Censored US gov’t emails reveal proposal to test West Coast residents for Fukushima fallout — “Many cases of cancer may end up being attributed to exposures”

UPDATE: See below

From ENE News, June 1, 2015

FOIA Document — Excerpts from email by Per Peterson, Chair of Dept. of Nuclear Engineering at Univ.of California Berkeley & scientific adviser to Energy Secretary Steven Chu , Mar 23, 2011 at 1:35p (emphasis added) [FOIA document also here]:

  • [Sent to John Holdren, senior adviser to Pres. Obama on science & technology, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, DOE/NRC officials, and others who were redacted]
  • I would like to raise another issue which now merits expeditious, near term action. There is a short time window… during which it will remain possible to… measure any I-131 that members of the public may have ingested…
  • Collecting this data… would be very valuable…
  • UCB faculty [is in] general agreement that prompt action should be taken
  • Many cases of thyroid cancer, and other health problems, may end up being attributed to exposures from the Fukushima accident… on the U.S. west coast
  • It is possible that we will find that some people have received doses of I-131 and other radionuclides that could exceed the levels… Protective Action Guidelines are designed to prevent. This could provide a basis for immediate action to change PAG’s…
  • It could identify individuals who have had significant exposure… alert them and their medical care professionals to monitor for potential health effects
  • There are very strong reasons to gather data, but it must be done in a way that is broadly viewed as being in the interest of the public and the individuals involved…
  • I would recommend that we look at making facilities at the national laboratories… available to the public… Thoughts?

Reply from Dick Garwin, IBM Fellow (who Enrico Fermi called the only true genius he’d met): Right on, Per! But it seems to me that one could promptly validate the use of a single counter…  since the thyroid is so efficient in concentrating iodine

Per Peterson, Mar 23 @ 2:27p: Dick, Good idea… An important point for doing this in the U.S… is that the protocols must receive approval by a Human Subjects Committee. If one were to initiate an effort to perform whole body counting at LLNL and PNNL, the human subjects review can likely be done faster if it is initially for lab employees who would volunteer to be counted… Again, collecting statistically useful data on uptake of 1-131 and other radionuclides on the U.S. west coast and in Japan could be very valuable in the longer term, when many people may begin to believe that the Fukushima accident is the cause of a variety of health problems.

US Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s internal correspondence concerning the emails above:

  • Kathy Gibson (NRC), Mar 23 @ 3:03p: Please confirm that you are looking at this…
  • Gibson @ 5:46p: Are they talking about members of the public in US or Japan?
  • Stephanie Bush-Goddard (NRC) @ 5:54p: … the public in the US
  • Gibson @ 6:07p: Do we think it is a bad idea
  • Bush-Goddard @ 6:12p: … Yes, setting up additional monitoring stations for the public (without detecting anything) could cause additional alarm… I think they are responding to the public RASCAL run that shows very high doses to the Thyroid.
  • Gibson @ 6:35p: [NRC’s Radiation Protection and Health Effects Branch] think it’s a bad idea for people in the US because there (so far) isn’t measurable iodine in the US… They think this may be a funding opportunity for the entities making these proposals.

Per Peterson, Mar 25 @ 2:13p: … we have detected small concentrations of… radioactive materials in rainwater in Berkeley… I am now working with faculty in our school of public health to see how we can… verify what exposures have occurred. I do believe that these measurements will be very important in the longer term in assessing the consequences of the Fukushima accident.

See also: Former DOE official rips UC Berkeley for comparing ingestion of fallout to air travel



The Big Picture, Jun 24, 2015 — Kevin Kamps, Beyond Nuclear (emphasis added): “A recent revelation of Nuclear Regulatory Commission internal emails… reveal that there was concern at the highest levels of the U.S. government, and rightly so, about the radioactive iodine-131 escaping from Fukushima Dai-ichi… and reaching the United States… Rainwater at 242 times safe drinking water act permissible levels — so you better believe we got radioactive iodine-131 in the United States. Likely people ingested it — either breathed it in, or drank it in milk, or various other ingestion pathways. It attacks the thyroid gland… it does a tremendous amount of damage. And these emails… show that US government officials were worried about that, were calling for studies to be done to try to track the health damage. And what do you know, those studies did not happen… The monitoring and testing and the epidemiology were woefully inadequate to non-existent… The nuclear industry will try to bury the truth, and that sure happened after Fukushima… I think there’s been a huge dereliction of duty at the federal and the state levels.”

Kamps appears to be referencing an ENENews report from earlier this month, Censored US gov’t emails reveal proposed plan to test West Coast residents for Fukushima fallout — “Many cases of cancer may end up being attributed to exposures” — Doses could exceed emergency levels

The report quoted internal emails from March 2011 by the head of UC Berkeley’s nuclear engineering department, who wrote: “UCB faculty [is in] general agreement that prompt action should be taken… Many cases of thyroid cancer, and other health problems, may end up being attributed to exposures from the Fukushima accident… on the U.S. west coast… It is possible that we will find that some people have received doses of I-131 and other radionuclides that could exceed the levels [which] Protective Action Guidelines are designed to prevent. It could identify individuals who have had significant exposurealert them and their medical care professionals to monitor for potential health effects.”

