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Radioactive Concrete From Fukushima Found In New Construction 237

Posted by samzenpus
from the when-recycling-goes-bad dept.
mdsolar writes "The Japanese government is investigating how radioactive concrete ended up in a new apartment complex in the Fukushima Prefecture, housing evacuees from a town near the crippled nuclear plant. The contamination was first discovered when dosimeter readings of children in the city of Nihonmatsu, roughly 40 miles from the reactors at Fuksuhima Dai-ichi, revealed a high school student had been exposed to 1.62 millisieverts in a span of three months, well above the annual 1 millisievert limit the government has established for safety reasons."
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Radioactive Concrete From Fukushima Found In New Construction

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  • A bit of perspective (Score:5, Informative)

    by Sarten-X (1102295) on Monday January 16, 2012 @12:30PM (#38714364) Homepage

    While the use of contaminated materials is something to be concerned about, let's not forget how much radiation this actually is. It's roughly the equivalent of one chest CT scan per year [xkcd.com].

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ae1294 (1547521)

      While the use of contaminated materials is something to be concerned about, let's not forget how much radiation this actually is. It's roughly the equivalent of one chest CT scan per year [xkcd.com].

      You want you children growing up with that? 18 years worth? really?

      • by Sarten-X (1102295) on Monday January 16, 2012 @12:44PM (#38714570) Homepage

        From the same chart, 18 years of that (117 mSv), if it were absorbed in only one year, would still be only marginally higher than the lowest dose clearly linked to an increased risk of cancer (100 mSv/year). Since it's being absorbed over 18 years, the body has a much better chance of repairing any damage, so health is most likely not affected.

        The human body can take a surprising amount of radiation and do just fine when compared to detectable levels. A report of "radiation found!" really means very little in terms of overall health. Much more concerning is that the contaminated materials were used at all, implying that the construction controls aren't right. Finding some low levels of contamination should lead to an inspection of all buildings recently built by the same company, to see where else (potentially more) radioactive materials have been used, and to assess if there's any real danger.

        • by Dishevel (1105119)

          Wasn't there some study of a housing complex somewhere in Europe that had very high radon levels for decades.
          IIRC. The study actually showed a lower cancer rate than the norm.

        • Would you live in that building?
          • by Sarten-X (1102295) on Monday January 16, 2012 @01:02PM (#38714808) Homepage

            Yes. I also drive a car to work, which is far more dangerous. I also use a laptop on my lap, stand near the microwave, and have a slippery shower floor. I'm a risky person. Please don't tell my insurance agent.

            • Fair enough, it was actually an honest question. A lot of times I see people making claims like that, but then turn around and say they wouldn't live there. At least you are consistent.
              • by Sarten-X (1102295)

                I do try to be consistent, though I should perhaps note that given the choice between two identical apartments, with all other things being exactly equal except their yearly radiation dose, I would of course choose the one with lower radiation, because a minimal risk is still risk, and with no cost to eliminate it, I would.

            • While there is a part of me that disagrees with the way you flippantly blew off the radiation concern, there is another part of me that genuinely enjoyed the wit you displayed while doing so. Well done indeed, sir!
            • by blair1q (305137)

              >Please don't tell my insurance agent.

              Ohhhh! Where's your risky nature now?

        • by ae1294 (1547521)

          From the same chart, 18 years of that (117 mSv), if it were absorbed in only one year, would still be only marginally higher than the lowest dose clearly linked to an increased risk of cancer (100 mSv/year). Since it's being absorbed over 18 years, the body has a much better chance of repairing any damage, so health is most likely not affected.

          The human body can take a surprising amount of radiation and do just fine when compared to detectable levels. A report of "radiation found!" really means very little in terms of overall health. Much more concerning is that the contaminated materials were used at all, implying that the construction controls aren't right. Finding some low levels of contamination should lead to an inspection of all buildings recently built by the same company, to see where else (potentially more) radioactive materials have been used, and to assess if there's any real danger.

          When I was a child I figured one day that I'd break up the sidewalk with a hammer. This isn't bullshit, I don't know why I did so and I got my ass beat but would my parents have had to take me to the hospital if I lived in this place? What if I eat dirt.

