Radiation levels 500 percent higher than normal have hit San Francisco, if you believe a video that surfaced on the Internet on YouTube in December, 2013, and it’s being blamed on the the disaster that befell the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan. The video has been viewed almost 500,000 times, and follows this article, if you’d like to see if for yourselves.
In California, health officials are telling residents not to worry, even though the Geiger counter of a man walking along the beach appears to indicate radiation levels at five times the normal levels in San Francisco — 150 counts per minute.
This seven-minute video, Fukushima radiation hits San Francisco, has sparked intense interest and the fears of some citizens of California that the radiation that the Geiger counter detected is evidence that nuclear waste from the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear plant disaster in Japan has reached the American west coast.
The unidentified person who took the video wrote in a blog post that he had taken readings for two years in the same area before. The levels had been normal, until the video he took in December 2013.
The concerns some people have about the high radiation levels depicted in the video coming from the Fukushima nuclear plant have been investigated by officials at the local, state, and federal levels. According to the officials who conducted tests, there is no reason to think that the levels of radiation in San Francisco or along the Pacific Coast of California, in general, are unsafe, and there’s no reason for anyone to conclude that the supposed higher-than-normal levels of radiation are a result of the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster.
According to county environmental health director Dean Peterson, the officials don’t believe that the radiation levels are “an immediate public health concern.” He added that the investigation has not brought the investigators anywhere “close to the point of saying that any of this is from Fukushima.”
Has radiation from Fukushima reached America’s Pacific Coast?
The elevated radiation levels in San Francisco and along the Pacific Coast might not pose an immediate threat to humans, and might not be radiation from the Fukushima nuclear plant. However, Geiger counters from Peterson’s health department have registered levels of radiation at 100 micro-REM an hour, or — five times the usual amount.
Mark Noack, of the Half Moon Bay Review, noted that, while the radiation in the area is five times higher than normal, a person would have to be exposed to that degree “of radiation for 50,000 hours before it surpassed safety guidelines by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.”
If the increased levels of radiation aren’t due to the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster, what are they due to?
Peterson, interviewed by the The Half Moon Bay Review, said that the radiation could be caused from something as seemingly innocuous “as red-painted utensils buried on the beach.”
Another explanation that Peterson suggested is likely is that the radiation is not really as uncommon as one might think, that maybe what the Geiger counters are detecting are “just higher levels of background radiation.”
Researchers from the Geiger Counter Bulletin website have taken soil samples that indicate the radiation levels are many times higher than what they should be, and there was also an independent soil test done that registered positive for radiation, though the researchers have discovered no indication that the increased levels of radiation came from the Fukushima nuclear power plant.
How much progress has been made in the decontamination process around Fukushima?
While some progress has been made in the ongoing decontamination process around Fukushima, there is still a lot of work left to be done before the former inhabitants of the 11 evacuated towns in the area can safely move back to their homes. The cost will be in the billions of dollars.
All of the old, contaminated topsoil must be removed, and dumped at hundreds of locations in the vicinity of Fukushima, and be replaced with new topsoil. Trees must be cut down, shrubs pruned, and the roofs of houses washed. This process continues until the levels of radiation fall to acceptable levels. This cost is expected to be $10,000 for each house.
The government of Japan had set a schedule for how long the decontamination of each of the 11 towns should take, but they kept falling behind their estimates, and now the government has decided not to set any further projections.
About two-thirds of the former residents of Minamisōma have already returned to their houses, but radiation levels are still high in certain areas of the city. Many people who make up the third of the original population who have not yet returned are doubtful that the decontamination plan will work.
One resident, Masami, who decided to remain in the city of Namie despite the evacuation orders doesn’t think that many people will want to move back. He stated that the 11 towns “have turned into Chernobyl.”
Besides the strain and pressure that the people of Fukushima have in dealing with being dispossessed and deciding if they should return to the cities that they once resided in, people elsewhere in Japan have placed a social stigma on them. Many have been asked for radiation level reports when applying for employment, or have been rejected from donating blood.
The Fukushima nuclear plant disaster and the threat of radiation from it reaching the United States has made headlines in the media lately. The disaster is something that the people of Japan live with every day. Are the higher radiation levels detected along the Pacific Coast evidence of that radiation finally reaching America, or is there some other explanation? What, if anything, can be done if and when radiation from Fukushima does reach America’s shores?
Written by: Douglas Cobb
Fukushima radiation hits San Francisco