On the Friday before UC Berkeley’s nuclear chair sent this proposal to a small group of government officials and experts, ABC’s San Francisco affiliate reported on public comments made by UC Berkeley’s nuclear department:

ABC (San Francisco KGO-TV), Mar 18, 2011: Nuclear engineers here at UC Berkeley say… don’t be alarmed. The tiny particles are just so small, they pose no threat at all… not harmful at all. One scientist here says you can get more radiation exposure on a flight… One model forecasts that the radiation plume… will reach California today… experts say this map is very misleading. First of all, there is no ‘plume’. Second of all, you cannot predict how the weather is going to carry radiation particles over here to the West Coast, if any at all.

The map above is a model developed by Japanese and European experts showing the strength and location of the Fukushima plume while over the West Coast on Mar. 18, 2011 — the same day as the broadcast of UC Berkeley’s claim that “there is no plume”. According to the map’s scale, dark red areas along the West Coast indicate the Fukushima fission product xenon-133 had a concentration in the air column of 1,000,000 becquerels per square meter.

Watch the interview with Kamps here


Letter from Dr. Ernest Sternglass to Energy Secretary Steven Chu: On health dangers from ingested and inhaled radiation

Ernest J. Sternglass, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus of Radiological Physics
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
Director of the Radiation and Public Health Project
4601 Fifth Avenue #824, Pittsburgh, PA 15213

February 7,2009

Dr. Steven Chu, Secretary of Energy
1000 Independence Avenue
Washington, DC 20585

Dear Dr. Chu,

I am writing to you to make you aware of a little-known tragic mistake that was made by the medical community and physicists like myself during the early years of the Cold War that has been playing a major role in the enormous rise of the incidence chronic diseases such as cancer and diabetes, and thus the cost of healthcare in our nation. The mistake was to assume that the radiation exposure to the public due to the small amount of fallout from distant nuclear weapons tests or the operation of nuclear reactors would have no significant adverse effect on human health.

This assumption was based on our experience with a half-century of studies that showed no detectable increase in cancer rates for individuals given one or two diagnostic X-rays. What was not understood at the time was that the radioactive elements created in the fission of uranium did not just produce a small increase in the external dose as received from the natural background sources. Instead, the particles and gases produced in the fission process released into the environment would lead to vastly greater radiation damage than from diagnostic X-rays or the gamma rays in background sources because the radioactive fission products and uranium oxides were inhaled and ingested with the milk, the drinking water and the rest of the diet, concentrating in critical organs of the body.

Thus, the radioactive Iodine-131 seeks out the thyroid and damages the production of key growth hormones as well as thyroid cancer, Strontium-90 concentrates in bone where it irradiates the bone-marrow, causing leukemia in newly forming red blood cells as well as damage to crucial white cells of the immune system that fight cancer cells and bacteria. Cesium-137 collects in soft tissue organs such as the breast and the reproductive organs of males and females, leading to various types of cancer in the individuals and their children as well as in later generations.

The mistake was compounded by the fact that in the early 1950’s when bomb tests began on a large scale in Nevada, it was not known that the adverse effect of radiation is tens to hundreds of times more serious for the developing infant in the mother’s womb and young children than for the adults studied following medical X-ray exposures. Nor was it discovered until the early 1970’s that protracted radiation exposures as from long-lived fission products accumulating in the body, is much greater than from the same total dose received in a short X-ray exposure.

As a result of this lack of knowledge at the time, government officials were able to reassure a concerned public that the small levels of nuclear fallout from the Nevada tests would produce no adverse effects, and point out the potential benefits of the peaceful atom. Thus, in the mid-1950’s, President Eisenhower was able to declare that dirty coal power plants could be replaced by “ clean nuclear energy too cheap to meter.”

Thus, a program of building a large number of nuclear plants was begun which were permitted to discharge small amounts of fission products comparable with the levels of fallout from atmospheric weapons testing.  This was also the time the Cold War had begun and thousands of nuclear weapons were produced and tested as a necessary deterrent to keep the large armies of the Soviet Union from overrunning all of Europe. Therefore, when it was discovered in the 1960’s that small amounts of fission products produced much greater damage than had been expected, and not only leukemia and other forms of cancer but also premature births, low birth-weight and infant mortality, it was kept secret by our government for fear that it would endanger the deterrent value of the nuclear arsenal.

Moreover, when a rise in healthcare costs began with the start of large-scale atmospheric weapons testing that increased sharply with the construction of some one hundred nuclear plants beginning in the 1950’s, this was blamed on the inefficiency of the system and the greed of the drug companies, and not on the large rise of releases from the nuclear plants built near the large cities, contaminating the milk produced in the nearby dairies.

The details of this story can be found in my book “Secret Fallout” that can be downloaded free from the Radiation and Public Health web-site http://www.radiation. org as well as a list of some two dozen papers published in scientific journals and five books published by members of RPHP.

Fortunately, the recent rapid development of alternative energy makes it possible to see an end to this tragedy, since it is possible to convert the aging nuclear plants to operate with natural gas. This can be done at a small fraction of the cost of new power stations until the alternative solar, wind, geothermal and hydro sources can take their place, as demonstrated by the case of the Fort St. Vrain nuclear plant near Denver, Colorado, now using natural gas.

If our nation that built the first reactors and nuclear weapons were to announce the goal of phasing out nuclear fission reactors that also produce the plutonium and tritium needed for nuclear weapons while developing nuclear fusion power and other non-polluting sources of energy, it will also make it easier to achieve the stated goal of President Obama of a world free from nuclear weapons.

Thus it is possible to look forward to a world free from the danger of the annihilation of human life by nuclear weapons using enriched uranium or plutonium that is only produced in nuclear fission reactors, together with the highly toxic nuclear wastes that remain deadly for thousands of years.

Sincerely yours,
Ernest J. Sternglass, Ph.D.