          I am not against nuke power. We need it... in my backyard even. But we don't have to put up with failure. We have always been told it could never happen. It does... Then everyone says well it's your fault build new reactors... come on now... If the old ones

          • but would my parents have had to take me to the hospital if I lived in this place?

            No. Your parents wouldn't even notice if you weren't wearing a dosimeter. Nor would you.

            What if I eat dirt.

            The biologicals in dirt are far more of a hazard than 1.17 mSv per three months.

            You're more likely to get tetanus than experience any noticeable effects from the radiation dose mentioned.

            • by ae1294 (1547521)

              No. Your parents wouldn't even notice if you weren't wearing a dosimeter. Nor would you.

              ... and that is what scares people ...

      • by mspohr (589790)

        Recent studies have shown that CT scans are not completely safe.
        One CT scan in a year is estimated to produce one cancer in 270 women (one cancer in 600 men) or about 29,000 a year in the US.
        http://online.wsj.com/article/SB126082398582691047.html [wsj.com]

        Radiation is not safe and we don't really know if there is a "safe" amount of radiation. It's best to avoid all radiation as much as possible.

    • Help me out here. Is this radiation transferred by residue, or lingering readings from the constant irradiation. If it's the later, how much radiation are these children actually getting at the source during the times spent at home? Doesn't inverse square law apply with regards to the source of radiation and distance from it?

      • by quenda (644621) on Monday January 16, 2012 @12:46PM (#38714592)

        The kid is not radioactive. He carries a "dosimeter" which measures the total dose he receives.
        Anyone living in a brick or concrete building gets more radiation than in a timber house, but this particular block has rather more than usual.

      • by Sarten-X (1102295)

        Those are all good questions, which should be answered by the thorough investigation that I hope will follow. If and only if the investigation reveals an actual danger, we should be worried.

      • The article is a bit vauge it sounds like radioative material from the fukushima disaster transferred to the gravel pit (probablly via groundwater) and contaminated the gravel that was used to make the concrete.

    • by Dexter Herbivore (1322345) on Monday January 16, 2012 @12:43PM (#38714546) Journal

      I have a good friend who married a Japanese girl 2 years ago and moved there. I mentioned to someone that I was planning to visit him and her first reaction was, "Aren't you afraid that you'll die from radiation poisoning?".

      The fear of radiation poisoning seems to me to be an infantile reaction similar to fear of the dark(nyctophobia). It's a fear of something that we can't see, and can't quantify with our own senses. Why be mindlessly afraid of radiation when it can be measured and the risks are understood? I'm not particularly afraid of travelling to Tokyo when Fukushima is hundreds of kilometers away and virtually unaffected?

      • I mentioned to someone that I was planning to visit him and her first reaction was, "Aren't you afraid that you'll die from radiation poisoning?".

        Either she's a complete dumbass, or she was making an awesome Godzilla joke.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 16, 2012 @12:54PM (#38714698)

        Maybe she was concerned about the extra radiation dose that you would receive from flying in an airplane at high altitudes.

      • by peragrin (659227)

        The correct response is only as much as you fear of dying from tanning.

        The real response is people are afraid of what they dont understand.. since the average person is an idiot, and half of them ate dumber than that. They have no understanding of radaition its effects, etc. Therefore it is to be feared. Take a look at religions they love that effect. If it isnt us then it isnt goig to our heaven and often added on then kill it to hell.

      • by DarkOx (621550)

        It's a fear of something that we can't see, and can't quantify with our own senses. Why be mindlessly afraid of radiation when it can be measured and the risks are understood?

        Well that is exactly why its scary. We can't register it with our own senses, well unless is so strong as to cause heating. I could be being irradiated right now, and I would not know it. So yea anytime you elevate the risk that could be happening by saying going near the TSA, or the site of recent nuclear safety incident, yes I worry.

        Now I also understand *some* of the physics and if I had the tools measure and map it I'd worry less. I don't have those tools so the only option is look for secondary ind

    • by vlm (69642) on Monday January 16, 2012 @01:04PM (#38714838)

      Wlet's not forget how much radiation this actually is. It's roughly the equivalent of one chest CT scan per year.

