Monday, June 23, 2014

Fukushima myths vs facts

Fukushima emergency, what can we do? discusses today eight myths found in the Internet regarding what is certainly the World's worst nuclear catastrophe, warning against exaggeration, while also against denial.

This is a fact (actual radioactive deposition measured in the immediate aftermath of Fukushima catastrophe):

This is a myth (it actually represents risk of tsunami after the March 2011 Fukushima earthquake and not radiation in any way):

All the story at Fukushima emergency...

Update: the original post seems to have been deleted but I feel I don't have a choice here because it already has comments, etc. So I'm copy-pasting from the RSS feed for your reference:

We’ve spotted a number of myths about the Fukushima nuclear disaster on Facebook and in forums that we’d like nothing more than to debunk. The age of many of these myths is irrelevant, as every day brings forth “new” posts rooted in their misinformation.

No, this is not a map of anything related to radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. It is a map of potential tsunami heights from NOAA.

 While this misconception has been integral to creating awareness broadly over the ongoing situation, it has also seeded a lot of misinformation.

A recent video of a man at Half Moon Bay whose geiger counter alerted of high radiation levels while standing on the beach went viral, and has created an echo chamber of misunderstanding.
His geiger counter was detecting radiation, although it was naturally occurring radiation from the thorium-rich granite within the sand, and not from Fukushima. It’s equally perplexing that an official response from Dean Peterson, county environmental health director “noted that many innocuous items could spike the radiation levels in an area, including red-painted disposable eating utensils“. This seemingly sarcastic statement only furthered unrest over the issue, and took focus away from credible sources which have been reporting the phenomenon for the better part of a century.
Analysis of kelp has found that it has been contaminated to a certain low level. To what extent might be revealed by the further ongoing studies as the one lead by Ken Buesseler conducting analyses all along the West Coast from Alaska down to South California seaching for eventual Cesium 134/137 and Strontium contamination. ( Cesium‐137 = 1.4 Bq/m3 Cesium‐134 <0 .2="" bq="" font="" m3="">
Only a detailed mapped analysis would reveal the real extent of the Fukushima contamination of the ocean along the West Coast. Unfortunately no such study is at the time being conducted on West Coast soils.
Related: Safecast blog – Radiation on California Beaches


Based on test results from both California and Alaska, trace amounts of Fukushima radiation are in fact showing up in a few coastal fish, but certainly not all of them. Currently measured levels are at this point very, very low.
According to the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the oceanic plume is just starting to hit Alaska, and will begin hitting the majority of the West Coast in March2014. The numbers they are predicting will also be very low.
While all governments have proven to be a rather untrustworthy source for information on Fukushima, there are independent groups doing their own Cesium 134/Cesium 137 only testing up and down the coast and posting test results, and they too are not showing important level of contamination.
Though again they should test for strontium 90 and other radionuclides as well.
Related: Vancouver Food Radiation Monitoring, Loki Fish, and Berkeley University’s RadWatch.
While fish closer to Japan are showing high levels of radiation, on our coastal fisheries as far as Cesium 134 it is not yet present in high amount.
But you have to keep in mind that any amount of internal contamination, low or high can be fatal.

Multiple reports by TEPCO around Christmas 2013 of steam rising from Reactor 3 have prompted interpretations from all corners of the internet.
Steam rising from Reactor 3 is nothing new. It happens regularly, and has been happening since day one of the incident. 
What caused the steam over Fukushima reactor 3? There are a few reasons; The steam has a habit of forming after rainfall in the area, and some experts say the rain is making its way down to the reactor core, heating up, and evaporating.
Many people also believe the reactor core has breached both primary and secondary containment, and portions of it may still be fissioning which produces steam. Steam is not a good thing, but it is not a new thing, and there was no underground explosion. 
In fact multiple radiactive toxic gassing is permanently occuring on Daiichi site, that is very alarming in itself. Continually releasing a heavy load of radionuclides into our atmosphere, carried in every direction by the winds, bioaccumulation into the sea and onto the lands.


After inquiring with the NRC directly, this was their response: 
Hello Mr. Mattingly, 
The “radiation plume” map was an anonymously produced falsehood and not a creation of the NRC or any other government agency. The creators of the false map also used the logo of the Australian nuclear regulator. The “Pacific deadzone” map has also been debunked as a distortion of a tsunami height simulation. The third map in that collage is also a complete falsehood. 
Please let me know if you have any additional questions. 
Scott Burnell Public Affairs Officer U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission 
This doesn’t mean that North America was not hit with radiation; The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization runs an International Monitoring System with 321 sensors worldwide. 
Below is a map of what those sensors picked up. According to the sensor data, 1000 bequerels per square meter (1Kbq/m2) fell on the Western Seaboard of North America. If you would like to view the actual sensor data, accompanied with additional maps, you can do so here.

I am sure many of you have seen all of the reports of mass die-offs all over the pacific, herring in British Columbia bleeding from their eyeballs, the sea stars melting away all along the entire coast, polar bears and sea lions have mysterious oozing sores and their fur is falling out, a two headed whale washing up on shore, the sardine population collapsing, and countless more.
The problem with this myth is that scientists have yet to give a solid explanation for any of these. Not a single one of them. Is it from Fukushima? We don’t know. We thought we would mention this one as it is noteworthy, and everyone wants to know.
Is the entire ocean floor now 98% covered in dead sea life like many articles are stating? No. This National Geographic article is where all of that originated is only talking about one localized area, and it is only sea salps they are talking about. Again, they do not know what is causing it, and the entire ocean floor is not covered with dead animals.
As much as we would love to give you a solid answer on this topic, the data to prove, or disprove it, simply isn’t available at this point, so there is no point in assuming.
Though they are several species severely affected and dying in various locations, there might be actually several factors involved : acidification of the ocean, virus, Fukushima contamination. 
At this point it is therefore not conclusive and totally unfitting to amalgam all those happenings and to say that they are all caused only by Fukushima contamination.


The answer to this is double-sided; Different types of radiation do different things to your body. Some mimic calcium, some mimic potassium, some mimic iodine, etc. Potassium iodide is a form of iodine. When you take it, it fills up your thyroid gland with non-radioactive iodine, thus not leaving any room for radioactive iodine to be taken in.
It will only protect your thyroid. Potassium Iodine only protects your thyroid gland from Iodine 131 a radionuclide released at the first stage of a nuclear disaster and it has a radioactive decay half-life of about eight days . And it should therefore be taken at the very early stage of the disaster or few hors prior to enter a contaminated zone. It does not protect your body from the many other radionuclides released during a nuclear disaster.
Potassium iodide therefore should only be taken in the event of a radiological disaster. It has the potential to cause adverse health effects, however the potential risks are far lower than allowing radioactive iodine into your thyroid.
At the moment, Fukushima is not releasing anymore Iodine 131 into the atmosphere to warrant taking it. It is however a good idea to eat foods that are naturally high in iodine such as Southern Atlantic Seaweed, and leafy greens to not only protect yourself from possible future releases, but also for your health in general. 
If there is another major event at Fukushima, or elsewhere, you should have a conversation with a licensed medical professional on how much you should be taking, and for how long, depending on your geographical location, and proximity to the event.
If the ongoing situation at Fukushima became toxic enough to warrant an evacuation of the West Coast, there would really be no safe place to evacuate to.

