Update #5 on Japanese Reactor Accident: Radiation
UPDATE #5 ON JAPANESE REACTOR ACCIDENT
AND POSSIBLE WEST COAST USA FALLOUT
29 March 2011 - noontime
Over the last days our radiation recordings here at
OBRL-Greensprings have been at normal levels. No increases in
background nor isolated bursts have been recorded.
The following letter on Radiation Measuring may be of general
If you want to detect specific radionuclides, then a
"standard" thick-walled GM counter will not be of much
help. Especially those old "civil defense" units with
yellow paint are worthless to detect anything except the most
extremely high radiation.
What you need is a good broad-spectrum GM counter, something with
a thin mica end-window, which will allow one to evaluate for increases
in general background. GM counters with thick metal walls are
made primarily to detect hard gamma radiation -- those are not much
help in this kind of work. Alpha particles as from uranium or
plutonium, can be stopped by a sheet of paper, while the weaker beta
particles require nothing greater than a sheet of aluminum foil to be
halted. Stronger beta and gamma will be deeply penetrating,
however. So you really want to have a detector that gets all of
these types of radiation. Uranium and plutonium are
alpha-emitters, for example.
However, if a few radionuclides are on the increase, as with
iodine-131 or cesium-137 from an atomic accident, or the
heavier-weight mixed-oxide (MOX) elements from the reactor core, then
given how these get distributed and mixed into the atmosphere over
great distances, more specialized equipment is necessary, as I discuss
Firstly, to repeat myself, the two citizen-run radiation
monitoring websites I have recommended are organized by companies that
sell exactly these kinds of more sensitive GM equipment.
And here is one run by the EPA:
And I will repeat myself in stating the belief that the very
large distances across the Pacific Ocean, from Japan to North America,
make any kind of strong radiation contamination very unlikely.
Not impossible, but unlikely. For example, the distance from the
Chernobyl nuclear accident site to those parts of Europe which
suffered from contaminations is about 1/3 the distance or less, as
from Japan to the West Coast of North America. I do not wish to
fully downplay the risks, but it is important to be realistic.
We are personally taking the milder iodide supplements here,
"Kelp Caps" with 325 micro-grams of natural iodine, as a
precaution, but continue drinking our well water.
We do use and sell the RadAlert 100, which is excellent for this
kind of monitoring, but haven't had any stock available to sell since
a few days after the start of this crisis. The manufacturers are
almost exclusively selling straight to Japan these days. But it
is worthwhile to shop around and see what is available. We still
have some books on the issue of atomic radiation exposure, under the
left-side section on "Electrosmog and Nuclear Radiation
To evaluate risk from radiation exposure, a good first step is to
use such a sensitive mica end-window GM counter to monitor open-air
readings, as well as readings at the soil surface, or on open
surfaces, or in snow or rain-water samples. That's fairly easy
to do, and you just hold the detector close to the material or surface
you wish to evaluate. If you can hook it to a computer for
data-acquisition, so much the better, and you can then watch a
graphical display of radiation over days, to see if it is stable or
increasing. If your instrument has a continuous counting
feature, you can also do longer time-counts, run a background check
over 1 hour for example, with a second equal time-count while the
device is placed over a water sample from your rain or snow, or with
it resting on the soil surface. Divided by 60, you can then
compare the counts-per-minute from air-background with rains or soil
conditions. They should be approximately the same, though in
some areas there is natural radioactive minerals in the soil, or as in
some parts of the dry Western USA, residues of atomic fallout from the
time of atmospheric bomb tests. So one must be careful about
just what is being measured on the soil surface. It is therefore
better to take a sample of rainwater which has never been in contact
with the surface.
That's what we are doing here -- air, surface and snow-rain
samples with a sensitive GM counter -- which so far have not shown any
significant increases in general background radiation.
Such raw measuring with a sensitive GM counter is the first step in
keeping alert to a problem.
The next steps are dependent upon what you find with the first
If you pick up even a doubling of background over a longer period
-- say a rise from 20 to 40 cpm over more than a few hours -- that is
not likely due to merely cosmic ray events, and should raise concerns
and warrant continued monitoring. If it persists, then other
procedures, such as inquiring if other stations are getting something
similar, is necessary. Consult those monitoring maps I give
above, for example. That's where the radiation-mapping networks
are very important. One station might show a blip or burp of
higher readings over a short time, but if it does not persist and is
not reflected in a wider region, then it is unlikely to be due to
larger environmental contamination.
