Comparing Japan's Radiation Release to "Background Radiation"

George Washington's picture

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Homeopathy's picture

In a nuclear radiation disaster, radioactive isotopes (radiation poisoning and exposure) will spread through  sea water, rain and end up in the food supply and drinking water of people thousands of miles away. This is not simple background radiation, it is an all out assault. Zeolite can help protect you. Potassium iodine (or potassium iodide) is not a safe supplement, and really does not work. You can find the best foods to eat, how to purify the water you drink and also what herbal substances you can use to help you not get really sick.


destiny's picture

Dangers, Properties, possible Uses and Methods of Purification of radioactively contaminated (drinking) Water (e.g. in Japan); background-attachment: initial; background-origin: initial; background-clip: initial; background-color: initial; height: 16px; line-height: 16px; display: block; font-size: 11px; float: left; background-position: 0px -48px; background-repeat: no-repeat no-repeat;">2011-03-22; background-attachment: initial; background-origin: initial; background-clip: initial; background-color: initial; height: 16px; line-height: 16px; display: block; font-size: 11px; float: left; background-position: 0px 0px; background-repeat: no-repeat no-repeat; margin: 0px;">crisismaven; background-attachment: initial; background-origin: initial; background-clip: initial; background-color: initial; height: 16px; line-height: 16px; display: block; font-size: 11px; float: right; background-position: 0px -112px; background-repeat: no-repeat no-repeat;">Leave a comment; background-attachment: initial; background-origin: initial; background-clip: initial; background-color: initial; height: 16px; line-height: 16px; display: block; font-size: 11px; float: right; background-position: 0px -96px; background-repeat: no-repeat no-repeat; margin: 0px;">Go to comments

Most methods and tools being recommended here on the Internet such as purification by filtration will not lead to your desired result of decontaminating “radioactive water”.

a) Radioactive contamination of drinking water in Japan at this point in time can come about in only two ways:

1) The source is actual surface water like lakes or rivers, possibly filtrated through river banks and thus came into contact with e.g. radioactive rain and/or dust. The Netherlands rely almost totally on water drawn from the Rhine and fed into the drinking water supply after conditioning.

2) The water may have been contaminated after production (e.g. in open cisterns/basins), which in effect is similar to bullet a1).

In all other cases it springs from groundwater (wells) and has often been concealed for years before being extracted again. As limnologists would say “groundwater” has an elephant’s memory, i.e. if you drop a can of used oil in a forest it may take ten years until you become aware of oil traces in your drinking water. This means that on one hand ground water wells should as a rule not yet show contamination from rain fall so shortly after a nuclear accident and on the other hand that when it appears further “down the road” all short-lived contamination should have decayed. This is by no means meant to downplay the issue.

So far I would have thought it unlikely to already find radioactive contamination in water that does not come from surface water or bank filtrate. If it should be true it would be alarming.

Now though, let’s assume it were true as authorities would rather hush up things than exaggerate them, thus let’s take some degree of water contamination for granted.

b) How can you reprocess radioactively contaminated (drinking) water so that it is (relatively) safe to use?

All radioactivity in (drinking) water can take only one of three forms:

1) It is in the form of radioactive hydrogen (called tritium, three times as heavy as normal hydrogen and emitting very weak beta rays, i.e. electrons, which, however, can damage yourgenome and cause cancer etc. when swallowed). When tritium has been released to the environment it will be incorporated in “heavy” water molecules. However, these are chemically indistinct from normal water, hence you cannot chemically separate radioactive water from normal water. You will have to live with tritium in your water and air (vapour) until it has decayed. With a half-life of approx. 12 years it will be down to one thousandth in about 120 years … All you can do (in theory) is move to another location where the tritium from “your” power plant has not yet reached (eventually the tritium will be evenly dispersed world-wide by wind and wave, however, then also the dosage of radiation will diminish reciprocally with its dilution). Or you “import” clean water (and add a pressurised air cylinder from a clean pristine source for good measure).
And don’t forget: once you’ve moved to another place there might be yet another malfunctioning nuclear power station around the corner – from the frypan into the fire … Help close down all nuclear power stations and so-called reprocessing plants!