The radiation could circle the globe in a matter of days, just as the original plume from Fukushima did, and eventually pollute the entire planet.

However for smaller incidents, it’s not a bad idea to avoid the initial dispersal zone if it’s an


We advise people, to read, dig deeper and verify any news article before to believe and share out an information, the gravity of the ongoing Fukushima disaster and its slow but sure contamination of our biosphere and of our food chain is bad enough, exaggerations, sensationalism are totally unneeded and uncalled for.

We should stick to trhe facts and not extrapolate too far, we should all act with a proper sense of responsibility, face the real problem but not feed into a paranoia.

We advise people to learn to measure radiation, and to learn as well basic radiation protective measures.

We advise you as a precautionary measure to not eat Pacific Ocean products, any tiny radionuclide present in any food is just a Russian roulette bullet waiting in due time to hit you.

Note: the original entry was not written by Citizen Perth, the usual author of Fukushima emergency..., but by some Dun Renard. This may have something to do with the deletion (???) - ask them.


  1. Broken link now. Any idea on the on the scale for the figure up top?

    My college roommate is an engineer at one of the nuclear plants in Ontario, so I trust her take on it, which was more or less that the release of radiation wasn't anything for anyone outside of the immediate area to worry about, but that would could have happened should raise some serious concerns about the Japanese nuclear industry.

    1. Seems to have been deleted (why?). I updated with a copy-paste from the RSS feed and a note.

      The map you ask for is referenced to:

      "which was more or less that the release of radiation wasn't anything for anyone outside of the immediate area to worry about"

      Not quite: Fukushima is a very serious health hazard in Northern Honsu, Tokyo included, where people is reporting all kind of health problems at frequencies much greater than usual that can and are surely attributable to radiation. Northern Honsu should be evacuated, it should have been evacuated (children first) since day one.

      A major health hazard outside that area is food coming from the polluted region be it fish, rice, etc. I just try not to buy anything Japanese anymore as the authorities (in Japan and other places) don't keep almost any control on radiation on the "extend and pretend" suicidal plan.

      But outside of Japan the more at risk area is Pacific North America, where all the currents coming from Japan go to. Naturally radioactive debris is diluted in water and air but the dimension of Fukushima, particularly in the long run (impossible to control, lots of plutonium), implies that the flow will be constant for decades and decades and, well, actually for millennia.

      Another issue is whether there is an ongoing "China syndrome", what is quite probable. This is unconfirmed but most likely according to many experts, because otherwise the persistent "leak" of huge amounts of radioactive water to the watershed can't be explained.

      There are several Fukushima-dedicated blogs in the blogroll bar of this blog, you can gather more info from them.

    2. Any blogs that are good at sifting out the misinformation? Even this one seems pretty alarmist. For example:

      "Analysis of kelp has found that it has been contaminated to a certain low level. To what extent might be revealed by the further ongoing studies as the one lead by Ken Buesseler conducting analyses all along the West Coast from Alaska down to South California seaching for eventual Cesium 134/137 and Strontium contamination. ( Cesium‐137 = 1.4 Bq/m3 Cesium‐134 <0 .2 Bq/m3)"

      Humans are radioactive at about the 100 Bq/kg level, so that data shows Cesium contamination that is at level that is ~0.1-0.2% as radioactive as my own body. Some of the Cesium would have come from the US' previous nuclear tests in Nevada too.

      In terms of food, Japan's regulators have lowered there have the maximum allowable radioactivity to 100 Bq/kg, and I personally don't worry about any food that's roughly as radioactive as I am. Brazil nuts are actually ~500 Bq/kg and bananas are naturally over the 100 Bq/kg (though in that case its primarily potassium which we would naturally excrete out). The EU's limits are 1000 Bq/kg which seem reasonable enough.

      If you avoid Japanese food I wouldn't be surprised if you actually end up with a higher radiation dose by getting food from a country that relies more heavily on coal power like Germany, the US and Australia.

      "Another issue is whether there is an ongoing "China syndrome", what is quite probable. This is unconfirmed but most likely according to many experts, because otherwise the persistent "leak" of huge amounts of radioactive water to the watershed can't be explained."

      Yah, I'm pretty sure there's a large and persistent leak going on too.

      If you look at the data from TEPCO's test wells ( it looks pretty clear that it's coming from test well 1-6 or somewhere nearby. If you took 1 litre of water from there and diluted it with 700 litres of pure water it would be safe to drink. So once it gets in to the ocean it's going to dilute pretty fast. Still wouldn't drink from that well or go scuba diving off the coast there of course.

      Here's a pretty good paper on the plutonium contamination from the disaster. It seems pretty minimal. It was only detectable in two samples, and nuclear weapons tests remains by far the largest source of plutonium. (

    3. I understand that there is a lot of pressure to minimize the info and limit the research on the subject. Doctors and academics who dared to speak out have been fired or otherwise persecuted in Japan. The USA stopped issuing radiation info to the public right after Fukushima, the WHO has been repeatedly accused of whitewashing the incident.

      As very real facts, for example, you can go to any government installed radiation monitor in Japan and check that 5-10 m away radiation is much higher (that's because they carefully clean the area of the fixed monitor but not the rest).

      More importantly private reports on health effects in the affected areas of Japan (most of North Honsu, incl. Tokyo), which I have been reading on daily basis in the last two years, are absolutely scary. As of late I read of skin bleeding a lot, also in Tokyo. But also hair and teeth loss, strange dermatological diseases in people and animals, way too many mutations (usually deadly) in animals especially, suicidal teen "idols" or daredevil politicians who ate Fukushima produce falling terribly ill, and way too many heart attacks in young people.

      Plutonium and uranium are everywhere. The "mystery black substance" which was all around since the accident giving extremely high radiation reads was recently demonstrated to be nuclear fuel (both spent and unused - spent is worse). Notice that Fukushima used MOX, a combo of uranium and plutonium.

      Not sure about this article you mention, which did find some plutonium in their samples from Fukushima and Tokyo (none of which was the pervasive "mystery black substance" but regular soil/vegetation) but another study published in Nature as well on Fukushima that year was a total propaganda stunt:

      This issue of the myths affect mostly a bit of excess re. effects in North America. That does not mean that there are no or negligible effects but that they will probably take more time to become evident.

      I'm guessing that Citizen Perth decided to remove the article because he realized that the treatment of the issue was a bit too dismissive in some cases. For example it is not exactly true that the West Coast of the USA would be like the last place on Earth to be affected, actually it is the 2nd place after Japan itself (and along the Western coast of Canada and very probably Hawaii and Baja California). Wind and sea currents all go to North America from Japan: China, Korea and other parts of Asia are much less likely to be so severely affected as the US West Coast. Also other areas like the Southern Hemisphere, Atlantic or Indian Ocean basins are much more protected.