      Sure about that? They're getting 1/3 of a mSv per month, so about 4 per year. one chest CT scan is about two dozen or so as a rough rule of thumb. Closer to a CT scan per six years. Since most kids go to primary school about a dozen years, its about the equivalent of two chest CT scans. Not one per year, not two per year, but two. two total. Hmm I went thru two pneumonia x-rays in the last almost 40 years, although those were not CT scans, at any rate the kids are getting about three times the dosage that a middle age non smoker like me is going thru. Not too serious.

      Theoretically the girls are getting mammograms every, like, year or something, and each is about 2 mSv, so you do the math. For genetic risk factors my wife gets the girls squashed and zapped every year or so, which is ... 2 mSv per year, so apparently from a radiation dose standpoint its about twice as dangerous as ... being a girl. Not too serious. Well I mean cancer sucks, but I mean the situation of the kids is not much more dangerous for the girls than being tested for cancer.

      Also you get "about" 3 or so mSv per year naturally, from eating bananas, cosmic rays, granite countertops, stuff like that, which is pretty much how the scientists pulled the 1 mSv figure out of some orifice, that an extra 33% probably can't hurt anything? I know the radiation dosage in colorado is much higher than sealevel and the Fukushima kids live at sea level, so you can also describe their increase dosage as a height above sea level. I'm guessing their increased dosage is about the same as moving to Denver. Again, not too serious, although I would not want to live in Denver.

      Note this average normal does assumes you don't smoke... the polonium in tobacco means one cancer stick per day equals about one mSv per year, so the 4 mSv increase is equivalent to smoking about four cigs per day, roughly, which is probably about as bad as the second hand smoke from living with a smoking parent. Again, not too serious.

      Radiation is fun to learn about because its "secret". Even on /. where people know volts and mV and amps and mA, very few know mSv and rads and rems and such and its pretty easy to learn, and fairly easy to memorize rough comparisons, like a cancer stick per day is a mSv per year, or a CT scan is about two dozen mSv, or a natural dose from mother earth is about a mSv per season depending on your altitude, etc etc.

    • The chart says 40 microsieverts for one chest X-ray. TFA says 1.6 millisieverts in three months. So, the rate is 640 chest X-rays per year, not one. That is much higher than the NRC's public exposure limit of 100 mrem/year (1 millisieverts/year).
      • by Sarten-X (1102295)

        I said a CT scan, not an x-ray. A CT scan (7 mSv on the chart) is made from a few hundred "normal" x-ray images, composited on a computer. This kid's getting about 6.5 mSv/year from his house. The 1mSv/year exposure limit is for a "member of the public", meaning that if an average person had more than that amount of exposure, it's abnormal and should be investigated (as it is here), because there might be a dangerous radiation source nearby. A malfunctioning x-ray machine in a doctor's office that turns its

        • Sorry for misreading.
        • by vlm (69642)

          The 1mSv/year exposure limit is for a "member of the public", meaning that if an average person had more than that amount of exposure, it's abnormal and should be investigated (as it is here), because there might be a dangerous radiation source nearby.

          I like your explanation and on /. an EE explanation MIGHT go ever better. It reminds me of FCC mandated RF exposure guidelines. Below this specified level of RF power you simply don't have to care. That doesn't mean that a microwatt over means you've instantly built a flaming open air microwave oven beam weapon of death, which can be built if you use multiple orders of magnitude more power, it just means here's an arbitrary line beneath which you just say "who cares".

          I forget the UL labs AC leakage curre

      • by vlm (69642)

        The chart says 40 microsieverts for one chest X-ray. TFA says 1.6 millisieverts in three months. So, the rate is 640 chest X-rays per year, not one. That is much higher than the NRC's public exposure limit of 100 mrem/year (1 millisieverts/year).

        Well now you're getting things all confused. First of all a CT (computerized tomography) x-ray takes a zillion xrays at different angles and combines them in a computer with some pretty funky math to make cool 3-d model. Been a long time since a took a nuke physics class (20 years?) but yeah there probably are 100s of xrays taken in one CT scan. A CT scan with only one image taken is kind of a misnomer. Doctors do have to have a reasonable excuse for a CT scan, not just for the heck of it like they do p

    • by blair1q (305137)

      One CT scan is like a couple dozen x-rays.

      You do not want to get such a thing regularly.

