The Washington Post messes up Fukushima as the fifth anniversary draws near

The Washington Post recently printed the first of the fifth anniversary of Fukushima stories:

Here are some of the problems with the article:

1. The title: “How is Fukushima’s cleanup going five years after its meltdown? Not so well.”

I have no idea how the journalist or whoever came up with the headline could reach this conclusion when the opposite has been happening.

2. ” “In the last five years, radiation levels have been reduced substantially, and we can say that the plant is stable now,” said Akira Ono, the Tepco plant superintendent.” Of course, the plants at Fukushima have been stable since 2011 and the journalist should have reminded her readers of this.

3. “A sign on the road to the plant showed a radiation reading of 3.37 microsieverts per hour, at the upper end of safe. At a viewing spot overlooking the reactor buildings, it shot past 200, a level at which prolonged exposure could be dangerous.

3.4 microsieverts per hour converts to 30 millisieverts per year. I’m not sure why this was deemed to be “the upper end of safe” when no health effects are detected below 100 mSv/year. The next reading that “shot past 200” microsieverts/hr converts to 1,800 msV/year. I’m not sure how this was measured but is not possible to have a sustained reading anywhere near that high – two magnitudes too high for a correct reading. (The latter may have been a spike reading that can be found where debris accumulates — drainage pipes, etc.)

The article continues: “Both readings are hundreds of times lower than they were a couple of years ago.” First,how would the journalist know what the readings were two years ago? And this can’t be close to correct. If multiplying by , say, 300 for “hundreds of times” then about 10,000 mSv/year and 500,000 mSv/year,respectively. No.

4. “The water initially was stored in huge bolted tanks in the aftermath of the disaster, but the tanks have leaked highly contaminated radioactive water into the sea on an alarming number of occasions.”

There has been nothing at all alarming about the leaks. Most of of that water was absorbed in the soil, which acts as a natural filter, removing most of the radioactive isotopes. See Hiroshima Syndrome “Is Fukushima Daiichi’s Wastewater Really Toxic?” Aug 31, 2013.

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