      The big problem is that water is washing the destroyed cores and going to the sea, often on its own and sometimes also because TEPCO finds no other solution to its "low" radioactive water storages. This water goes across the Ocean to North America (and NE Russia).

      Another problem is that it is very much focused only on North America, when the biggest problem by far is in Japan. Seriously: half the country is unlivable.

      See also:

    4. " If you took 1 litre of water from there and diluted it with 700 litres of pure water it would be safe to drink."

      There's no "safe" radiation, just less or more harmful. And this is particularly true for ingested particles.

      "So once it gets in to the ocean it's going to dilute pretty fast."

      Only so much: currents carry huge amounts of water across the ocean and these "units" of water only mix so much with each other. This dilution argument is a bit fallacious when the life of those corium monsters is longer than the whole existence of Humankind.

      Radiation is forever: uranium-235 has a half-life of 700 million years, 50 times as much as it took us to evolve from the common ancestor we have with chimpanzees, plutonium-239 has a half-life of "just" 23,000 years, as much as it has happened since the Last Glacial Maximum (Solutrean and such).

      So that corium monster will be leaking to the ocean for more than humankind can reasonably expect to survive, even only counting the half-life (which is the reduction of radioactive power to half).

      And if that's not enough, please consider that most nuclear power plants are getting very old (and getting extensions in most cases) and that we have got two top level nuclear catastrophes in 25 years. Statistically, the next one may be in 10-15 years and the next one maybe just 5 years later and so on exponentially. By 2040 or so we may well be having "Fukushimas" every other year. This is a human error, another one an earthquake, then maybe a terrorist attack or a software bug or virus... who knows? What we know is that perfect security is impossible and that anything less than total security is just unacceptable for nuclear power plants.

      This is only one of the various reasons why I suspect that we are doomed as species (unless radical global change happens very soon) but one of the most critical ones.

    5. The study I linked to didn't just check for plutonium, but checked specifically for the isotope mix. That's how they could distinguish between nuclear weapon fallout and stuff released from Fukushima (and Chernobyl).

      Re: the West Coast getting hit - yah, we get dust from the Gobi desert here that turns the sky yellow occasionally even. :/ And we had a tsunami warning that day (though I don't think it got past Vancouver Island).

      "There's no "safe" radiation, just less or more harmful. And this is particularly true for ingested particles."

      At some point we have to consider something "safe enough" though. Do you worry about the radioactivity in a banana when you eat it? I certainly don't. Nor do I when I catch a flight or sleep beside another person. Driving or riding in a car raises my chance of death, as does this bowl of ice cream I'm eating right now. The fat and sugar in the ice cream will likely kill me far sooner than Fukushima will. My question for you is what sort of household/mundane exposure to radiation or the risk of death do you find acceptable?

      Keep in mind that most of our radiation exposure comes from background sources, many of which humans have little to no control over. Cosmic rays impart a huge amount of energy.

      Re: - note that the level of danger you've gone with his 100Bq/kg - a little bit less than a banana. Should people really feel threatened by something as radioactive as a compost of old bananas? I don't think so.

      Re: Plutonium/uranium etc - keep in mind the shorter the half-life, the more dangerous the radioactivity. Uranium 235's radioactivity is so low you might as well consider it inert. What makes it more dangerous is its very toxic from a chemical standpoint, like lead, and it tends to come with a bunch of radium from its previous decay. They used to use uranium to colour ceramic tile actually. If you see tile installed in the 1930s or so there's a good chance it contains uranium. Just had to rip a bunch out of an old hospital here (which was done with a great deal of care and precautions of course).

      Most of the energy powering the corium monster is coming from elements like Ce and Cs with half lifes in the days-to-decades range. So the amount of heat being generated will stabilize more or less in our lifetimes.

      The plutonium doesn't put out nearly as much heat or radioactivity, but it is the real long term danger (for potentially 100,000 years). A concrete tomb will likely have to be built over the whole reactor site to contain the mess. :/

    6. I do agree that the older designs have some issues (though still less dangerous than coal IMHO). Particularly designs like the graphite-moderated ones used in the former USSR and a few other designs. There are safer ones out there. CANDU is a very old and very safe design. What happened in only a couple of hours at Fukushima takes ~43 hours at a CANDU reactor -

      Better yet, you can cool the CANDU effectively from the outside. So you don't have to pump water into it and release steam like they did in Fukushima, bringing contaminants out in the process (and risking hydrogen explosions). Instead you can just refill the reactor vault with regular water over and over. It helps that it's already surrounded by large amounts of (heavy) water.

      The reason CANDU works like that is because it's heavy water moderated, so it can use unenriched fuel. So again, if something goes wrong, there's much less heat in the fuel rods to deal with, and the fuel rods themselves are much less dangerous (also in CANDU if one rod melts that doesn't affect the others). Without having to enrich fuel you don't get the same proliferation risk either.

      Of course there are downsides - it produces more (lower grade) waste for one. It has much larger upfront costs too. Nothing's perfect. Some newer designs out there are interesting though. Ideally we want something that's passively safe, that can essentially shut down itself. Unfortunately not many modern plants are being built.

      I'd still suggest keeping them the hell away from the largest seismic zones in the entire world though. :( seriously.

      Btw, oldie but a goodie:

    7. On the black ash and diseases - most of I've read turned out to be unsubstantiated. If you've got some good sources I'd love to see them.

    8. In the study you mention they took 20 random samples of soil and vegetation, of which 3 were polluted well above "normal" levels of plutonium, never mind other toxic products, not tested for. Plutonium tends to stay in relatively large chunks, unlike cesium, etc, so you are not supposed to find any unless you go for it like a hound. However this study found some (15% of random samples), what should be quite unexpected... unless, as it happened, the explosions send it everywhere around.

      Uranium-235 is fissile: the only such natural element on Earth, making <1% of naturally occurring uranium mineral. You don't operate uranium without protection, seriously, so having it all scattered around is a serious and persistent health threat. Would uranium be as "harmless" as you pretend, Chernobyl would be no problem because it only used uranium as fuel.

      A fission chain reaction produces intermediate mass fragments which are highly radioactive and produce further energy by their radioactive decay. This fission chain is ongoing at faster or slower pace inside the corium (and that's why we can't just go there and cut it in pieces). This corium is being washed by water all the time and this water goes to the ocean.

      Fukushima anyhow used MOX, which is a mix of uranium and plutonium. Plutonium does not occur naturally (by-product of uranium) and is much more aggressive than uranium.

      "note that the level of danger you've gone with his 100Bq/kg - a little bit less than a banana".

      That's the most ridiculous thing you could say (the banana fallacy! Potasium decays in days, uranium and plutonium do not, even cesium needs five times the time of potasium to decay). 100Bq/kg is the level by which something is considered radioactive waste. Nobody should live in a radioactive waste dump.

      Please re-read the legend. Only yellow (and unmarked) areas are generally under radioactive waste levels. Orange areas are within "low" radioactive waste levels but red areas are totally no-go zones. Would you really allow your children to play in a radioactive waste dump? Seriously, man! They could eat or breath anything and if external exposure is bad, internal exposure kills much faster.