  • From TFA (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 16, 2012 @12:39PM (#38714498)

    The gravel used in the cement came from a quarry in the town of Namie, located just miles from the Fukushima plant. While Namie sits inside the government mandated 12-mile “no-go” zone because of radiation concerns, it wasn’t completely closed off until the end of April, meaning the gravel was exposed to radiation spewing from the Fukushima plant during that time.

    Mystery solved. The only thing we need to know is if the contractors got the gravel at a "special discounted price".

    • by vlm (69642)

      The gravel used in the cement came from a quarry in the town of Namie, located just miles from the Fukushima plant. While Namie sits inside the government mandated 12-mile “no-go” zone because of radiation concerns, it wasn’t completely closed off until the end of April, meaning the gravel was exposed to radiation spewing from the Fukushima plant during that time.

      Mystery solved. The only thing we need to know is if the contractors got the gravel at a "special discounted price".

      Another important question is did they analyze the isotopic signature of the accident debris and match it to the isotopic signature of the gravel?

      People forget that power plant and the processing plant were radioactive before the accident, theoretically all behind closed doors. I'm Sure This Doesn't Happen In Japan, but in a third world country like China or the USA, I would not be totally surprised if something got dumped in a nearby gravel pit back in '73. Digging it up again after an accident in 2011 p

    • by Locutus (9039)
      don't forget that the radioactive rocks also allowed them to work 2nd and 3rd shifts during the power outages too. Love that green glow on a moonless night. lol

      Scooby Doo, look what you've done!

      LoB
  • by Kaenneth (82978) on Monday January 16, 2012 @12:39PM (#38714506) Homepage Journal

    I guess one important question is, what's the half-life of this particular contamination?

    And is it (relativly) sealed in, or can it become airborne?

    • Well TFA says that the radiation levels are higher inside the building than outside of it.
    • by quenda (644621)

      TFA says caesium in the concrete, so 30 years half life.
      And if the concrete of the apartment becomes airborne, you have bigger worries than the radiation.

    • by jonbryce (703250)

      Caesium 134 has a half life of about 2 years, and caesium 137 about 30 years. It is mostly gamma radiation, so that will get through the amount of concrete typically used to make walls.

    • by Baloroth (2370816)
      The article specifies Cesium. I assume this is Cesium (or Caesium)-137, half-life 30 years, or Cesium-134, half life 2 years. The decay chain is mostly to Ba-137 (half life 153 seconds), which emits gamma rays of 662keV. Cs-134 doesn't seem to have a description of the decay chain on wikipedia, and based on what I can see I would assume it is produced in much smaller quantities (i.e. not a major factor). Also, it is in the gravel used to make concrete: chances of airborne contamination are tiny. Finally, th
      • by Baloroth (2370816)
        Correction (meant to change but didn't): it is barium-137m, a radioactive isotope. Ba-137 is a stable non-radioactive isotope that ends the chain. Also, Cs-137 -> Ba-137m produces some beta radiation, Ba-137m -> Ba-137 produces gamma.
    • So, the cesium is in the concrete. We need a way to block the radiation. Lead is usually a pretty good material for blocking radiation.

      Oh... Lead Paint!

      You're welcome.

      John Hodgeman would be proud.

      On a more serious note, does this actually matter? Kids don't stay at home 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so any estimates of the increase in exposure should, I hope, include the fact that kids are going to be gone something like 1/4 - 1/2 of the time they live there?

      We live in a constant bath of low-level radiatio

      • by gl4ss (559668)

        when you carry a dosimeter, it's not an estimate of exposure, it's a measure of exposure.

    • by MightyYar (622222)

      It's probably Cesium, and that's 30 years. It is apparently in the foundation, and is much higher on the first floor. Technically I think Cesium is water-soluble but it's probably not an issue when encased in concrete. It's probably a tear-down, but maybe they can use methods similar to radon remediation to reduce the effect.

      • by nedlohs (1335013)

        Radon remediation is all about getting the radon out of the building. Providing ventilation and airflow is every so slightly different than trying to extract something from concrete...

        Radon (and the chain it decays to) is alpha and beta as well - so getting it outside so you won't be breathing it in as much is fine. With gamma (the next step in the chain, a couple of minutes after cesium beta decays is a gamma producer) not so much since it doesn't really care about the walls...

