Japan’s Fukushima catastrophe brings big radiation spikes to B.C.

(Editor: This story has rectified information on how levels of radioactive iodine-131 detected in the air in Canada after Fukushima compared with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s ceiling for iodine-131. The original story mistakenly said that ceiling was exceeded. We regret the error.)

After Japan’s Fukushima catastrophe, Canadian government officials reassured jittery Canadians that the radioactive plume billowing from the destroyed nuclear reactors posed zero health risks in this country.

In fact, there was reason to worry. Health Canada detected large spikes in radioactive material from Fukushima in Canadian air in March and April at monitoring stations across the country.

On March 18, seven days after an earthquake and tsunami triggered eventual nuclear meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan, the first radioactive material wafted over the Victoria suburb of Sidney on Vancouver Island.

For 22 days, a Health Canada monitoring station in Sidney detected iodine-131 levels in the air that were up to 300 times above the normal background levels. Radioactive iodine levels shot up as high as nearly 1,000 times background levels in the air at Resolute Bay, Nunavut.

Meanwhile, government officials claimed there was nothing to worry about. “The quantities of radioactive materials reaching Canada as a result of the Japanese nuclear incident are very small and do not pose any health risk to Canadians,” Health Canada says on its website. “The very slight increases in radiation across the country have been smaller than the normal day-to-day fluctuations from background radiation.”

In fact, Health Canada’s own data shows this isn’t true. The iodine-131 level in the air in Sidney peaked at 3.6 millibecquerels per cubic metre on March 20. That’s more than 300 times higher than the background level, which is 0.01 or fewer millibecquerels per cubic metre.

“There have been massive radiation spikes in Canada because of Fukushima,” said Gordon Edwards, president of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility.

“The authorities don’t want people to have an understanding of this. The government of Canada tends to pooh-pooh the dangers of nuclear power because it is a promoter of nuclear energy and uranium sales.”

Edwards has advised the federal auditor-general’s office and the Ontario government on nuclear-power issues and is a math professor at Montreal’s Vanier College.

In a phone interview from his Montreal home, he said radiation from Fukushima will lead to higher rates of cancer and other diseases among Canadians. But don’t panic. Edwards cautioned that the risk is very small for any particular individual.

“It’s not the risk to an individual that’s the problem but how much society is at risk. When you are exposing millions of people to an insult, even if the average dose is quite small, we are going to see fatal health effects,” he said.

Some impacts may have already occurred in North America. Infant mortality in eight cities in the U.S. Northwest jumped 35 percent after Fukushima, according to an article by internist and toxicologist Janette Sherman and epidemiologist Joseph Mangano on the Counterpunch website in June. The number of infant deaths rose from 9.25 per week in the four weeks prior to March 19 to 12.5 per week in the following 10 weeks, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control data.

“There has been a dismissiveness about the long-term hazards of nuclear power,” said Dr. Curren Warf, adolescent-medicine division head at B.C. Children’s Hospital.

Warf was on the board of the Nobel Peace Prize–winning U.S. antinuclear group Physicians for Social Responsibility before he moved to B.C. in 2009.

“These were some of the most advanced nuclear power plants in the world. But a natural earthquake and tsunami rendered their safety measures completely meaningless,” he said in a phone interview while on vacation in Tofino on Vancouver Island.

It’s not clear what health impacts British Columbians will face from the fallout from Fukushima, Warf said. But he added, “It should be a warning to Canada, the U.S., and the rest of the world about the vulnerability of nuclear power plants to natural catastrophes. These things have typically been dismissed in much of the planning.”

Dr. Erica Frank agrees. “The main concern I’ve had is we are not paying attention to Fukushima as a warning sign. Given the catastrophic long-term issues and what to do about nuclear waste, I had hoped it would be more of a wake-up [call] than it was,” said Frank, a professor of population and public health in UBC’s faculty of medicine and a past president of Physicians for Social Responsibility.

She called on Canada to follow Germany’s lead, which, in response to Fukushima, decided in May to phase out all of its nuclear power plants by 2022. “If Germany can do it, we can too,” she said in a phone interview from her Vancouver home.

Comments (140) Add New Comment
Bruce Conway
Very good article, the one I've been waiting for.

The obvious next step is to start testing the fish. Cesium-137 (and 134?) in fish will increase as time goes on, starting in [less than?][about] a year from now.

I think it would not be overreacting to advise pregnant or nursing mothers to avoid fish until we do get a reading.
Rating: +5
Richard Perry
The people that have lied have to be fired from top down, how else can we be assured that next time the truth will be told, there has to be a consequence to their lies. The courts have to charge those responsible for dangering the lives of the public and even murder.
Rating: +31
Art Jones
Rating: -206
Neil Craig
I assume the definition of "pooh poohing" alleged danger is that the government is slightly sceptical of the total pack of deliberate lies the ecofascist movement always tell about nuclear.