      Red areas: Roadside hotspots here typically have 1000-10,000 Bq/kg, 10x to 100x what used to be considered nuclear waste, sometimes even much more.


    9. ...

      "Most of the energy powering the corium monster is coming from elements like Ce and Cs with half lifes in the days-to-decades range."

      I agree that elements with half-life of days are relatively less dangerous but elements with half-life of decades are extremely dangerous in the "short term", including for areas far away like the US West Coast. The issue is that the heavier elements in the corium keep producing them all the time (forever!) so they keep leaking or rather massively pouring to the environment. Heavier elements not so much because they only do that in explosions (like the two that happened in Fukushima) but they are parent to the others.

      " A concrete tomb will likely have to be built over the whole reactor site to contain the mess."

      Over and under it. One of the really big problems is the water table. This is a problem in Chernobyl (a concrete under-floor was built at the cost of many lives but does not seem to be enough) but it is an unmanageable problem in Fukushima, built at the seaside. It would take a massive unprecedented (and extremely costly) engineering feat to isolate the reactors (and nearby areas, including an important underwater section). Even if that could be done, the highly polluted water inside it would still need to be pumped out and it seems effectively impossible to build any sort of "underground floor" containment (water everywhere, radiation everywhere, where exactly is the corium now?)

      So the fact that nuclear reactors need to be near water sources for refrigeration makes very hard to effectively impossible to contain their effects in case of accident. The only chance would be to have preventively built a well designed underground containment (a huge concrete barrier) before the reactor was even built, but that would be so costly that was never even considered.

      Nuclear energy is extremely costly, maybe not on paper, but certainly in reality, because any single accident is more costly (only in money, never mind lives an hope) than any economically acceptable preliminary accounts. Hence the future costs of accidents and dismantling are either denied or optimistically reduced to make nuclear look more appealing.

      The only objective reason for nuclear energy is that it can be used for nuclear weapons. And that, sadly enough, is a power that every state ambitions more or less openly because it is the definitive power of massive death and destruction.

    10. →

      This blog reports from Japanese sources mostly, often personal reports on social networks, what is a great help because most other English-language sources are made by people who don't speak Japanese. The author is a Fukushima refugee himself.

      For example (recent, impressive):

      "Humans are radioactive at about the 100 Bq/kg level"...

      That's unreal. Nuclear lobby bullshit probably (never heard that claim before).

      "The reason CANDU works like that is because it's heavy water moderated, so it can use unenriched fuel."

      Maybe it is a safer design but, besides of being an exception, there's no way Fukushima could have been controlled even in the two days you mention as margin because the earthquake and tsunami simply rendered the plant into a pile of useless junk. Right now the only relatively safe (and every day cheaper) energies are solar, wind and such. Germany is betting heavily on them and it is a very intelligent approach. After Fukushima they also scheduled total abandonment of nuclear energy in about two decades.

      I wish their example would go global but, other than Cuba, I know of no other countries with such a smart energy policy.

      "I'd still suggest keeping them the hell away from the largest seismic zones in the entire world though."

      That's problematic too because seismicity is very pervasive and a tsunami can hit almost everywhere, even far away from the original earthquake. There are many other risks though (terrorist, cyber or military attack for example) and, as I said before, there's no way to be 100% sure nothing will happen. You can, I guess, reduce risks but you can never prevent them totally. And even a 0.1% risk is a huge risk when we mean nuclear.

      "Btw, oldie but a goodie:"

      It's in sieverts, what is not something you can measure directly.

      1 Sv = 1 joule/kilogram - a biological effect. The sievert represents the equivalent biological effect of the deposit of a joule of radiation energy in a kilogram of human tissue.

      Environmental measures are done in becquerels. There are no tables to convert becquerels into sieverts because it depends on the kind and time of exposure. It's not the same to suffer an acute exposure than to be exposed every single day as people in Northern Japan are. Radionuclides may (somewhat stochastically) accumulate in the body (lungs and many other tissues) and continuously bombard you from the inside. Our bodies are not able to detect and expel those dangers, so they remain inside for whatever you may live after that exposure. If you keep being exposed every day, naturally, the nuclides pile up and so do their effects.

      Only sustained medical surveillance could track that but, in Japan at least, there is a political order to minimize or even deny such surveillance. Hence we are a bit lost in an ocean of disinformation. Disinformation and radioactivity, that is.

    11. So FYI, Germany is building new coal power plants to replace its nuclear unfortunately. Something we'll all pay the price for.

      "That's unreal. Nuclear lobby bullshit probably (never heard that claim before)."

      It's a very low amount. 100 Bq/kg means in each kilogram of your body 100 atoms decay every second. I think carbon-14 and potassium-40 are the dominant causes. IIRC the human body has ~7,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 atoms. Of course if the wrong atom gets struck on the wrong part of your DNA things can go badly.

      Potassium-40 has a half life of 1.25 billion years btw. So pretty comparable to U-235.

      Of course U-235 is dangerous inside a nuclear reactor. Not particularly dangerous in the ground though. Thorium can be made dangerous in a nuclear reactor yet it's still present in things like lantern mantles. U-238 is not fissile but it can be made into plutonium with a breeder reactor too.

      It's not just nuclear lobby stuff though FYI. I have very close friends who I trust with my life in the industry. Many others are physicists or in other related fields. Every first year physics student in university did a lab with radioactivity (we used a Cesium sample for the one I did).

      "That's problematic too because seismicity is very pervasive and a tsunami can hit almost everywhere, even far away from the original earthquake."

      The largest nuclear power plant in the world is Bruce Power on Lake Huron in Ontario. The risk of tsunami is pretty non-existent (though they have built back-up power well in land just in case) and the land there's been geologically stable for billions of years (which is why they're now boring a kilometer deep tunnel to store Canada's nuclear waste in that location).

      But yah, I'd definitely exclude the coast of every ocean in the world. An earthquake in the Azores could send a tsunami to the Carolinas potentially even if they aren't seismically active themselves.

      Re: Sv vs Bq - Yah, I realize that neither term is perfect. The reality is that 100 Bq from something like tritium with a short biological half-life and relatively low energy radiation is much less dangerous than 100 Bq from something like plutonium that builds up in the body continuously. Bq is easier to calculate and measure though, so hence why I think both of us prefer to talk in Bq.

      "Would you really allow your children to play in a radioactive waste dump?"

      I'd let them eat Brazil nuts and those are in the 400-500 Bq/kg range.

      You may not like the banana analogy (which is fair enough since potassium doesn't build up in the body) but with Brazil nuts the culprit is radium.

      Re: the study I linked earlier - take a look at the detection limits. The contamination limits are very low, and as discussed, in the vast majority of cases if not all the majority of the contamination predates Fukushima (possibly by decades).

      Re: CANDU melt downs - keep in mind that under that design, there would be no increase in radiation anywhere inside or outside of the plant for almost 2 days. So you just need to run a fire hose to the main vault in that time period (and all nuclear plants are built adjacent to large sources of water for practical reasons). Not exactly hard to get one fire truck to the scene within two days.