2) The water could contain gases, esp. radioactive noble gases (like neon (Ne), argon (Ar), krypton (Kr), xenon (Xe), radon (Rn)) Rather unlikely but for the sake of completeness we will mention them here. These can be driven out from the water by heating it to boiling temperature as hot liquids dissolve less gases than cold ones (with solid solubles, e.g. salts, it is vice versa with the rare exception of kitchen salt –sodium chloride- which hardly changes in solubility from almost zero to 100 degrees centigrade).

3) The main contaminants by far should be soluble solids, e.g. metal salts of e.g. radioactive caesium, rubidium etc. These can not be filtered e.g. by charcoal or any ceramic or paper filter with whatever fine pore structure since they are dissolved! You can only either try to demineralise that water (e.g. by reverse osmosis) or purify it by distillation thus leaving the radioactive solids behind (the condensed water in the lids of your pots consists of such distilled water droplets). A third potential method would be chemical precipitation. However, in order to know which chemical to use to precipitate the contaminant(s) with, you’d first have to analyse the water components. And in all probability the traces would be too small for normal analysis and if the salt etc. was determined then you might find there is noprecipitant to go with it or it may have adverse side effects, e.g. be poisonous. So de-mineralisation or distillation it is.

These are the only three viable methods that might help in this predicament. Anything else is “snake oil“.

While activated charcoal does by virtue of adsorption delay the passage even of solved saltsall these filtration methods are only really designed for capturing suspended matter. But what has been bank filtrated or springs from ground water wells is not a suspension, or at least no water utility would dare inject murky water into its system!!!

If anyone could translate this into Japanese – you are most welcome to post this anywhereif you attribute the source, and in any form and language!
See the German version here, if you are more comfortable with German:
And if so, you might also be interested in my collection of articles on the Japanese catastrophe, nuclear energy in general and what all this means for Japan and the rest of the world:

Do not use automatic translators – they will garble the meaning beyond comprehension!!! If you lose this texts precision you might as well drink the water “as is”.

I will not comment further on any other “alternative” purification methods as these have been sufficiently excoriated.

Can you still use contaminated water for the following purposes (keep in mind, it is always a matter of how contaminated it all is!):

> – cleaning a garden path for example,

Yes, but may I suggest: only if the path would be less contaminated than before. But before you breathe contaminated dust from a contaminated path by all means use contaminated water to keep it in place! This is what is already done at Fukushima – they spray water not only for cooling purposes but also to keep the contaminated dust or radioactice debris wet and in place!

> – personal hygiene,

Rather not! You would also absorb some contaminants through your skin, however small. However, if you need to decontaminate yourself from a greater dose than what is in your water, do wash it all down and reduce your exposure! Again – “contaminated” water may be heavily or only negligibly contaminated – use your best judgment! We are talking dangerously contaminated here! The situation in your region may not yet be so dire – so please compare to normal radiation levels from the past – traces of radioactivity may not always be dangerous, but are likely to rise with ongoing leaks and further rainfall adding to ground water supplies from contaminated sources above ground.

> – to wash dishes,

Well, if you dry well it would be better than becoming ill from mouldy dishes! Only if your water were excessively contaminated I wouldn’t. However, your utility will not pump such water and your spigot would be dry by then. When your plates and glasses are without water stains, then there is also no radioactive deposit from radioactive salts. Only if you leavestains – these are the radioactive salts, if you want to take a look at them!

> – laundry,

Weigh your options: if your clothes are contaminated they should be cleaned. The harder you spin dry the less water will still remain on your fibres and the more likely what little water then is left to dry will deposit less radioactive material than you just got rid of by rinsing and washing!

> – cooking?