  • by need4mospd (1146215) on Monday January 16, 2012 @01:08PM (#38714872)
    They're already receiving glowing reviews.
  • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Monday January 16, 2012 @01:10PM (#38714902)

    Or are Slashdot posters that infatuated with nuclear? Seems like no matter what news comes out on that disaster, we've got apologists crawling out to explain how we don't need to worry about it and any concerns are the ignorant fears of the anti-nuke brainwashed.

    • can be boring without slashdot. If they are not here, they are probably napping....
    • by vlm (69642)

      Or are Slashdot posters that infatuated with nuclear? Seems like no matter what news comes out on that disaster, we've got apologists crawling out to explain how we don't need to worry about it and any concerns are the ignorant fears of the anti-nuke brainwashed.

      A site with endless ranting about software / IT FUD in the early years, then along comes totally non-scientific fear mongering anti-nuclear FUD, what could possibly go wrong?

    • by The Wild Norseman (1404891) <tw@norseman.gmail@com> on Monday January 16, 2012 @01:45PM (#38715282)

      Or are Slashdot posters that infatuated with nuclear? Seems like no matter what news comes out on that disaster, we've got apologists crawling out to explain how we don't need to worry about it and any concerns are the ignorant fears of the anti-nuke brainwashed.

      Yes, because posts like this

      by Tyr07 (2300912) on 10:15 16 January 2012 (#38714956)
      *snip*
      If I lived there, I'd have radiation meters weaved into my clothes.

      People go 'OH it's not that much' FINE, let government leaders live in those places. I wouldn't want my life shortened at all, I'm thinking 40 years down the road I don't want to die from horrible radiation inflicted disease, nor do I want to find out some sort of penis monster finds me attractive.

      are the epitome of rational and calm appraisal of the dangers...

    • No (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday January 16, 2012 @01:58PM (#38715404)

      It is that there are some smart people who post here, people who can look at numbers and do a bit of math, and thus realize that this story is in fact a complete non-story since the levels are so low.

      The anti-nuke crowd gets all worked up over radiation as a boogeyman without any thought. None of them seem to appreciate that you are exposed to radiation every day, every where, just by living. They seem to think ANY amount of radiation is evil.

      Also plenty of people on Slashdot can do risk analysis and understand that yes, nuclear power has risks but so does everything else in the world. They've looked at the risk, and decided it was worth it.

  • well above the annual 1 millisievert limit the government has established

    1.62 mSv is not "well above" 1 mSv - it is practically the same.

    Physics courses should be mandatory for "journalists"- as usual, they have no fucking clue what the hell they are writing about.

  • If you've got a Geiger counter, orange Fiestaware is the cat's meow.

    1.6 mSv is 0.00162 mrem.

    http://www.orau.org/ptp/collection/consumer%20products/fiesta.htm [orau.org] Estimates for consumer exposure to the uranium in the glazing of orange Fiestaware show you could rack up to a mSv in just a few hours exposure.

    Who wants to bet, that this batch of concrete had some orange Fiestaware mix into it, or perhaps just a natural concentration of pitchblende, and it has nothing to do with Fukushima?
  • When there are still questions regarding how much radioactive material is still being spewed out and contaminated debris is being incinerated (and reintroduced into the atmosphere) through-out the country, I would have to say that concrete is a safer place to have radioactive contamination. At least it is better than the lungs, kidneys, and other vital organs . . . which is much harder to measure and remains one of the great unknowns of this crisis.
  • That is a non story. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by aepervius (535155) on Monday January 16, 2012 @05:54PM (#38718406)
    "1.62 millisieverts in a span of three months"

    Big Fucking Deal. Here around due to the granitic rock and radon , we are getting in average a bit less than 5 mSv per year. For Japan it is about 1mSv. Assuming that radiation dose per 3 month is in addition to the normal natural dose, they are geeting per year about the same as we got in our house : around 5 mSv per year. And the world average is around 2.5 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Background_radiation [wikipedia.org]. Anything under 10 mSv per year I would not even bat an eye.

If a camel is a horse designed by a committee, then a consensus forecast is a camel's behind. -- Edgar R. Fiedler

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