      Haven't read your sources yet - will do as soon as I can. Cheers!

    12. If you want nuclear engineers talking freely about Fukushima and nuclear hazards in general (in the USA the waste depots in New Mexico and Oregon are much more dangerous surely than Fukushima), I strongly recommend you this site:


      It's founded by the Gundersen family, Arnie Gundersen being an experienced nuclear engineer (with nothing less than 70 nuclear power plants behind him). He does not dismiss the actual threats of nuclear however.


      According to the National Academy of Sciences BEIR 7 Report (Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation) and contrary to what the nuclear industry would like you to believe, all radiation is harmful.

      Is the ocean safe? If I lived on the Pacific Coast, I would feel free to swim in the Pacific Ocean or to run along a beach in the morning fog. The amount of man-made radiation currently is quite low. But I do remain very concerned about eating fish caught in the Pacific Ocean, because the Government is not releasing data about the bioaccumulation of radioactivity Pacific Ocean fish. Until there is fully transparent radiation data on fish, eating them is a risk I personally have chosen to avoid.

      There have been 5 meltdowns during the last 35 years, or in other words: one meltdown every 7 years. If all the coal and oil plants worldwide were replaced with nuclear power plants, the math shows that we could expect one meltdown every year! Is that a risk you are willing to take?

      As many as 1,000,000 people have died in Chernobyl (the industry will say that just a handful)

      Technological advancements that have created cell phones that replace landlines, laptops with more computing power than old mainframe computers, are now capable of replacing giant obsolete power stations with small locally controlled sources of power.

      "Haven't read your sources yet"...

      Do, please.

  2. "If you want nuclear engineers talking freely about Fukushima and nuclear hazards in general"

    Why do you assume the people I've known for years (before they became engineers) aren't speaking freely? These are people I would trust with anything.

    Keep in mind that in a lot of the cases where there have been major engineering disasters, the engineers on the bottom often knew there was a problem even if management did nothing. This was true in Fukushima - engineers prepared a report saying the plant was at risk of being severely damaged in a tsunami. It's management that did nothing. Was true both times the space shuttle blew up too.

    I know

    Re: Arnie Gundersen - his claims have been pretty thoroughly debunked. Look at the primary sources. None back up what Gundersen says. He has a pretty good gig selling lies and fear though.

    1,000,000 dead from Chernobyl? That's not even plausible. Several thousands (or tends of thousands) is when you consider iodine absorption.

    The Union of Concerned Scientists (which IS a credible nuclear skeptic source which I'd highly recommend) pegged the deaths at between 12,000 to 57,000. See for yourself:

    Will try to reply more thoroughly later. Hell week from work. Your posts on this blog and your other are a pleasant distraction from that hell for which I am always greatful. :3

    1. "Why do you assume the people I've known for years (before they became engineers) aren't speaking freely?"

      You work for the industry = you are committed to them. It's like vassalage: there's nothing close to "freedom" in the labor market: a worker, qualified or not, is always under major threat by his/her bosses.

      Said that, engineers often tend to be the intellectually gullible type because they are technicians who have true faith in technology (and they also believe in money a lot: most engineers choose that career for that reason over all others: income expectations). I've known many of them in my life, including my father, I also know that engineering is the faculty most impervious to critical thinking and protesting: as a social group they only care about money and technology and have zero social compromise.

      So I would trust engineers in everything technical but nothing else... unless they individually prove capable of critical thought, what earns my respect. However in such cases they can't usually work as engineers, being blacklisted. Blacklisting is a powerful tool to keep the reverence.

      Anyhow in the end most engineers just believe everything because they have never been critical thinkers at all. Not just among these professionals but generally, non-freethinkers are not helping at all but supporting the errors out of conformism and complacency.

      I think that Gundersen is very moderate and I know for a fact that Chernobyl has killed LOTS (the 1 million figure seems quite realistic to me) and very especially still keeps hurting the new generations very badly (adults are a lot less sensible to radioactivity than youths, whose body is growing very fast, incorporating matter from food and the environment). This Monday Chernobyl area children arrived to the Basque Country, as they do every year. Something we always hear is that they get a lot better just being a couple of months away from radiation but they suffer when they go back. The long term damage is very hard to measure (more so when there is no political will whatsoever in that direction).

      Personally, dead or not, I'd say that Chernobyl harmed hundreds of millions. In fact nearly all Europe is polluted to levels often considered unacceptable just from the fallout. In Germany eating mushrooms without a geiger counter is extremely hazardous and half of hunted boars have to be discarded because they are unsafe to eat. Germany is farther from Chernobyl than anything in Japan is from Fukushima (what anyhow was much worse than Chernobyl, if such thing is possible), but the bulk of the damage fell on Belarus, a country that is under a very convenient dictatorship that clearly filters the information.

      Not only Lukashenko does, YouTube does too. But people is stubborn and info resurfaces: (Chernobyl children documentary, very impacting).


    2. ...

      "Re: Arnie Gundersen - his claims have been pretty thoroughly debunked."

      By whom?

      Your "credible" source: Roughly 20% of people die of cancer...

      At which age? I mean, seriously: cancer in absence of external inductors has a late onset. But the only persons I know having cancer (and other health problems) in their youth are from near a nuclear facility.

      Cancer is anyhow not the only effect of radiation in any case: actually one of its effects is increase in sudden heart stroke deaths, as well as a dearth of other low immunity or bodily malfunction health problems with are often deadly in the mid-term.

      The author has a clear military background: She was a postdoctoral fellow at the MIT Defense and Arms Control Studies Program and an SSRC-MacArthur Foundation Fellow in International Peace and Security at the Center for International Security Studies at the University of Maryland. (...) Areas of expertise: U.S. nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons policy, nuclear terrorism and international fissile material control, ballistic missile defense.

      She's clear a mouthpiece of the US military, based on her curriculum. "Concerned"? About what?


    3. PS- Statistically I have known through my life a lot of people (thousands) but only two families from near a nuclear power plant (Garoña). Both these families had members who suffered serious cancers in their youth. I know no other such cases. This is a random sample.

      For control, I have known a lot more people with schizophrenia, something that troubles me a bit, honestly. In my sample: outside of nuclear plant zones, schizophrenia is infinitely more common than cancer at young age (zero cancers lots of schizos) but, in that same sample, cancer is extremely high in nuclear power districts.

      And, sure, supposedly NPPs are relatively safe unless they blow up or something... and they should not affect the health of nearby residents but in practice (maybe hidden releases?) they do affect them.

      Article in Spanish on Garoña emitting radiation well above the legal limits:

      No doubt these emissions (x7 times the legal limit) affected the nearby residents and downstream the Ebro in forms relatively unknown (but Burgos and other provinces near the most controversial nuclear reactors have a high incidence of cancers in any case). Nobody pays indemnities to these victims unless the relationship is firmly established, what is very hard to do given the laws and tribunals we suffer.

    4. Unfortunately I've known several people who have had childhood cancers and none of them were near a nuclear plant. Some survived, some didn't.