If you use steam only, instead of cooking in boiling water (like a pressure cooker with a separation between the boiling water and vegetables) and e.g. your vegetables do not come into direct contact with the water – then the steam will be relatively “clean” as this is almost the same process as distillation described above. Also consider frying and other methods that can do away with water. Consider using bottled water if you want to stay on the safe side or if contamination is known to be at dangerous levels, since the spray in e.g. your pressure cooker will still deposit contaminants on your food, even if not in direct contact with the boiling water.

And for drinking, but esp. for your infants or if preparing infant formulas – use bottled water from a reliable brand!!!

And good luck …

If you want to make absolutely sure, this never ever happens again, not in your country and nowhere in the world, then you should also read:

How I brought down the Nuclear Industry in my Country – and how you can do it in yours …

Spread the word – feel free to e.g. repost/retranslate as long as you mention your source.
German overview article:

This is the English translation of the German original
“Radioaktivitaet in Trink- und Brauchwasser, Bedeutung, Beseitigung, Gefahren … das meiste funktioniert so nicht!”
(To be found here:

expatincentam's picture

Here's some data from the WHO and national occupational safety statistics for death rates due to various energy sources:


Energy Source Death Rate (deaths per TWh) Coal – world average 161 (26% of world energy, 50% of electricity) Coal – China 278 Coal – USA 15 Oil 36 (36% of world energy) Natural Gas 4 (21% of world energy) Biofuel/Biomass 12 Peat 12 Solar (rooftop) 0.44 (less than 0.1% of world energy) Wind 0.15 (less than 1% of world energy) Hydro 0.10 (europe death rate, 2.2% of world energy) Hydro - world including Banqiao) 1.4 (about 2500 TWh/yr and 171,000 Banqiao dead) Nuclear 0.04 (5.9% of world energy)

There is no need to go into "cesium" and "iodine" since this dude clearly has no idea what radiation actually is and how dosage rates are defined.

dugorama's picture

concur.  there is a big question about how we replace the 30% of our energy consumption we get from nukes.  but even if I have to ride a bicycle and farm by hand, it beats having some dipwad plant manager accidently irradiate another 10% of our farmland and water forever.

Matte_Black's picture

Another good post GW.

I have learned more about the issue of nuclear power generation in the last few weeks than I ever would have thought possible. I have followed every thread, considered opposing arguments, clicked every link.

I also watched "The Battle of Chernobyl". (which btw is a must see - very excellent and informing)

I have come to the conclusion, during this time, that the potential negative consequences of nuclear fission in human hands is so existentially great that even if the chances of an apocalyptic accident is only 100 x -10^18 percent then we must put this technology away and never use it again - ever, under any circumstances.

It is only a matter of time before one of these things becomes a planet killer.

This is my final judgment on the matter, peak oil be damned.

Die Weiße Rose's picture

I have just had a very long week of heated arguments with some Apologist 'friends' of the old, unsafe nuclear reactors which are leaking in Japan and who insist

that the amount of radiation released from Fukushima is small

compared to the amount of "background radiation".

They even came up with "Bananas are dangerous" which made me almost lose it completely!

I was just about to go insane when I came across this brilliant article above, that gave me the ammo to counter the misleading propaganda from those arsehole apologists.

Your Article above gave me exactly all the info I was looking for

and saved me a lot of time and research to counter their misleading denials.

So I would like to thank you very much, George Washington.

You really made my day with your article

because these bullshit arrogant so-called physicist-scientists started

to get to me, but you saved my day.So I can fight them another day.

Thank you George W. for your brilliant and well researched work.

It was exactly what I needed,

thanks heaps.


Kassandra's picture

I hope someone told them where they could put that banana.

