Very long interview with nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen about Fukushima, including how to protect yourself. West Coasters, pay attention:
Chris Martenson: What about food? I mean, this is a big issue and I would think this would be potentially an issue for people on the West Coast of the US even. Is the idea that there are certain isotopes up there and particles that can somehow get through the food chain, maybe through milk because cows graze a whole lot of grass and turn it into a very little bit of milk helping to concentrate whatever was on that grass or leafy vegetables that have a real affinity for certain of these isotopes, potentially cesium, certainly iodine if that is still around, which it shouldn’t be, but apparently it still is. How do you approach food? Because that is one quick way to ingest things.
Arnie Gundersen: Well, the cow milk predominantly would have iodine and we are out now at 80 days and most of the iodine should have disappeared because it has an eight day half life and the rule of thumb is 10 half lifes. But we are still seeing iodine which is kind of strange and it gets back to that issue of criticality re-criticality that we talked about earlier. So I’m still telling friends until the middle of June stay away from milk and dairy products. Clearly washing the vegetables is critical. In Japan we are saying avoid fish caught in the Pacific, unless you know they are caught a long way away from Fukushima. I am saying 100 miles of Fukushima, don’t even consider it. I think that will actually get worse with time. Greenpeace has some numbers that came out indicating that it is worse with time. So we are telling the Sea of Japan is a different story. You can probably feel safe eating fish from the Sea of Japan. But if you believe it came from the Pacific, avoid it.
There is two isotopes there; the predominant one is cesium, which is a muscle seeker so of course fish meat is muscle and cesium is likely to build up in your body if you take it from fish. The other one, strontium, which would be in the fish bone. So unless you have some kind of a delicacy that uses the fish bone, the fish is unlikely to expose you to strontium. So eventually though we are going to see top of the food chain animals like tuna and salmon and things like that that have this process bio accumulates. The bigger fish gradually get higher and higher concentrations. And I am concerned that the FDA is not monitoring fish entering the United States because sooner or later a tuna is going to set off a radiation alarm at some part and people are going to think it’s a dirty bomb or something like that. So that’s not here yet because the tuna haven’t migrated across the Pacific. But I am thinking by 2013 we might see contamination of the water and of the top of the food chain fishes on the West Coast.
Chris Martenson: I keep hearing the Pacific is a really big ocean, that old saw has been touted out a lot. And I think what they are missing here, in those stories of course, is what you mentioned is the bio accumulation which is that these are – many of these isotopes mimic really important elements and so our bodies preferentially take them up and so do microorganisms and they all get eaten by something larger than them and so on as we go. And over the course of that, we should all be familiar with this. Because this is how mercury tends to bio accumulate. This is how a lot of toxins bio accumulate. So we are talking about the concentration of radioactive particles. You mentioned that you had some assessment that more radioactivity has landed in the Pacific than did in the Black Sea from Chernobyl. Do you have a sense of how much you think has gone in?
Arnie Gundersen: Well, actually it’s Woods Hole, and they are certainly a reputable scientific organization. They are saying 10 times more. And yes, the Pacific is big. But we are still talking about what’s there now and I think it’s important for everyone to understand that we are not out of the woods, when Chernobyl was over we are still 10 times when Chernobyl is over and we still have no end in site from releases from Fukushima and it is already 10 times that. I am concerned, we have already seen small fish on the order of four or five inch fish as far away as 50 miles containing cesium levels of 10 to 50 times higher than allowable. And of course those fish are going to get eaten by bigger fish up the food chain. So it’s a concern. Seaweed seems to absorb iodine, but it also absorbs cesium which is something that I just learned. I was worried I was telling people don’t worry about seaweed after 90 days because the iodine is all gone. But I’m not sure about that at this point. Because as I understand it now it can also absorb the cesium, so I am a little unsure on that science.
Chris Martenson: Well, fortunately the EPA has a rigorous testing program in place, right?
Arnie Gundersen: Trust me, I’m from the government.
Chris Martenson: Yea, unfortunately on that. So this is part of the environmental legacy of Fukushima. And oh, by the way, I should mention in my research I came across the idea that shellfish particularly crabs and other crustaceans will accumulate cesium pretty heavily in their shells so we might want to add shellfish to the cesium story there as well.
I think if I lived there, personally, I would just be avoiding all seafood Pacific. As you mentioned I think that is sage advice at this point. Until and unless we had a really believable and aggressive monitoring program I would be personally leery myself. Can you talk to us, what really then are the health risks that are faced by those that live in or near the reactor at this point, on the reactor complex?