      Re: Engineering background - I hear the same thing from nuclear engineers on radiation as I do from physicists and as I heard in my own physics classes. If scientists aren't a trustworthy source on science, who is? If you discount engineers' opinions out of hand that should Gundersen. You doubt the opinions of people who's paycheques depend on nuclear power, and that's fair enough. Gundersen's paycheques depend on him opposing nuclear power, and the same standard should apply.

      Here's the Union of Concerned Scientists' main website:

      I think if you take a look at their board you'll find them very credible, and if you look at their general worldview on a lot of these issues you'll find it more or less in agreement with your own.

      I don't share their views on very many issues, but that being said, this is the kind of criticism that I find very hard to dismiss.

      Re: the article on Garona - do you know what form these emissions are? The link doesn't say.

      "La elevada incidencia de canceres entre la población cercana a la FUA, las minas de Uranio cerca de Andujar (Jaen), y en las minas de Ciudad Rodrigo (Salamanca) son otras muestra de los costes que para la población tiene el uso de la energía de la energía nuclear."

      I find that very believable. Uranium mining has pretty major environmental consequences. Large amounts of radium are found in uranium ore (this is what they were originally mined for actually) and when you add to the all the other toxic metals... yah. Bad stuff can happen.

    5. "Gundersen's paycheques depend on him opposing nuclear power, and the same standard should apply."

      Gundersen is retired. He doesn't need a paycheque anymore and that's why he can speak more freely than the rest.

      I trust (some) engineers to tell me how to build a machine, etc. but I do not trust them to tell me nuclear energy or any other risky business is safe. Because there's nothing 100% safe and in nuclear matters even the slightest risk is simply unacceptable.

      Engineers are not "scientists" but technicians but, regardless, scientists may and actually suffer lots of pressures from the industries, not just nuclear but pharma, chemical, oil, military, etc. to bias or make up their findings.

      "Re: the article on Garona - do you know what form these emissions are?"

      It says:
      a) 7 times the allowed amount of radioactivity in liquid residue form (I understand that spills to the river, probably polluted water)
      b) 40% more than allowed in gas emision form (vaporized radioactive water?)
      c) they stored residues in the open

      Other references (no time to read them all, some talk of "radioactive cloud"):

    6. What I'm wondering is how much of the emissions were in the form of tritium. Tritium is far less dangerous than other radioactive sources as its radiation is very low energy (cannot penetrate the skin) and because it doesn't bio-accumulate (half life of 7 days). Though periodic tritium emissions may be more of a Canada thing given our reliance on heavy water reactors.

      "Engineers are not "scientists" but technicians..."

      Different situations in different countries I imagine. From what I've heard in Europe engineering is more vocational while in North America it is closer to science side of things (though in the US the trend is for their engineering to become more like Europe). The people I'm specifically referring to went through very "scientific" side of things. For example, you can go from an undergraduate program in engineering directly to a masters or PhD program in physics. There are even undergraduate programs called "engineering science" and "engineering physics" that are geared towards research in fields like optics and geophysics.

    7. Also:

      "She's clear a mouthpiece of the US military, based on her curriculum. "Concerned"? About what?"

      I doubt that US military approves of her or her group's advocacy, as it very much is contrary the US military's agenda.

    8. I should probably be clear: UCS is broadly concerned about the misuse of technology, and specifically concerned about nuclear weapons, nuclear power, genetically modified food and global warming.

    9. Those hematidrosis (sweating blood) pictures are very interesting btw. The "black residue" article's sources are all broken links now though and I can't find them even with the Wayback Machine. :/

    10. "The "black residue" article's sources are all broken links"...

      Do you mean this article:

      And these links:

      They work for me. Perfectly so.

    11. Re. engineering: my dad is a Doctor Engineer and a quite smart man but he is clearly technically-oriented by training and knows only so much of science proper. He's also a blind fanatic of nuclear power and everything that seems to be technological "progress", especially if heavy and ugly (solar and wind seems to be for "fags" and "wimps", not manly enough). But his arguments are totally feeble: it's a matter of techno-faith and some sort of worship of brutal power, the more brutal the better, it seems.

      He's never been worried about nuclear war either (he irrationally believes in a rational humankind) but, well, he was not worried about communism either (they will need people with my qualification as well, he used to say). However after being his son for more than 35 years I learned that he's also racist (silently so), what is one of the most irrational things to be, after being a Christian, what he is as well.

      And I'm putting my father as example because I know of other engineers who are much worse in everything (smarts especially). They are just "pragmatic" people (money, tech and good life) but nothing outstanding about them in my experience.

      I must say that, in general, I'm rather disappointed about people with superior studies, not just engineers: most are just hard-working people (necessary quality to pass exams) with limited smarts and even quite limited love for their profession. Mostly conformist and acritical.

    12. This generation of engineers seems to be a bit more diverse at least. There's still a decent chunk of people who fall into the mold you describe, but environmental engineering and sustainability are pretty big up-and-coming fields that are attractive and valued by a lot of people. Engineers don't fit into the old mold anymore - groups like Engineers Without Borders, solar car design teams, human powered vehicle design teams - these are all very "hip" (pick your adjective) and very socially conscious. Generalizations aside, these are people I know.

      They know their stuff. They care deeply about the environment. They would not have chosen to work in the nuclear industry if they felt they were putting the environment or people in any danger. These are people I would (and have) trust my life with.

      So this is the article I was referring to:

      The main claim that would worry me was this:

      "Black substance emits 45.699μSv/h of alpha ray ("

      Which provides the following two as sources:

      Both dead links for me.

      Trying to trace any of the "disturbing" claims back to primary sources really.

    13. Both sources redirect to their main page, it seems. I would not blame FD for it but of course it's always better to be able to go to the ultimate source.

      You may want to discuss it with Mochizuki directly.

    14. Yah, I don't blame FD for it. Just doesn't help me find any solid primary sources on these concerns. I'm not terribly worried about it to be honest. If you do come across anything of interest I'm always interested in looking at it though.

    15. The problem is that I can only keep up with so much info, so, if you're truly interested I suggest to follow directly the relevant blogs and alternative sources mentioned in this discussion. I do mention now and then Fukushima related info but this blog is not specialized in the matter - there are so many things going on (Ukraine, Palestine, Iraq, European crisis, economic crisis, Venezuela, Mexico and a lot more... I can only honor so many issues with much less than the attention they actually deserve).

    16. I hear you. I personally haven't seen any credible primary sources on some of the more alarmist claims about Fukushima, but I'm always open to persuasion. I'm not losing any sleep over eating Pacific salmon anyways and like you I find my interests keep me from looking too thoroughly at it.

  3. Latest from EneNews (another good source): Govt. study admits to 120 quadrillion Bq to the Pacific Ocean (more than Chernobyl's total to land, water and air), as always, citing several sources.

    It also has a map showing how currents bring it all (diluted, of course but to what amount?, especially up the trophic food chain) to North America.

