Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Workers Exposed to Plutonium: The Element of Death

Poor risk-management at a nuclear energy research center (ran by Japan's Atomic Energy Agency)  yesterday resulted in workers' exposure to plutonium:
Plutonium found in lungs of 5 workers after Ibaraki accident. The Asahi Shimbun, June 7, 2017,

OARAI, Ibaraki Prefecture--Five workers were exposed to radiation on June 6 during an inspection at a nuclear energy research center here, including one with 22,000 becquerels of plutonium in his lungs, the facility’s operator said.

The four other workers had levels of plutonium-239 between 2,200 and 14,000 becquerels in their lungs. All five were also found with as much as 220 becquerels of americium-241.

So far, none of the workers has complained of health problems, according to the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, the often-criticized operator of the Oarai Research and Development Center.

A rough calculation of the 22,000-becquerel figure translates to internal radiation exposure of 1.2 sieverts over one year and 12 sieverts over 50 years. There have been no past examples of such a high level of internal radiation exposure.

However, an agency official said about the worker in his 50s, “The amount is not enough to cause acute radiation damage.”
I just shake my head when I read this story.

Plutonium is prone to mishaps that lead to worker and community exposures. Iversen's Full Body Burden (see web page here) chronicles plutonium mishaps in Colorado, describing repeated releases of radiation into the surrounding community from this unstable element used to create atomic weapons.

Given the dangers involved with this element, I have to wonder what exactly Japan's Atomic Energy Agency was doing with that plutonium?

I thought the LDP had given up on the breeder reactor program that runs on plutonium fuel but Wikipedia is reporting otherwise in its discussion of the Monju reactor here.

Japan's Atomic Energy Agency, which is responsible for this accident, has been criticized by Japan's Nuclear Regulatory Agency (NRA) in the past for safety violations, as noted by the Asahi article quoted above:
The NRA has severely criticized the agency in the past for shoddy management.

The agency was described as being unfit to safely operate the Monju prototype fast breeder-reactor in Fukui Prefecture.

It was also found to have handled radioactive waste in a slipshod manner at its Tokai reprocessing facility. (source here)
The "agency official" who said the amount is "not enough to cause acute radiation damage" knows well and good that the amount is beyond sufficient to cause an early death. Dr. Helen Caldicott states that a single plutonium atom embedded in your lungs or testes (if you're a guy) is enough to exact an early death.

 What does the US Government have to say about plutonium exposure effects?
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry

"If plutonium were to enter your lungs today, much of the plutonium would still be in your body 30-50 years later”

“The isotope 239Pu was first used in fission weapons beginning in 1945 and is produced during the bombardment of uranium (235U) by neutrons in nuclear reactors. Approximately one-third of the total energy produced in a typical commercial nuclear power plant comes from the fission of 239Pu produced from 235U”… Approximately 1,855 metric tons of plutonium was estimated to exist worldwide at the end of 2003; most of which was found in spent fuel from nuclear power plants.

Atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons, which ended in 1980, is the source of most of the plutonium in the environment worldwide, which released approximately 10,000 kilograms of plutonium. Trace amounts of plutonium (including 238Pu, 239Pu, 240Pu, and 241Pu) are found worldwide, mostly due to fallout from atmospheric nuclear testing…

Plutonium released to the atmosphere reaches the earth's surface through wet and dry deposition to the soil and surface water. Once in these media, soluble plutonium can sorb to soil and sediment particles or bioaccumulate in terrestrial and aquatic food chains….

…Most of the body burden of plutonium resides in the skeleton and liver, and following inhalation exposures, in the lung and lung-associated lymph nodes. As a result, these tissues receive relatively high radiation doses following exposures to plutonium. Radiation-induced toxicity to these tissues has been documented in human epidemiological studies and in animal models…

Possible associations between exposure to plutonium and mortality have been examined in studies of workers at the U.S. plutonium production and/or processing facilities (Hanford, Los Alamos, Rocky Flats), as well as facilities in Russia (e.g., Mayak) and the United Kingdom (e.g., Sellafield). The Mayak studies provide relatively strong evidence for an association between cancer mortality (bone, liver, lung) and exposure to plutonium….

Majia Here: The health effects of plutonium were studied through the deliberate contamination of people with plutonium: read The Plutonium Files

Plutonium was well named. It is an element that brings disintegration through its criticalities, chemical toxicity and radioactive decay.

Plutonium is pursued precisely because it serves death.


Fukushima Diary [False report ?] 570,000Bq/Kg of Plutonium was measured from black substance in Futaba machi

[Excerpted] paper based media (Fukushima minyu) reported this Assistant prof Kimura detected 570,000 Bq/Kg of Plutonium from moss (black substance) taken in Futaba machi Fukushima.
The sample was taken in 10/2/2012. The type of Plutonium is not announced.
Assistant Prof. Kimura comments, “We are going to have to consider if it’s really safe.

Aug 22, 2012
(Jiji Press)--Plutonium believed to originate from Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant has been detected at 10 locations in four municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture, the science ministry ...
Jul 30, 2012
Plutonium is a special concern because it poses significant biological health risks as an alpha emitter. All forms of ionizing radiation – gamma, beta, and alpha – pose serious health risks, but alpha emitters such as uranium ...
Jul 03, 2012
[Yablokov] We are seeing something that has never happened – a multiple reactor catastrophe including one using plutonium fuel as well as spent fuel pool accidents, all happening within 200 kilometers of a metropolis of 30 ...
May 20, 2012
According to Arjun Makhijani and Scott Saleska in The Nuclear Power Deception: A Report of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research "the classification of plutonium according to grades is somewhat arbitrary" (p.
Mar 15, 2012
Unfortunately, we may be getting to experience more of plutonium. I've pasted in the original post plus a brief update: Today's news: Enenews reports "Gov't: Highest plutonium concentration found almost 20km away from ...
Apr 01, 2012
Researchers examining the area within a roughly 20-mile radius of the damaged plant found levels of radioactive plutonium were about double those from residual fallout from U.S. and former Soviet Union above-ground ...
Mar 16, 2011
In addition, plutonium is a particularly long-lived and toxic material. The half-life of plutonium-239 is 24,000 years, so if it escaped in smoke from a burning reactor and contaminated soil downwind, it would remain hazardous ...
Aug 02, 2011
Plutonium Contamination In Japanese Rice Field 50 k from Fukushima. Media Silent About Plutonium Contamination of Japanese Rice Hat tip CaptD at ...
Sep 26, 2012
I recently posted about the highly radioactive black soil/dirt/mold or whatever it is being found in Japan. Paul Langley, who writes the incredibly ...
Sep 24, 2012
Bobby1 of Optimal Predication has found a Japanese spectroscopic analysis of the mysterious and highly radioactive black "dirt" in Japan: ...
Sep 05, 2012
[Translated excerpt] Black powder (statement, Sat-black substance) from 950 micro sievert per hour seems to be detected in Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture. You can ... Another Update on Radioactive Black "Dirt" in Japa.


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