Radiation Exposure from Japan Nuclear Power Plants... What are they monitoring for? What's next? Are you prepared? Do you know how to use radiological monitors?

As predicted, a radioactive plume has travelled across the pacific, over the Aleutian Islands and down to into the Western United States.  No specific information in regard to radiation levels, and type(s) have been released to the public as of this post submission, 03-18-2011. 

The worst case scenario for the nuclear reactors in Japan is for them to go critical. Do you understand the potential for this?

Unanswered question... If a nuclear reactor goes critical, does this change the outcome and potential impact on the rest of the world?

What's your take on this? 

Are you purchasing iodine (potassium iodate) to be prepared in the event that iodine-131 is released from the reactors because of an escalating problem?

While we are not being given much information through the media, you may be able to make some determinations based on how and where they are monitoring people.

Key Point: Alpha, Beta and Gamma monitoring require different monitoring heads & techniques. If you are aware of these operational procedures, then you have a better chance of understanding what the hazards are.

Example: Where are these individuals being monitored and how close are the monitors being held to the surface of the skin?

Anyone want to make some comments on what you see in the above three photographs taken this week in Japan?

1.  What are they monitoring for? (specifics e.g. alpha, beta, gamma radiation...)

2.  What are the primary monitoring points that you should do on a person?

3.  What is not being provided for these patient/victim(s)?

Not wanting to make this post into a training discussion on how to use radiological instrumentation, it seems appropriate to first ask some questions to see if there is an interest level in this topic before spending time posting something that will be ignored...


Additional Reading: http://www.firefighternation.com/forum/topics/iodine-products-can-y...

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Per CNN...

[1:39 p.m. ET Friday, 2:39 a.m. Saturday in Tokyo] Monitors in Sacramento, California, have detected a small amount of radioactive material from the earthquake-struck nuclear power plant in Japan, an official with the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization said. The exact amounts were not available, but were far less than what would be considered harmful to human health, the official said.
Naturally the reports are going to say "less than harmful" to prevent a panic. Do I believe what I'm hearing via the media and various govt. agencies? HELL NO!! Do I think it's time to hit the bunkers and fallout shelters? No, not at this point in time. Bears close watching however.
Type of radiation is both gamma and beta, from cesium-137 and iodine-131, which has been released at the power plant.

What appears to be missing is a decon station.

Potassium iodine is used to flood the body (specifically the thyroid) with iodine so that it can not take up iodine-131 (which has a half-life of 7.6 days in the body.) It is recommended to take KI before (or within 3-4 hours of) exposure and daily until the threat has passed.

The cesium-137 and iodine-131 released and dispersed presents no hazard to the U.S. at this time. The reason being is that the release is super diluted and dispersed through the atmosphere.

Whatever level of cesium-137 and iodine-131 that may reach the west coast will be even further diluted should it pass over to the east coast.

Panic buying of KI in the U.S is a result of ignorance of nuclear power plants, radiation, high altitude air streams, dilution and half-life.
just posted this forum topic...

prescription verses over the counter... is it real? do you need to take it? will the east coast ever have access to it should there be an east coast nuclear accident? doesn't look good...

We just had a flight from Japan come into O'Hare Airport (Chicago) and set off the radiation detectors. No real danger apparently, just slightly higher radiation levels than normal. Or so that's what we're told.
According to the news here in Vermont, The radiation detectors in California that have detected a low level rise also pick up a low level rise when someone walks by that has been to the doctor and had an x-ray. The sensitivity is very high and also they did not mention if there was any way of distinguishing what the radiation is coming from i.e. Cesium, Iodine, Argon, or whatever.
I went through decontamination training as part of our local CERT team for the one reactor in Vermont, it is a GE boiling water reactor generation 2, like 22 others in the US and the ones at Fukishima. As for the photos of the testing, they have a different detector head than the ones we used and not being a movie, you cannot tell if they went a little closer without touching the person. The areas of the body that should be tested are the parts you end up touching all of the time i.e. hands, face, etc. As for what is not being provided, that depends on how the testing came out as to what is done.
I'll tell you what's wrong.....those probes are wrapped in plastic, and plastic blocks alpha/beta radiation, and that is the most important thing to be scanning people for because it is the most dangerous when ingested or breathed. So the levels being reported are wayyyyyyyyy under what is really there and released
Funny I was just searching trying to find out what model instruments they were using, and came across this page and just had to post because I'm sure that is what you are eluding too here. lol so I signed up just to tell you fine people that,Peace
BTW, I'm not a firefighter, but I work for a Nuclear instrumentation manufacture.....

The damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex in Japan is shown in a satellite image from Monday. Explosions and leaks at the plant's nuclear reactors after an earthquake and tsunami have given rise to concerns about radiation exposure beyond Japan. DigitalGlobe/AP

You are so spot on Oneness! My intent for this post was to call attention to the fact that firefighters, generally speaking, have no clue about radiation or how to monitor victims that might have been contaminated. We need to take advantage of the images and videos documenting a nuclear disaster and how to respond. The key point here is that this disaster(s) and earthquake hit the one place on earth that is considered the most prepared. Are we as prepared... I don't think so.

Wall Street Journal: WASHINGTON—U.S. government officials, in private sessions on Capitol Hill Friday, repeatedly declined to give details of radiation measurements at the stricken Japanese nuclear complex, saying the situation is shrouded in a "fog of war." (Full Story)

Separately, the Obama administration said Friday "miniscule quantities" of radiation from the Japanese nuclear accident were detected Friday at a monitoring station in Sacramento, Calif., a day after similar traces of radiation were detected in Washington state. The administration said the levels of the radioactive isotope xenon 133 were approximately equivalent to one-millionth the dose received from the sun, rocks or other natural sources.

The number one job for any government and emergency response agency is to keep folks settled down, not creating panic and coming up with a plan once things settle down. Just watch the news... Everyone is telling us that there is no problem. Do you believe them? Someone writes a news release and everyone uses it as the foundation for their reporting. Don't believe everything you hear and use your own eyes and ears to make any assumptions about what's going on...

What worried me personally about monitor use seen in the photos above is that they were scanning for Beta and Gamma, not Alpha considering they were covering the monitor heads with a plastic bag. That would stop Gamma rays from reaching the detector head. Another GREAT example of monitoring Alpha particles can be done using a pack of cigarettes. Potassium used as a fertilizer for tobacco plants contain molecules of Polonium-210 and Lead-210, both alpha emitters. Alpha detectors require very close, almost intimate touching to detect the presence of Alpha particles. The photos show workers scanning folks VERY close. If it's Beta or Gamma, you don't have to be as close with the detector head. Gamma... distance means nothing if it's there. I'm relying on you to comment back on these points to add validity and content.

At this point, in regard to the Japan crisis, unless you are in Japan or sitting offshore in a boat, the amount of radiation exposure is very low, probably no worse than getting a cat scan or x-ray. I have already commented here with a post about folks panicking and hoarding the KI pills. Unless we see meltdowns or other problems that cause the reactors to go critical, I don't see any problems down the road. The problem is however that there are no KI pills available due to the panic on the West coast. Should there be a problem elsewhere, folks may need to come up with a plan B if they live in the midwest (Madrid Fault?) or the east coast.

Thanks so much for you input,


Note: With your being new here on the FFN I would like to first welcome you to our site and secondly point out that only the brighter firefighter and chief officers will be replying to this post. Take note of the folks responding to my post. These folks are the ones to watch and ask question should you need further information. That's been my personal experience here on this site. I'm hoping for others to engage here and break away from playing word games to focus on something that could seriously affect their lives should this type of accident occur or should things get worse in Japan.

kind of gives one a new perspective in regard to getting a Cat Scan... also, please note that contamination / exposure graphs are not written yet for nuclear accidents... now bomb blasts? readily available...
Plastic wouldn't stop the gamma, might attenuate the readings a little though cause it is modifying the detectors geometry . but the plastic would absolutely effect your beta readings. you can tell alpha/beta probes because of their vulnerable detection window which is only protected by a large screen, this is because anything else in front will block what you are trying to measure.