    1. I'd think Chernobyl's total would be much higher than 120 quadrillion Bq actually. If you take 120 quadrillion Bq and dilute it evenly in the Pacific, you raise the radioactivity of the water by ~0.0002 Bq/kg. Now obviously it won't be diluted evenly, but I think you get my meaning. Releasing that radiation certainly isn't a good thing, but it's not something that should make me worried about eating Pacific Salmon or going to the beach here in Vancouver.

    2. "Now obviously it won't be diluted evenly, but I think you get my meaning".

      The problem is precisely that it won't be diluted in anything of the size of even remotely the size of the Pacific Ocean at all, not by the moment, but almost integrally carried eastwards by a very specific current (North Pacific current, forming almost exactly in the Fukushima coast) with a very specific water volume, thousands of times much smaller than the ocean they are in.

      This specific water flow is, according to NASA:

      The transport of the eastward flowing Kuroshio (figure 2a) fluctuates much between 33 and 88 Sv (Sv = 10⁶ m³/sec) with a seven-year mean of 57 Sv.

      (notice that here Sv stands for Sverdrup, not Sievert)

      Whatever the maths, the current goes straight to North America. Effects in seals particularly have been noticed soon after the Fukushima catastrophe. Lack of measuring of fish (highly irresponsible) does not allow to know the exact effect in the trophic chain but there is, I believe (with Gundersen), a serious risk in eating North Pacific Ocean seafood without at least passing a Geiger counter on it before risking your guts.

    3. Anyhow, as the radioactive water flow is not likely to be ever stopped (who had the "great" idea of building nuclear reactors by the seaside, barely above the water table?), so the radioactive flow will continue impregnating Earth, and very specially Japan and the North American West Coast, forever.

    4. Also, considering the denialist and whitewashing attitude of the Japanese govt., the real amount is most likely to be several times the one admitted to.

    5. Even if it's only diluted into a volume 0.1% of the volume of the Pacific and it's 10 times what Japan reports, we're still talking just an additional 2 Bq/kg. Enough to cause concern at a population-wide level but not something that's going to be personally risky to you or I (or at least no more risky than going for a drive).

    6. I strongly doubt that the current represents 0.1% of the water volume of the Pacific Ocean. It is a huge Ocean and the current is just like a big "river" inside it, and only at shallow depths. I can't produce a figure but I'm positive it is quite less: several orders of magnitude less. Also it is probable that the current system draws the same water forth and back across the Ocean without much exchange with neighboring waters (heat and waves are transferred without actual material exchange: only energy flows or mostly so) so the effect is likely to accumulate through time.

      Also please notice that the effect of radiation on adults is much weaker than on children because adults generally keep a steady body mass while children (and foetuses) increase their own many times, incorporating LOTS of external materials, which, if radioactive or otherwise polluted can be extremely destructive. What affects you or me is less important than what affects children (also because we have "less future" than they do).

      I'm not as worried about "my" health nor that of other adults as much as I am about the health of children. And in every instance of pollution (more so radioactive) it is the young ones who suffer the most invariably.

    7. At 56x10⁶ m³/sec 0.24% of the total volume of the Pacific would pass through the current every year.

      If we assume no mixing of the water in the current with the rest of the ocean, this paper suggests a little less than 0.1% of the total volume of the Pacific is contained within the current.

      It also gives a figure of 0.4% a year of flow as opposed to the 0.24% I gave.

      Of course the Kuroshio isn't a closed system. We should really be talking about the entire North Pacific Gyre if anything, since the Kuroshio has its source with the North Equatorial Current.

      Re: The effect on children, that should definitely be the highest concern. Iodine-131 is the most dangerous (from what I've read) but thankfully it's half life is just 8 days.

      I'd be more worried about mercury content and other sources of pollutants to be honest though. Especially given that the North Pacific Gyre is also the site of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. In reasonable quantities I'd still expect the health benefits from wild salmon or tuna to more than outweigh any risks though.

      Salmon in particular I'd have no qualms about eating or feeding to my hypothetical future children, as their lives are spent in much more northern and cleaner waters. The levels of other pollutants found in tuna are high enough to concern me though.

      Do you follow Berkeley's RadWatch at all? They have a pretty good paper on radiation in Alaska salmon. Small amounts of Fukushima-related isotopes were detectable in the 2011 salmon runs but were no longer detectable. There are some pretty good references in the paper too, including one which discusses tuna.

      Note that the radioactivity from natural potassium-40 is over 100 Bq/kg for all samples.

    8. "this paper suggests a little less than 0.1% of the total volume of the Pacific is contained within the current".

      Of the North Pacific only, so the current carries ~3.5 million cubic kilometers of water. In any case closer to your guesstimate than mine: just less than half, so maybe 5Bq/Kg when arriving to North America (assuming that the Govt. figures are correct and not heavily watered down, as usual).

      "Do you follow Berkeley's RadWatch at all?"

      No, sorry. I was not aware about them and anyhow my following of info is already near the limit of my personal capacity.

      "Small amounts of Fukushima-related isotopes were detectable in the 2011 salmon runs but were no longer detectable."

      No longer detectable when exactly? Notice that Japan is once and again pouring radioactive water to the sea either for lack of capacity to control it or storage limits (intentional pouring is illegal but everyone looks elsewhere) and that considering the rhythm of the leaks they may pile up faster than dilution happens.

      Salmon is just one of many seafoods, I would appreciate data on other species as well: the exact accumulation may vary a lot depending on species because of what they eat, where they migrate, etc.

      "Note that the radioactivity from natural potassium-40"...

      Why do you bring that up? K40 is the main source of natural radioactivity (being "natural" does not mean it's harmless and adds up to whatever artificial one we may suffer). The radioactivity of K40 is ~30Bq/g (so like 30,000 Bq/Kg). However the human body has less than 0.02 grams of K40, so we're suffering a mere 0.5 Bq effect in the whole adult body (< 0.04 Bq/Kg), which is relatively negligible... unless added to other sources (everything adds up).

      The nuclear lobby's propaganda is full of nonsense claims about potasium, I'd suggest you ignore them.

    9. Sorry, incomplete sentence there. The Fukushima radiation was no longer detectable in the salmon as of the July 2012 salmon runs. Radiation from previous nuclear tests by Russia and the US were still detectable though. We both probably receive more radiation from eating corn and other agricultural products from the US Midwest actually since that's where the fallout from the nuclear test program landed.

    10. Your numbers are off on your K40 calculation. The paper you side provides a figure for the overall radioactivity of one gram of potassium at the typical isotope ratios for the Earth which are K39 93.3% K41 6.7% K40 0.012%. So the radioactivity of a gram of potassium is 30,000 Bq/kg if and only if it contains 0.012% K40. The human body has ~0.16kg of potassium, yielding 4,800 Bq.

      K40's radioactivity can be calculated directly from its atomic weight and half-life. I'm on my way out to a meeting shortly but later today I can do the calculation by hand to show you that this isn't just nuclear lobby propaganda.

      K40 is what was used to date the remains found at Olduvai Gorge so if the values for it's radioactivity are wrong then the various homo and paranthropus remains found there would be tens of billions of years old. So these aren't values I'm taking directly from nuclear industry sources or anything.


    11. ... "overall radioactivity of one gram of potassium"...