The fact is that there is no real danger whatsoever from Fukushima. Though the earthquake/tsunami ki9lled 25,000 the death toll from the reactor is precisely zero.

Compare this with the 78 killed by windmills and tou will see that every single ecogasciist or journalist who is not wholly corrupt has spent the last 20 years denouncing these "danger5ous" windmills than they have witter5ing about safe nuclear plants.

Can anybody name an "environmentalist" or journalist who is not wholly corrupt?

Thought not.
Rating: -96
And in the end, it's still a fairly low number. A few cross Atlantic flights.

I'm not concerned.

Context is important.
Rating: +488
Joe Neubarth
Those were not some of the most advanced nuclear power plants in the world. The article was wrong on that point. They also had absolutely no consideration for a tsunami. Look at all of the pictures of Fukushima you want, there is NO Sea Wall there. You can not claim to have built protection against a tsunami when nobody even bothered to build a sea wall. Their emergency diesel generators were built where they could be douched by a small sea wave coming in from the Pacific. The actual size of the Tsunami wave was 4.2 Meters in height out at sea. The run up from any wave can be considerably higher and Japan had documented records indicating that a 4 to 5 meter tsunami can run up on the shore as high as 40 to 50 feet, yet nothing was done to protect the plant from a run up like that. Unbelievable stupidity. Not only were the Emergency Diesel Generators made inoperable by the wave, but the controllers for many of the pumps were also douched. Nothing of importance worked at that plant after the tsunami. Then you had the capper of all engineering screwups at Fukushima! The steam relief valve fails shut on loss of power at the plant, and the Japanese engineers did not devise a valid backup means of opening the valve that would not result in death to the person operating it. Unbelievable! Simply unbelievable!.
Rating: +10
Janie Jones
Kelowna BC receives High Fukushima Fallout Radioactive Rain on 07/16/11:

Rating: -7
Ron Cameron
An Excellent article. Thank you for having the guts to publish information that should have come from the government. The situation is getting worse as three of the Fukushima cores have broken out of their containment and are now on the loose. These three may well join up to create a monster nuclear disaster. We will continue to get high level of radiation for years to come. There is no science to deal with this. It is uncharted territory and the government has done an excellent job of making sure we know nothing about it. Your readers should monitor: http://enenews.com/
for information no one else will provide.
Rating: -29
What a buncha BS. Usual example of Big Oil funded Denier types spreading Junk science. Remember every nuclear plant costs Big Oil $500M annually so you can see why Big Oil spends a lot of money funding folks like Edwards here.

Here's the straight skinny.


Peer reviewed science published in reputable journal (WHO) has 56 actual Chernobyl deaths and guesses but can't prove that maybe another 4000 cases had been advanced somewhat. The rest, as Monbiot states, comes from the sort of junk science like the Denier community loves to put out.

Fraser's 985K deaths from Chernobyl is total junk science that was thoroughly trashed in peer reviewed journal.

In any case, Chernobyl was a 1950's vintage Soviet nuclear weapons facility disguised as a power plant of a type not used anywhere in world today.That accident was caused by an experimental procedure designed to remove weapons grade plutonium from the plant. It had nothing to do with nuclear power.

Nobody injured at all at TMI, or due to the Fukushimi accident and neither were meltdowns of anything more than part of the fuel rods. The reactor vessel itself has never been breached. So the record holds.

The Guardian meltdown nonsense is utter trash.

The worldwide average background dose is about 3 millisievert (mSv) per year. Folks in Ramsar,Iran with peak yearly dose of 260 mSv have a lower incidence of cancer than average. Other studies have found the same results in folks that lived in radiation environments as high as 900 mSV per annum. Radiation levels outside the Fukushimi plant are far lower than these levels.

The actual cost of the nuclear part of the the Fukushima accident is under $15B.

Listening to the likes of Edwards has killed almost a million Americans a hundred million worldwide from coal air pollution, continues to kill 30K per annum 3 million worldwide when nuclear was replaced with coal 30 years ago. A recent Harvard document puts the annual cost of Fraser's coal at $500B. Global warming wouldn't exist if not for him and his kind.
Rating: +125
Some impacts may have already occurred in North America. Infant mortality in eight cities in the U.S. Northwest jumped 35 percent after Fukushima, according to an article by internist and toxicologist Janette Sherman and epidemiologist Joseph Mangano on the Counterpunch website in June. The number of infant deaths rose from 9.25 per week in the four weeks prior to March 19 to 12.5 per week in the following 10 weeks, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control data.

