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Thousands of ordinary Japanese people are unknowingly accumulating higher than usual doses of radioactivity while consciously suffering many other deprivations and disruptions after the earthquake and tsunami. Reports exist of efforts to get dosimeters to first responders and TEPCO workers, but little evidence suggests much of an effort to supply personal dosimetry to ordinary citizens suffering exposures in this incident.

If it were me, and I was a Japanese resident of the areas West and North of the stricken reactors, and I knew everything I could find out about reported radiation monitoring in my vicinity, then I would want to know my personal dosage as I have gone about my business. This would be particularly true for me if my life called for me to spend many hours per day out of doors. I would be even more concerned if my activities carried me around to different parts of the area and to areas unfrequented by others.  I wouldn't be satisfied with reports of generally low levels of airborne radiation at local sites, because I would know that incidence and concentration of radiation from an environmental release is typically spotty and uneven. But even in an area where most people could get around safely with out exposing themselves to undue risk from radiation, certain individuals' movements might just happen to increase their exposure to particularly hot spots in the patchy blanket of radioactivity let out by the plant. Until I see reassuring and reliable reports that control of all the Fukushima Daiichi had been positively established, the risk continues that at any moment another radioactive plume could ooze, reek, smoke or explode out of that plant.  

There is simply no guarantee that radiation monitoring points will find all of warm, hot and hotter spots and particular individuals could easily and unknowingly stumble into more heavily contaminated areas and accumulate much more radiation than those around them. If I risked being radiated in excess of legal limits, I would wish to know about it.  

Anyway, it is not as though we're talking about generally low levels of radiation at local sites. In a presentation that I read as intended to be reassuring, by our very own U.S. Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration, I found this alarming, to me, graphic of Fukushima Disaster radiation monitoring results reported by the USA's National Incident Team:

Do you see those colorful pustules of gold and yellow and green? They're kind of patchy and scattered and cover a very substantial area outside the previously established evacuation zone. I'd guess that the patchiness we see at the macro level is replicated at the micro level to some degree, perhaps contributing to the variability of radiation exposures received by particular individuals.

So, I started following the news on the subject of radiation dosimeters and looked into the industry that manufactures the different types for their various purposes. I sent an inquiry to ShelterBox asking if they had given any thought to providing dosimeters in their aid. What I have learned so far is not promising.

The biggest problem seems to be one of expense and logistics.  Individual dosimetry appears to be pretty expensive, requiring either expensive electronic devices, expensive pen dosimeters, or a service network to interpret and report the readings. The dosimeter industry markets to first responders and industrial activities like nuclear plants for their high end and to the medical and affiliated world for most of the rest. This tends to keep individual dosimetry expensive, it appears to me.  Anyway, there seems to be a lot of money and logistics required to get it done.

In the meantime, supplies dwindle as speculators or panic buyers deplete the market of readily available dosimetry products. But I'm not one step closer to helping with this problem.  

For less than $2000, subject to availability, 10 Japanese could be supplied with simple, rechargeable pen dosimeters if a means of distribution could be devised.  That is peace of mind for ten souls. Is it worth the price? Would it waste money best spent other ways? Would this community support such a project? Could it really be done?

I don't know how to get something like this done, but I guess we can start by talking about it.  

Originally posted to LeftOfYou on Tue Apr 12, 2011 at 08:54 PM PDT.

Also republished by Nuclear Free DK.


$2,000 for 10 dosimeters?

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Gooserock, gchaucer2, peraspera, Joieau

    "If you are going to tell people the truth, be funny or they will kill you." Billy Wilder 1906 - 2002

    by LeftOfYou on Tue Apr 12, 2011 at 08:54:32 PM PDT

    •  $200 for a personal (0+ / 0-)

      dosimeter is definitely pricey. The tech isn't really all that difficult. New computer and cell phone tech gets cheaper every year, eventually reaching the average consumer's level. Half that much would seem a bit expensive, should be down around $65 for a rechargeable and reliable pencil dosimeter.

      Japan has some mighty clever tech-type tinkerers and lots of well-heeled manufacturers of various electronic gadgets. How hard would it be to get the specs on such a device and get government or TEPCO relief funding to manufacture tens of thousands quickly, for general distribution? Exposures will go on for many months, will be periodic according to the weather and what's happening at the plants.

      But something like this would at least allow people to keep a running tally of their own exposures and that will come in very handy some years down the road when serious health effects start showing up. Or maybe let people know today's not a good day for a picnic in the park, and that could help lessen long-term effects considerably. That alone would seem important enough to qualify for funding as accident response.

      Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

      by Joieau on Wed Apr 13, 2011 at 07:48:58 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Winds Over Land are Complex and Wildly Varying (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LeftOfYou, HoundDog, peraspera, Joieau

    for purposes of guesstimating where fallout deposits will end up. They're highly influenced by terrain, especially in cool months when there's less vertical mixing to disturb geography-influenced flows.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Tue Apr 12, 2011 at 09:06:18 PM PDT

  •  I read back in March (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    peraspera, Joieau

    when the officials were relocating thousands of folks to the next zone all of the citizens were checked for radiation levels.  Not sure how often that is done, however.

    Rather than personal dosimeters, it is more practical to have monitoring clinics -- that way, it is fairer because of the cost.  The clinics should be free.

    " My faith in the Constitution is whole; it is complete; it is total." Barbara Jordan, 1974

    by gchaucer2 on Tue Apr 12, 2011 at 09:15:31 PM PDT

    •  I'm not so sure. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      peraspera, Joieau

      Periodic monitoring of an individual will tell you whether that person is contaminated with radioactivity at that moment and will help find it, or find out whether your possessions or tissue have become themselves radioactive. This sort of monitoring does not and can not tell you what your accumulated exposure to radiation has added up to. Only personal dosimetry can do that. Only personal dosimetry can tell you when it's time to get away for your own good.  

      "If you are going to tell people the truth, be funny or they will kill you." Billy Wilder 1906 - 2002

      by LeftOfYou on Tue Apr 12, 2011 at 10:00:16 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The clinics need to have (0+ / 0-)

      whole-body scanners for the use of the public, free of charge whenever they want to know where they are on body burdens of dangerous isotopes. THOSE are extremely expensive, but one per rural province should do the trick, along with at least one in all major population centers.

      It seems to me that personal dosimeters are a pretty good idea for those who care to monitor their own accumulating dosage in general terms. Dosimeters don't identify isotopes like body scanners do.

      Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

      by Joieau on Wed Apr 13, 2011 at 07:53:55 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I appreciate you efforts on behalf of the Japanese (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    peraspera, Joieau

    people LeftOfYou.

    In an ideal world, all the people of northern Japan would have been issued individual dosimeters on day one.

    Keep pushing the issue.  Now that there's a mass market for them, some clever manufacturing entrepreneur may figure out a way to get the cost way down.

    My Dad was a Navy pilot in the late 50s and early 60s, I remember him saying that in a pinch you could improve a detector with unexposed film, which will expose to different degrees when exposed to radiation.

    If you calibrated something like this, you may not get exact results, but could give a citizen a warning, that they need to move out of the area they are in, as their local exposure, at a trivial expense.

    But, of course, if the evacuation protocols were being calculated responsible, we wouldn't be putting citizens in just a terrible predicament.  

    The means is the ends in the process of becoming. - Mahatma Gandhi

    by HoundDog on Tue Apr 12, 2011 at 09:22:27 PM PDT

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