      You're right.

    12. "We both probably receive more radiation from eating corn and other agricultural products from the US Midwest actually since that's where the fallout from the nuclear test program landed."

      I probably don't eat almost any corn from the US Midwest: I live in Europe and maize is a rare ingredient in my diet (and would be mostly local in any case because this is a maize-producing country). The main cereal I eat is wheat (bread, pasta), also some rye (bread). Not sure where it comes from though.

      US maize radiation probably reaches me more via meat, because cows are fed with corn for fattening before slaughter (I asked my butcher, who selects the cows personally).

    13. Yah, I was thinking mostly through indirect routes like cows or chickens, or through byproducts like corn syrup, corn meal and corn starch. Soy is also a big product in the Midwest and gets fed to all kinds of animals (including us). All of which are doing all sorts of non-radiation related bad things to us too of course.

    14. I don't eat corn nor soy because they are often transgenic, which is a great cause of destruction for the environment, among other reasons because of the abuse of Roundup involved. Similarly I avoid fish and seafood unless I know for sure it's been captured/grown in an ecologically friendly manner. In other products I also try to eat local and as "green" as possible within my means.

      The destruction of Earth has many sides and I don't feel willing to be an accomplice. It would make me feel "inhuman" if I ignore all those aggressions and collaborate with them via consumption. Indirectly all that may help my health but it's not my primary concern, really (I smoke and what-not).

    15. If you're looking to minimize your environmental footprint, I'd suggest New Zealand products as a viable choice too. Their agriculture industry is very energy efficient and for certain products and at different times of the year the savings on energy on the production side outweigh the energy used for shipping.

    16. In general it's always better to purchase local products because transportation is a big deal of the footprint. Also not all is just "energy": it's environmental impact in general.

      We don't get anything NZ over here that I know of anyhow. Much of the produce available is local or semi-local, people like it that way and I can think of no reason to buy any transoceanic foodstuff unless it is tropical produce like bananas, coffee or cocoa. Surely some of the wheat of the bread and pasta also comes from offshore, probably North America, which is a heavy food exporter. That's my main concern in fact.

    17. The NZ products that you'd be most likely to come across would probably be dairy or dairy by-products as they account for ~30% of world dairy exports. Pretty good for a country of a few million that produces just 2% of the world's milk.

      For North American products, I believe the US also exports a lot of non-GMO soy for use as animal feed to the EU due to the EU's (very sensible) ban on using animal protein in animal feed.

    18. There are no major dairy imports here, except cheeses (Spanish, French, Italian, Swiss, maybe Dutch) and probably yogurts and similar milk-based desserts, ice-cream included, whose industrial production chain is often hard to understand. Milk is all local or maybe from some other parts of the state of Spain (although rarer nowadays), cuajada is local, the most sold cheeses are local (acquired taste, you know), fresh cheese is local, quesada is from Valle del Pas, just crossing the border with Cantabria, rice pudding is often local although there is also (worse quality) industrial offer. We have a long dairy tradition. They probably export to places like East Asia and the Anglosphere only.

      In general I'm not aware of any imports from the South Pacific - maybe off-season fruits? More likely to come from Chile or South Africa, which have Mediterranean climate zones.

    19. Probably fruits too yah. Or so I'd think. Kiwifruit I'd assume? Their data doesn't say. 2% of fruit exports go to Spain apparently (~$70 million a year) and another $227 million a year go to "EU destination unknown."

      Canada has very strict controls on dairy imports too, though they're getting loosened a bit with the new Canada-EU free trade agreement. Which is good IMHO - there's a maximum number of dairy cows allowed in Canada by the government as a way to keep milk prices high for dairy farmers. So I get gouged to put more money in the pockets of industrial farms.

      Meanwhile if I cross the border (just 15 minutes from my home) I can go buy milk for 50% less and cheese for 67% less. Often better quality too, since the limit on the number of dairy cows means farmers go to extreme lengths to increase a cow's milk production. :/

      You're right about their destination for dairy. Far East and Middle East mostly it seems. Surprising for China - I didn't think they consumed much dairy there.

      Just realized that our perspectives on local may be a bit different though. Our Atlantic provinces are actually closer to you than me lol. Mexico City is closer to me than Ottawa even.

      Fish, blueberries and cranberries are the big local products here, though on season there are decent amounts of local corn to be had. Just a bit east of here in the Okanagan which produces some pretty good peaches and other fruit. Decent wine by Canadian standards too (the ice wine is pretty good by international standards from what I understand).

      I wish we had access to all the different available in Europe. There are a few decent craft cheese makers but selection is still pretty generic and limited.

    20. Kiwis grow very well here and I wouldn't be surprised if we exported them (although I don't know). Kiwis are from China BTW, not from New Zealand.

      "Canada has very strict controls on dairy imports too"...

      It's not that we have controls, we have national pride, so we tend to buy local. In the last years anyhow, the dairy farmers have formed their own cooperatives and have largely displaced the previous more corporatist system (also very much local, although with some competence from Asturias and Galicia).

      "though they're getting loosened a bit with the new Canada-EU free trade agreement. Which is good IMHO"...

      I strongly disagree: it is much better to produce locally as much as possible. Global trade is a waste of energy and harmful to self-sufficiency. It only benefits the big capitalists. Only goods that can't be produced locally should be imported, if at all. I'm 1000% for protectionism, very especially re. food.

      "Surprising for China - I didn't think they consumed much dairy there."

      Have you forgotten the chemical scandal of Chinese milk? Melamine was its name? I believe it was a NZ or Australian brand, although processed in China.

      "Our Atlantic provinces are actually closer to you than me"...

      Not surprised at all. All that are was once full of Basque fishermen.

      Canada's existence is a bit artificial anyhow, for way too many reasons to mention here.

      But when I think "local", I mean from a nearby geography. Maybe for you that means enchiladas... My subjective rings of "local" are (1) Basque Country (loose borders as they do not exist in fact), (2) Iberia & France, (3) Europe and the Mediterranean. America for me is like India or China (absolutely non-local), while NZ is approximately the Antipodes.

      From what you say, you guys should diversify your production. A big problem with the North American model is that everything must be big, way too big and homogeneous. I'm pretty sure your area can produce a lot of different stuff, and, if you need something "Mediterranean", California is not far away.

    21. "I strongly disagree: it is much better to produce locally as much as possible."

      Trouble is our local dairy has a poor selection at artificially high prices. So this "buy local" is being financed on the backs of poor families that are paying twice what they should be for milk and cheese.

      The government even broke up a cheese smuggling ring. Seriously. A organized cartel of people smuggling mozzarella across the border. I think the government should have better things to do than arresting people for buying mozzarella.

      In terms of local being more California - yah, agreed. And a lot of our food does come up from California and Mexico. In terms of diversifying the food produced in the immediate area, I don't think that's really possible. Only 5 percent of BC is arable land. We're never going to be self sufficient for things like wheat for example.

      There is a large greenhouse industry to grow things like tomatoes here, but I question the environmental impact of burning coal and natural gas to light and heat these facilities 24/7 year round.

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