifications (see above) of the particular detector we are using. The targets and types of cancer listed for each of these aren’t a rule, they are just what is most seen according to the sources we found.
Plutonium 239, half-life: 24,000 years, decay mode: alpha, decay energy: 5.24 MeV
(Target: Lungs. Lung cancer if inhaled.)
Strontium 90, half-life: 29 years, decay mode: beta, decay energy: 0.546 MeV
(Target: Bones. Skin, bone, nose, Leukemia)
Cesium 134, half-life: 2 years, decay mode: beta, gamma, decay energy: 0.698 MeV
(Targets: whole body. Leukemia and of solid cancers)
Cesium 137, half-life: 34 years, decay mode: beta, gamma, decay energy: 1.76 MeV
(Targets: whole body. Leukemia and of solid cancers)
Iodine 131, half-life: 8 days, decay mode: beta, gamma, decay energy: 971 keV
(Targets: thyroid gland, thyroid cancer)
Tritium, half-life: 12 years, decay mode: beta, decay energy: up to 18.6 keV, average 5.7 keV
(Targets: DNA, whole body. Elevated risk of developing cancer.)
There are other isotopes released not listed above. The way the different radioactive isotopes might travel depends on the properties of the parent atom. A radioactive isotope will generally have the same properties as the non-radioactive stable form of the atom.
What about Tritium?
Since we have noticed a strange allergy to the fog that rolls in off of the ocean (but only sometimes) we wonder about radioactive hydrogen in the air and in water droplets. It is a major byproduct of nuclear reactors, but could it make it all the way here from Fukushima? Tritium goes where water goes and it has a half life of 12.3 years, so it does seem possible. Is it very dangerous even if we were there in Japan? Although it is a beta emitter, Tritium has a weak enough decay energy that we would not detect it with our Geiger counter. Tritium is hydrogen-3, a normally rare and radioactive isotope of hydrogen, which replaces regular hydrogen in water molecules.
The NRA says the tanks at Fukushima contain 3.4 peta becquerels (PBq) of tritium, but even if all of the tanks there were emptied into the ocean, it would disperse and when it reached the US west coast about four years later, according to university oceanographer Simon Boxall, it would not be detectable. That sounds like good news.
Tritium is Not Safe
Do low decay energies mean that Tritium is safe? Unfortunately, no. Tritium does pose health risks if ingested, inhaled, or if it enters the body through an open wound or injection.
Tritium is uniformly distributed through all biological fluids within 1–2 hours and is eliminated from the body with a biological half-life of 10 days, the same as for water. A small fraction of the tritium remains incorporated into easily exchanged hydrogen sites in organic molecules. … Since tritium decays by emitting a low-energy beta particle with no gamma radiation it poses a health hazard only once inside the body. … The health hazard of tritium is associated with cell damage caused by ionising radiation that results from radioactive decay, with potential for subsequent cancer formation. (Source)
Some say the danger from Tritium is underrated, others say evidence points in the other direction, that elevated cancers are not seen due to tritium emissions. Either way, avoiding it when possible seems like a good plan.
How to Detect Tritium
We found a detector that measures beta radiation down to 0.16 MeV and in a YouTube video “The Radiation Alert Inspector” is shown to detect Tritium. Remember, the beta radiation emitted by Tritium have an average of 0.05 MeV up to 0.186 MeV max energy, so in the video below, the first Geiger counter they use is likely only detecting part of what is emitted, only the beta above 0.16 MeV energies.
The specifications for the Inspector state the ranges of detection for alpha, beta and gamma radiation.
Another unit, the GCA-07W Professional Digital Geiger Counter measures down to 50 KeV, so it would be even better for detecting Tritium and alpha radiation emitters like Plutonium 239 as well.
Detects Alpha particles above 3 MeV in energy. Beta radiation above 50 KeV; X-Ray and Gamma radiation above 7 KeV. (Amazon)
The GCA-07W at about $400, costs about four times as much as our current detector and it does not have the slick automatic built-in data uploading to a server.
Does GQ Electronics LLC have a more sensitive detector that works like the GQ GMC-320 Plus? Yes, the GQ GMC-600 Plus Counter Detector Dosimeter Alpha Beta Gamma X-ray, is more sensitive and will automatically add data to the map as with the GMC-320 Plus. The GQ GMC-600 Plus detects “Beta,Gamma, X-Ray: ~0.1 MeV, and Alpha ~2.0 MeV” for about $300. (Amazon)
We may upgrade a or seek an even more sensitive detector.
To sum it up, we purchased a $100 radiation detector and did not detect dangerous radiation levels on the California Northern Coast in February 2020 within the limits of our detector. The detector is now on line for all to observe as reading schange. We remain curious about undetectable radiation that could still be causing symptoms and we recommend continued and better monitoring because radiation pollution could get worse and may already be worse than we are able to detect.