Radiation Effects on Humans:
Radiation occurs when unstable nuclei of atoms decay and release particles. There are many different types of radiation. When these particles touch various organic material such as tissue, damage may, and probably will, be done. Radiation can cause burns, cancers, and death. Humans, – being rather fragile – when faced with radiation exposure are getting seriously damaged…
The unit used to measure radiation dosage is the rem, which stands for roentgen equivalent in man. It represents the amount of radiation needed to produce a particular amount of damage to living tissue. The total dose of rems determines how much harm a person suffers. At Hiroshima and Nagasaki, people received a dose of rems at the instant of the explosions, then more from the surroundings and, in limited areas, from fallout. Fallout is composed of radioactive particles that are carried into the upper atmosphere by a nuclear explosion and that eventually fall back to the earth’s surface. Although a dose of just 25 rems causes some detectable changes in blood, doses to near 100 rems usually have no immediate harmful effects.
Doses above 100 rems cause the first signs of radiation sickness including:
- some loss of white blood cells
Doses of 300 rems or more cause temporary hair loss, but also more significant internal harm, including damage to nerve cells and the cells that line the digestive tract. Severe loss of white blood cells, which are the body’s main defense against infection, makes radiation victims highly vulnerable to disease. Radiation also reduces production of blood platelets, which aid blood clotting, so victims of radiation sickness are also vulnerable to hemorrhaging. Half of all people exposed to 450 rems die, and doses of 800 rems or more are always fatal. Besides the symptoms mentioned above, these people also suffer from fever and diarrhea. As of yet, there is no effective treatment–so death occurs within two to fourteen days.
In time, for survivors, diseases such as leukemia (cancer of the blood), lung cancer, thyroid cancer, breast cancer, and cancers of other organs can appear due to the radiation received.
Major Radiation Exposure in Nuclear Disaster Events:
Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Many people at Hiroshima and Nagasaki died not directly from the actual explosion, but from the radiation released as a result of the explosion. For example, a fourteen-year-old boy was admitted to a Hiroshima hospital two days after the explosion, suffering from a high fever and nausea. Nine days later his hair began to fall out. His supply of white blood cells dropped lower and lower. On the seventeenth day he began to bleed from his nose, and on the twenty-first day he died.
At Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the few surviving doctors observed symptoms of radiation sickness for the first time. In his book Nagasaki 1945, Dr. Tatsuichiro Akizuki wrote of the puzzling, unknown disease, of symptoms that “suddenly appeared in certain patients with no apparent injuries.” Several days after the bombs exploded, doctors learned that they were treating the effects of radiation exposure. “We were now able to label our unknown adversary ‘atomic disease’ or ‘radioactive contamination’ among other names. But they were only labels: we knew nothing about its cause or cure… Within seven to ten days after the A-bomb explosion, people began to die in swift succession. They died of the burns that covered their bodies and of acute atomic disease. Innumerable people who had been burnt turned a mulberry color, like worms, and died… The disease,” wrote Dr. Akizuki, “destroyed them little by little. As a doctor, I was forced to face the slow and certain deaths of my patients.”
Doctors and nurses had no idea of how their own bodies had been affected by radioactivity. Dr. Akizuki wrote, “All of us suffered from diarrhea and a discharge of blood from the gums, but we kept this to ourselves. Each of us thought: tomorrow it might be me… We became stricken with fear of the future.” Dr. Akizuki survived, as did several hundred thousand others in or near Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In fact, at least ten people who had fled from Hiroshima to Nagasaki survived both bombs.
The survivors have suffered physically from cataracts, leukemia and other cancers, malformed offspring, and premature aging, and also emotionally, from social discrimination. Within a few months of the nuclear explosions, leukemia began to appear among the survivors at an abnormally high rate. Some leukemia victims were fetuses within their mothers’ wombs when exposed to radiation. One child who was born two days after the Hiroshima explosion eventually died of acute leukemia at the age of eighteen. The number of leukemia cases has declined with time, but the incidence of lung cancer, thyroid cancer, breast cancer, and cancers of other organs has increased among the survivors.
Three Mile Island
On a Wednesday morning, maintenance workers cleaning sludge from a small pipe blocked the flow of water in the main feedwater system of a reactor at Three Mile Island near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The sift foreman heard “loud, thunderous noises, like a couple of freight trains,” coming. Since the reactor was still producing heat, it heated the blocked cooling water around its core hot enough to create enough pressure to have popped a relief valve. Some 220 gallons of water per minute began flowing out of the reactor vessel. Within five minutes after the main feedwater system failed, the reactor, deprived of all normal and emergency sources of cooling water, and no longer able to use its enormous energy to generate electricity, gradually started to tear itself apart.
The loss of coolant at the reactor continued for some 16 hours. Abort a third of the core melted down. Radioactive water flowed through the stuck relief valve into an auxiliary building, where it pooled on the floor. Radioactive gas was released into the atmosphere. An estimated 140,000 people were evacuated from the area. It took a month to stabilize the malfunctioning unit and safely shut it down. The reactor was a total loss and the cleanup required years of repair and hundreds of millions of dollars.
A far more serious accident occurred at Chernobyl, in what was then still the Soviet Union. At the time of the accident, the Chernobyl nuclear power station consisted of four operating 1,000 megawatt power reactors. Without question, the accident at Chernobyl was the result of a fatal combination of nuclear reactor design, mismanagement, ignorance and complacency. “As members of a select scientific panel convened immediately after the… accident,” writes Nobel laureate Hans Bethe, “my colleagues and I established that the Chernobyl disaster tells us about the deficiencies of the Soviet political and administrative system rather than about problems with nuclear power.”