George Washington's picture

Ann Coulter claims that radiation is good for you. So she would presumably WELCOME the banana, as well as radioactive cesium and iodine...

zeusman's picture

Isnt it funny how the far right wing consistently produces prodigious scientific minds such as Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck and now Ann Coulter!!  I am always waiting on the edge of my seat for output from Rush's latest climate models incorporating affects of decreased arctic albedo.    The Right Wing motto:  The mind is a terrible thing......

red_pill_rash's picture

Banana Alert!

A Boston radio station said today there's more radiation coming from a banana than Japan.......I shit you not.


majia's picture

 3/28 Radiation Level Outside Damaged Japan Reactor May Cause Death Within Hours

Water in an underground trench outside the No. 2 reactor had levels exceeding 1 sievert an hour, a spokesman for plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. told reporters in the capital yesterday. Exposure to that dose for 30 minutes would trigger nausea and four hours might lead to death within two months, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. By Michio Nakayama, Tsuyoshi Inajima and Yuriy Humber - Mar 28, 2011 8:50 AM MT
ivars's picture

Drawings of contaminated trenches outside the Fukushima plant buildings, relative to the ocean:

It is kind of obvious, they new these trenches are contaminated immedeately when floor of turbine building was filled with radioactive  water.


Rockfish's picture

The Gulfstream G650 ultra-large-cabin retro - fit lead shielding. Keeping you and your money safe the old fashioned way.

PulauHantu29's picture


Good article. Thnx.

Zina's picture

Some academic reading:

("Radiation doses and risks from internal emitters")

Bicycle Repairman's picture

Great article GW.

Waiting for Trav7777 to get his talking points from HQ......

WaterWings's picture

I think he's overwhelmed this time - too many cited sources above. Then again, that never stopped him from calling everyone in sight, and everyone that hasn't even checked ZH for the day, a mOOnbAt!!1

tim73's picture

How much of this so called artificial radiation was released during the countless nuclear tests up there in the air during 1950's and 1960's? I'd bet every single explosion alone released more radiation more effectively than this accident, not to even mention those megaton blasts in the early 1960's.

kdervin's picture

Looking at the bright side, we're all turning Japanese now.  Rock it!

kdervin's picture

Looking at the bright side, we're all turning Japanese now.  Rock it!

QEsucks's picture

Pretty much spot on which is why ocean dumping pisses me off. I had a thing for seafood,now not so much. Airborn dispersal of heavy isotopes is beyond my paygrade which is why I googled Chernobyl health effects to estimate what's coming my way eventually since these face saving f*ckers can't seem to get it together.

medicalstudent's picture

great article, gw.


dronecraft with megahoses. barge it up.  concrete over this bitch.


or we could pillage the middle east with the remaining liquid resources we have.

Pseudo Anonym's picture

Together with caesium-134, iodine-131, and strontium-90, caesium-137 was among the isotopes with greatest health impact distributed by the reactor explosion.

all of these elements were found in unprecedented amounts in the WTC dust:

SilverFiend's picture

Where are the GW articles blasting the US attacks on Libya?

nevadan's picture

But internal emitters steadily and continuously emit radiation for as long as the particle remains radioactive, or until the person dies - whichever occurs first.

I expect a cadaver would continue to have emitters.  A half life is a half life, whether the host is alive or dead.

umop episdn's picture

True enough, but after death the hot stuff then becomes an external emitter, as the living can move away from the cadaver. I hope.

Radiation of all types follows the inverse-square law. If you double the distance between you and the hot stuff, your dose decreases by four. Triple the distance, and it declines to one ninth. Most radiation is also partly blocked by air or your skin. For instance, alpha particles are stopped by a piece of paper. But once the radiation is emitted internally, alphas are dangerous. It's kinda hard to run away from your internal organs.

johnQpublic's picture

so i should definitely run really fast until i fall down?

i should be able to run faster than my kidneys....they dont even have feet

johnQpublic's picture

are you implying a zombie threat?




nevadan's picture

lol.  Nope, actually just a non sequitur.  Death doesn't end the radiation.  It could be Night of the living Emitter I suppose.

johnQpublic's picture

i still prefer the zombie threat

shoot 'em in the head



this night of the living emitter threat.....with no movies to guide my response, i wouldnt know what to do

i suppose i could just run really fast until i fell down....