Concomittance is not causality. And that passes for science...
Rating: -189
Jay Black
Hate to disagree with you Bruce Conway but the obvious next step is a complete and permanent ban on all nuclear energy and weapons manufacture worldwide and the careful dismantling of the world's nuclear power industry.

I think it would not be overreacting to advise the Prime Minister, formally, of the necessity for this ban. Is Germany the only sane nation on the planet?
Rating: -5
Anne V
Check out You Tube and search Helen Caldicott watch "The Dangers of Nucleur War" March 18, 2011. It would be interesting to get her comments 4 months later.
Rating: -4
W Anderson
All depends on the context. The reactors in question were 44 yeas old, and built to the standards of the day. They should have been decommissioned 15-20 years ago. That was a management fault, not a fault with nuclear energy as a whole.

People who want to go totally non-nuclear are barking up the wrong tree. They're blaming the technology for business and safety decisions made by inept managers.

Human error was the cause of this mess, not the technology.
Rating: -10
Toni Reita Nd
Ionizing radiation can break molecules, at a cellular level, causing unpredictable chemical reactions.

Think of vibrations breaking glass, that is what happens at a cellular level, in your body, from ionizing radiation.

Ionizing radiation is insidious, these large subatomic particles travel until they are stopped.

Your skin can easily stop them.

Once they are ingested, inhaled, or enter your body through a cut, their grotesque potent force cuts through your body like knife through butter, into the cells, blood or other organs, impacting other organs and leaving behind hideous, shocking damage.

A single alpha particle from Plutonium, Uranium, Americium or Radon can deliver a huge blast of radiation inside your body. This radiation energy can destroy your genetic material at a cellular level.

Once radionuclides are released into the environment they circulate and are carried with the winds until they become part of the soil and food chain. They land in our drinking water, are on the pastures that our livestock graze on, are on our vegetables and in our fruit trees.

This is particularly dangerous for humans because we are at the top of the food chain, where the higher concentrations of radionuclides are.

Most Common Diseases From Ionizing Radiation:

* leukemia
* lymphoma
* solid tumors or any organ
* bone & blood disorders
* lung cancer
* breast cancer
* endocrine disruption
* reproductive abnormalities
* accelerated aging process
* birth defects
* congenital malformations
* kidney, liver damage

These diseases and mutations don't stop with us. If ionizing radiation enters our genes, not only does it cause irreversible damage to this generation, but to future generations, as evidenced by children being born years after Chernobyl.

In Washington state, we've been detoxing and taking other precautions for ourselves, our animals and our soils since March 14.

Because of the 31 radioactive elements spewing for almost 5 months, these precautions will continue for the rest of our lives.

Are you waiting for government permission to protect yourself?

Rating: +22
Finally some Mainstream Media coverage on one of the most important issues. We need to realize how unsafe this form energy is.
Rating: -15
Peter Pan
Isn't that what the globalist mafia wanted? They should be dancing on the roofs of their houses.
Rating: -59
to those that believe that there is nothing wrong with a little radiation ... your daft. the radiation spewing from the japanese power plant is worse than chernoble. thing is - we can do nothing about it untill the entire power plant has been sealed up... and even then it will continue to threaten humanity for the next 10,000 years - just like the rest of the power plants now in operation. disagree with me if you like - but that is the truth of the matter. there will be a huge spike in cancer deaths in the coming years due to this unmittigated release of radiation. believe it or dont. its going to get worse and then even worse....etc.
Rating: 0
How about all that PLUTONIUM dust (tons of it) blowing over the northern parts of this continent since no one uses that word in the media ?????
Rating: +17
monty/that's me
The New York Times carried a story about Homeland Security acting quickly to set up tests for radiation on incoming ships, containers and cargo at the ports in Portland, Los Angeles, Long Beach, San Diego, and possibly Seattle.
No wonder the Canadian poobahs could say they knew nothing because they had not set up approprate equipment to monitor everything coming in to Prince Rupert, Port Moody, Vancouver and Delta. The difference betweed journalism in Canada and the US is that Canadians accept pr spin and fail to press important questions. In the US politicians are expected to tell the truth (unless they are Tea Partiers and appear on FOX TV.) Those who lie get caught: Weiner and the guy in Oregon and Spitzer, etc.
Rating: -14
Standing Water BA LLD MBA
So, where are the civil suits against JAPAN for allowing this to happen? The buck has to stop with someone---if North Americans are going to have to take precaution against radioactivity that JAPAN's inept serfs produced to support their magna, pornography and eating habits, it seems that they should have to pay North Americans, especially on the west coast, for the trouble we are now experiencing. But how do you put a price on a few dozens of citizens getting cancer, especially when due to the vagaries of legal standards of proof, it'll likely never be proved?
Rating: -3


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