Although the problem at Chernobyl was relatively complex, it can basically be summarized as a mismanaged electrical engineering, which resulted in the reactor exploding. The explosion was chemical, driven by gases and steam generated by the core runaway, not by nuclear reactions. Flames, sparks, and chunks of burning material were flying into the air above the unit. These were red-hot pieces of nuclear fuel and graphite. About 50 tons of nuclear fuel evaporated and were released by the explosion into the atmosphere. In addition, about 70 tons were ejected sideways from the periphery of the core. Some 50 tons of nuclear fuel and 800 tons of reactor graphite remained in the reactor vault, where it formed a pit reminiscent of a volcanic crater as the graphite still in the reactor had burned up completely in a few days after the explosion.
Many people died from the explosion and direct radiation poisoning and even many more died from the effects of the radiation later. A lot of the death toll was obfuscated by the Ukranian government as it was a Soviet era state and bound by strong secrecy laws and customs. Still today, people are dying from the radiation caused by the Chernobyl accident. The estimated number of deaths until now is above 16,000 people lost to radiation and many more – perhaps in the hundreds of thousands – to die off from various cancers in the near future. Health effects with a worldwide rise in various cancers have been attributed to Chernobyl radiation release.
The most devastating nuclear accident is that of Fukushima resulting in continuous to this day radioactive releases the equivalent of fifty to a hundred Hiroshima nuclear bombs. In fact, since the Hiroshima bomb was air-burst–no part of the fireball touched the ground — this is far worse because the Fukushima nuclear melt down of the reactors caused a direct radiation release that polluted the surrounding Fukushima perfecture. The explosion also send flying nuclear fuel all over thus polluting gravelly the surrounding countryside, the Pacific ocean where all the cooling water is being spilled, and the air. Radioactive particles have been released abundantly and have moved freely into the upper atmosphere so they rain down on the Northern hemisphere of this globe, as the atmosphere and winds reach around the natural movement of the earth. The Fukushima nuclear disaster is a much more terrible threat worldwide than the equivalent of the ten Hiroshimas the Japanese press reports; because all the wind and wave patters and the streams of the atmosphere and the sea, carry all the radiation out to the Pacific away from Japan itself. If that was not the case, then the incredible damage it would have done to Japanese isles would have been beyond the possibility of survival for the Japanese nation. Still Fukushima pollutes the Pacific and it will devastate many parts of our food supply before it gets capped. Who knows what it would have done, had we not the capacity to shut off the other three reactors… Many people died from the explosion and have been completely unreported as their death has been attributed to the tsunami that followed the earthquake of March 11th 2011 that caused the electrical failure that stopped the cooling system of the reactors and that resulted in the nuclear melt down in the first place. even more from the effects of the radiation later. Today, people are dying from the radiation caused by the Fukushima nuclear accident. The estimated total number of deaths will be well above what Chernobyl has wrought because the explosion and the resulting radiation leakage is so much more.
This is the state of current medical technologies available to the treatment of radiation:
There is currently no effective medical treatment available for potentially fatal radiation doses. The case of the Japanese boy mentioned above illustrates an important fact about radiation sickness. The boy had probably received a dose of 450 rems or more, yet his symptoms were about the same as those of a person who received about 300 rems. Medical science has no way of telling the difference between people who have received fatal doses and will die despite all efforts and others who received less radiation and can be saved. Treatment for the ones that can be saved includes blood transfusions and bone-marrow transplants. Bone-marrow transplants rejuvenate the supply of white blood cells which was affected by the radiation.
New Journal Article: Fukushima may have already released over 90 quadrillion [peta] becquerels of cesium-137 — This is Much more radiation than Chernobyl’s 70 quadrillion becquerels
Ken O. Buesseler, Journal of The Oceanography Society, Jan. 5, 2014: [The] earthquake, tsunami, and subsequent radiation releases from Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant were unprecedented events for the ocean and society. […] Total releases [of cesium-137] from Fukushima are not well constrained, with estimates from atmospheric fallout and direct ocean discharge spanning 90 – 100 peta Becquerels (PBq), but are most likely in the 90 -100 PBq range. […] Cs concentrations in benthic fish stay elevated over predictions […] Fukushima-tagged surface waters will reach the US West Coast [in the range of] two to four years […] To determine which model predictions are more accurate would require more extensive vertical sampling across the Pacific than is currently available. Some information will be forthcoming from analyses underway in Japan and the United States, and monitoring of coastal activities along the United States […] In the aftermath of Fukushima—after years of relative complacency— the public and policymakers have renewed concerns about radioactive contamination.
In this new article Buesseler states the total cesium-137 released from Fukushima is above 100 PBq, though just a few months ago he used 85 PBq as the total. The United Nations’ original estimate of 85 PBq is based on more accurate data. Using the 100 PBq total for Fukushima instead of 85 PBq, or even the U.N.’s 70 PBq, proves that the Fukushima disaster (at above 100 PBq) may be the worst nuclear plant release in history…
On related News bulletins about the radiation fallout in the United States of America:
Many agencies are now taking measurements and the EPA in particular are severely limiting their perspective about how much radioactivity is allowed for humans to be receiving from exposure to the beach and the ocean.
Worth noting that the Radiation measurements in the West Coast and California beaches of the United States, after Fukushima are now calibrated and measured customarily well above 150 rem, and in many cases up to 500 rem. [Rem is the radiation measuring unit known as roentgen equivalent in man]
So its worth your while to be cautious out there.