"The administration said the levels of the radioactive isotope xenon 133 were approximately equivalent to one-millionth the dose received from the sun, rocks or other natural sources."
This is highly suspicious, remember we are also dealing with spent fuel rods, and as isotopes decay, they turn into other isotopes. So if you were to look at a spectrum analysis of what is coming out of that area, you would see many isotopes at various energy levels, it seems to me like the are 'cherry picking' an isotope to downplay the seriousness.
Something that is being under reported is that reactor 3 has what is called 'MOX' fuel rods which is a uranium plutonium oxide mix, and is 2 million times more deadly than enriched uranium.
So what just hit the west coast was from the initial explosion, yea not so high in the big picture, but what about what caused evacuations and 'stay indoors' incident afterwords, what will that be like when it hits the west, or whatever happens today over in Japan that won't be reported so not to cause a panic (for the stock market that is, cause that is more important than Americans lives). I think it's safe to assume all that smoke pouring out of the plant is radioactive, and just look at the damage in that satellite picture, is it really reasonable to assume things will be under control? thinking this will make BP look like an oil spill in your driveway, but man, I hope I'm soooo wrong.
A nuclear power plant is a controlled nuclear bomb going off in slow motion.........
Here is an article about other pill alternatives and preparedness:


Examination Typical effective dose (mSv) (millirem)

X-ray Personnel security screening scan 0.00025 0.025[19]
Chest X-ray 0.1 10
Head CT 1.5 150
Screening mammography 3 300
Abdomen CT 5.3 530
Chest CT 5.8 580
CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy) 3.6–8.8 360–880
Chest, abdomen and pelvis CT 9.9 990
Cardiac CT angiogram 6.7-13 670–1300
Barium enema 15 1500
Neonatal abdominal CT 20 2000

From here - http://www.fda.gov/Radiation-EmittingProducts/RadiationEmittingProd...

Procedure Exposure #chest xray time period equivalent
Msv equivalent natural backgrn radiation
Chest xray o.o2Msv 1 2.4 days
Skull xray 0.1 5 12 days
Upper G.I. 6 300 2.0 years
Barium Enema 8 400 2.7 years

“While CT scans can provide great medical benefits, there is concern about potential future cancer risks because they involve much higher radiation doses than conventional diagnostic X-rays,” Dr. Smith-Bindman said.

For example, one in 270 women and one in 600 men who undergo a CT coronary angiography (a heart scan) at age 40 will develop cancer as a result.


From here - http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/fact-sheets/bio-effec...

The pie chart...shows a breakdown of radiation sources that contribute to the average annual U.S. radiation dose of 620 mrem. Nearly three-fourths of this dose is split between radon/thoron gas and diagnostic medical procedures. Although there is a distinction between natural and man-made radiation, they both affect us in the same way.

Above background levels of radiation exposure, the NRC requires that its licensees limit maximum radiation exposure to individual members of the public to 100 mrem (1mSv) per year, and limit occupational radiation exposure to adults working with radioactive material to 5,000 mrem (50 mSv) per year.

From here - http://www.fda.gov/Radiation-EmittingProducts/RadiationEmittingProd...
The effective doses from diagnostic CT procedures are typically estimated to be in the range of 1 to 10 mSv. This range is not much less than the lowest doses of 5 to 20 mSv received by some of the Japanese survivors of the atomic bombs. These survivors, who are estimated to have experienced doses only slightly larger than those encountered in CT, have demonstrated a small but increased radiation-related excess relative risk for cancer mortality8.

Presently, a person's exposure (in the U.S.) to radiation is from natural (background -solar, radon, other) sources AND medical procedures.

A CAT scan (see data above) can expose a patient to high cumulative exposures. Enough so that there are collateral cancers/deaths from CAT scans. My point being, unless there are some significant developments from Japan, I would worry more about my exposures from a daily basis than from anything that may drift over from Japan.
Thanks Oneness, and Capt. Schlags for your helpful information. Who ever thought that we would actually have to know what to do in a radiation haz-mat release. In every single haz-mat class that I have ever taken in 24+ years, it was said that there has never been a radiological release of any kind in the US, so we were given the three types of radiation, and what blocks them, along with the Time-Distance-Shielding talk. Please keep the information coming.
BTW, I had a World Trade Center responder come to the clinic that I part-time at last week, who has many respiratory issues now, from working at the pile, after the Head of the EPA certified to him and all the others at Ground Zero, that the air quality was perfectly fine! I have read about the many symptoms and diseases that continue to plague the WTC workers, but it really brings it home when you see the man/woman in person. If you believe anything that a federal agency of any type has to say about any emergency, you are a complete and willful idiot!

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