AN0NYM0US's picture

apologists for old, unsafe nuclear reactors.

that happen to have been hit by a Tsunami and mag 9 earthquake

Former Sheeple's picture


Storing fuel rods above the reactor is akin to storing gas above your furnace!

ANY reactor placed in a location this seismically active is unsafe most would say, except the "experts" who check for Plutonium 2 weeks after the fact...


AN0NYM0US's picture

Storing fuel rods above the reactor is akin to storing gas above your furnace!

not sure that is the best analogy as that describes most furnace configurations, and sadly the occasional house does blow and sometimes even an entire hood

Former Sheeple's picture


May have been a poor analogy, but I've read that something like 40 years worth (600,000 fuel rods) are stored there - so I think offsite storage in locations not prone to quakes make sense is all!  

AN0NYM0US's picture

Putting a reactor in an area prone to quakes should require extraordinary design precautions or be avoided altogether. Clearly the Fuku design was lacking  given its location. But I think it is safe to say we wouldn't be having this conversation if it was not for the quake and Tsunami or if they had been designed to withstand such a scenario.

George Washington's picture

I linked to the following:

BBC reports (scroll down on left side):

Japanese engineer Masashi Goto, who helped design the containment vessel for Fukushima's reactor core, says the design was not enough to withstand earthquakes or tsunami ...

And note that the peculiar design of the Fukushima reactors may mean that spent fuel rods release far more radiation than the reactors themselves.


ZerOhead's picture

Expect TEPCO and friends to shortly give up on attempts to restart the cooling systems. (As if they would have worked anyway in their hopium dreams...)

Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said plans to use conventional power to restart the cooling systems had been thwarted by the need to lay cables through turbine buildings flooded with the contaminated water.


"The problem is that right now nobody can reach the turbine houses where key electrical work must be done," NISA spokesman Hidehiko Nishiyama said.


"There is a possibility we may have to give up on that plan."


Probably the best course of action now is to prepare what remains of the the reactor buildings to accept vast quantities of pumped seawater with as many pumps as they can find. Welded sections of municipal sized pipes could then be pushed into place through the blasted holes.

Hopefully it will mitigate some of the atmopspheric releases directly into the sea. The vast majority of the radiation released was going to end up there anyway... at least it can help cut down on what is currently being discharged into the atmosphere and thus onto land that poses a threat to both Japan and in fact the northern hemisphere through increases in background radiation at a minimum.

Dilution solution time unfortunately... before things get even worse. (Which they certainly will)



Madcow's picture

Good point - how were scientists supposed to know that there are periodic earthquakes in Japan ???

AN0NYM0US's picture

exactly right, to blame the reactor is sort of like blaming the car when it was actually the drunk driver (in this case the drunken planners who did not take the location of the plant into consideration )

ibjamming's picture

Be serious...just HOW sturdy do you expect it to be built?  Strong enough to survive an asteroid impact?  I'd was tragic but unavoidable...NOTHING is 100% safe.  Maybe we'll ALL regret being "cheap"?

ZerOhead's picture

Prepare yourself for my forthcoming makeover ANONYMOUS... believe me... I am more than happy to have lost the bet!

One month or until 50% of Tokyo evacuates.

It's all in the hands of the Kamikaze now. (Kamikaze = 'divine wind' that saved Japan from the Chinese fleet)

AN0NYM0US's picture

better than the Mistral or the Christmas winds

ZerOhead's picture

These clowns were handed a fully built out 1970's turd sandwich with no immediate reason to question the initial design.

For that reason it's difficult to appropriate fault.

What they did since the earthquake and tsunai however (attempt to save the reactors for future power generation and profits) speaks volumes. They had a window of opportunity and they missed the call.