If a thin-walled GM counter starts to show a continued high
count, a typical analytical procedure is to use pumps to make 24-hour
air samples, pulling a larger volume of air through a filter disk.
That will concentrate any small radioactive particles which might be
diffusely spread in the air. The filter disk is then subjected
to evaluation on a sensitive GM counter. If something of greater
increase is found using that procedure, then the same filter-disk is
subjected to further analysis with a pulse-height or spectrum analyzer
to figure out the exact species of radionuclide giving the readings.
Concentrating water samples for possible radiation is a more difficult
procedure, requiring firstly a larger sample of rainwater which is
then concentrated by boiling or evaporation. The devices I
worked with years ago used a 1 meter glass tube, with the bottom
composed of a metal tray which could be removed. You filled the
tube half-way with rainwater, subjected it to heating whereupon the
water slowly simmered and evaporated away, leaving an evaporation
residue in the metal pan at the bottom. The metal pan is then
subjected to separate evaluations just like the air-sample filter
Unfortunately we don't have the equipment for those latter two
steps -- neither the volume air-filter or water-evaporation sampling
systems, nor the spectrum analyzer for specific radioisotopes.
However, since we are not detecting any higher levels from open
air, surface or snow-water samples, those additional steps do not
appear necessary, in my view. (Not yet, anyhow.) If we
detect increased open-air or rainwater readings, we'd probably shift
our work activities in that direction, and try to find the funds to
obtain that kind of equipment.
I was in Pennsylvania in late October 1976 when Chinese atom bomb
fallout hit the region, working at the Elsworth Baker Laboratory, then
under the direction of Dr. Richard Blasband. We measured about a
20% increase in readings in the open air, with a doubling of readings
right at the level of the surface soil and grass. That was
significant, and it reflected a lot of diffuse stuff settling down
from the Chinese test. Milk products were primarily affected,
and were banned for a period. To my knowledge, with respect to
the Japanese reactor accident, this is happening today only in Japan,
maybe in some outlying Islands or on the Chinese coast, but not
to my knowledge anywhere in North America, far across the
So I would agree with those who say people should take
precautions in Japan, and that people in North America are, for the
moment, not at risk. But I disagree with any suggestion
that "only" a "mere" doubling of general
background would be insignificant, especially if this is persistent
and found over a larger area. Given the independent monitoring
efforts, we have a double-check against whatever the government-run
laboratories are stating.
For more info on that old Chinese fallout problem, as a
comparison to the modern problem, see here:
Simpson R.E., Shuman, F.G.D., Baratta, E.J. and Tanner, J.T.
(1981). Projected dose commitment from fallout contamination in milk
resulting from the 1976 Chinese atmospheric nuclear weapons test.
Health Physics. 40. pg. 741-744.
I hope this helps.
Please keep me informed if you do learn of any increased
radiation levels in North America. The reactors in Japan
continue to belch out more radioactive debris, and so it could
eventually have some consequential effects even on the other side of
Also note, nothing here addresses the important issue of
oranur effects, which is a general irritation of the atmospheric
life-energy which cannot be shielded, but which typically creates a
variety of biological reactions, including blue-glowing or blue-haze
anomalies in the atmosphere surrounding the accident sites. This
can occur even in the absence of particle-detections, though typically
is most acute right near to where the accident or incident.
Underground a-bomb tests created something of a global oranur
reaction, however. It requires very specialized equipment to
detect, and we probably are the only facility in the Western half of
the USA to monitor for that, given the controversy which surrounds the
subject. But so far there is nothing unusual happening there
either. For example we were recording up to 4000 cpm from high
sunspot activity back in the mid-2000s, but throughout the entire
period since the Japanese reactor accident, the oranur readings have
never gotten higher than 800 cpm. Again, those are not standard
And it is not clear to us how these instruments would react if we
do get a clear fallout incident. I only mention it because
several persons have asked about this.
For more information on the oranur subject, please read the
section on "The Oranur Experiment" by Dr. Wilhelm Reich, in
his book Selected Writings. That book is available in the
"Wilhelm Reich" section of our on-line bookstore, along with
another report on the oranur subject: Unusual Long-Distance
Atmospheric and Geophysical Effects from Underground Nuclear Bomb
Tests and Nuclear Power Plant Accidents: Suppressed Scientific
Evidence. See the "Radiation Hazards" section.
The new 2010 edition of my Orgone Accumulator Handbook also has
an expanded discussion on these issues.
James DeMeo, PhD
Director, Orgone Biophysical Research Lab
Ashland, Oregon, USA