Fukushima, Chernobyl & Rocky Flats Health Hazards: Radionucleotides Basics

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Iodine -131 is a fission product of uranium and plutonium, so it is produced in nuclear reactors. It emits alpha and beta rays and is up-taken by the thyroid, where it can lead to thyroid cancer, especially in exposed children. Such cancers may develop 20 or 30 years after exposure. I-131 is a "short-lived' isotope withe a half-life of 8 days. That doesn't mean it's all gone in eight days. Through the process of exponential decay, it requires 10 half-lives for a radio-isotope to reach undetectable levels.  I-131 is currently being emitted from the Fukushima plant and was also a cause of a vast increase in thyroid cancer among those exposed following the Chernobyl disaster.

Caesium-137 is another fission product produced in nuclear reactors.  CS-137 does not occur in nature. It decays by emitting beta rays and has a thirty year half-life. It can contaminate soil for up to 300 years and accumulates in the body in muscle tissue. Once ingested, it remains in the body for 70 days. The Chernobyl disaster caused widespread soil contamination with CS-137 in Europe and the Fukushima disaster will probably have similar effects in Japan.
Strontium-90 is also a fission product produced in nuclear reactors. Unfortunately, it is perceived by the body as calcium and incorporated into bone and teeth, where it can cause bone cancer and leukaemia. Strontium-90 has a half-life of 28.8 years. Elevated levels of Sr-90 in teeth of children born after 1963 led to the ban on above-ground nuclear tests. Sr-90 accounts for many of the Chernobyl heath impacts and, again, similar issues will now probably be seen from Fukushima.

Plutonium-239 is the most toxic radio-nucleotide and a purely man-made poison. One particle of inhaled plutonium is sufficient to cause lung cancer. As a fissile heavy metal, it is used in nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons. There is NO safe level of this highly toxic substance. The Chernobyl reactor was a plutonium plant and so is Reactor 3 in Fukushima. With a half life of 24,000 years, all the plutonium we have manufactured will be around in appreciable amounts for 250,000 years. Compare that with 60,000 years since our early ancestors first left Africa in our distant past and one can see the immense hazard that faces our descendants! Aside from the dangers the world currently faces from a damaged plutonium plant
in Japan, we in Colorado face our own hazards from Rocky Flats former nuclear weapons plant, where plutonium bombs were made for decades. To learn more about the local issues and attend informative lectures on the dangers of managing this site as a wildlife refuge for our children to enjoy (?!!!), visit http://www.rockyflatsnuclearguardianship.org/ .

And to partipate in chants and prayers for world peace and healing with special emphasis on nuclear pollution and nuclear weapons join us  at 7p.m.on Monday nights at Alandi Ashram.

"Nuclear Guardianship combines art, science and remembrance to address the seemingly intractable human-caused problem of nuclear contamination with insight and creativity. By building commitment and community, the project will explore and encourage implementation of Nuclear Guardianship at the site of the defunct Rocky Flats nuclear bomb plant, where for 37 years the fissile plutonium pits for all warheads in the U.S. nuclear arsenal were produced. Tiny plutonium particles remaining in the soil make the site a hazard essentially forever. Nuclear Guardianship is a powerful manifestation of a cultural shift away from secrecy and denial towards ecological responsibility. It will provide a model for long-term environmental caretaking at other radioactively contaminated sites. But first we must challenge the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service plan to manage most of the Rocky Flats site as a wildlife refuge open for public recreation. Nuclear Guardianship is a commitment for the millennia -- a pledge to our children's children's...children."


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This page contains a single entry by Alakananda Ma published on March 26, 2011 3:56 PM.

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