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Experts say beach radiation unrelated to Fukushima

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Posted: Tuesday, January 7, 2014 2:27 pm | Updated: 1:05 pm, Fri Dec 26, 2014.

The 2011 Fukushima Daiichi reactor meltdown in Japan is not the cause of abnormally high radiation levels discovered recently along Surfer's Beach, according to an analysis by independent experts. But exactly why a swath of the local coastline is showing about 14 times the baseline radiation level remains a curious mystery.

San Mateo County health officials reiterated on Tuesday that the beach radiation did not pose a public hazard.

People across the country expressed an interest in radiation on the Coastside in recent days after an online video shot at Surfer's Beach led some to believe what they were seeing was the first major landing of radioactive material on the West Coast attributable to the Japanese disaster. First posted on Dec. 23 on YouTube, the seven-minute video shows the meter of a Geiger counter as an unidentified man off-camera measures different spots on the beach south of Pillar Point Harbor. The gadget’s alarm rings as its radiation reading ratchets up to about 150 counts per minute, or roughly five times the typical amount found in the environment.

The amateur video went viral, drawing more than half a million views to date, and spurring government inspectors to conduct their own surveys.

After watching the clip, El Granada electrical engineer Steven Weiss grabbed his own radiation measurement equipment to test the radiation reports for himself.

On Monday, Weiss carried a Geiger counter in each hand for a second survey of Surfer's Beach. As he descended to the waterline, the readings on his gadgets climbed. He tested various spots: the side of the bluffs and the white sand closest to the waterline, both registering levels that were high but not suspiciously so as far as he was concerned. But when he placed the sensors down near a line of black silt along the back of the beach, the meters on both his gadgets spiked. The counters registered about 415 counts per minute. A cpm of 30 is considered the baseline for radioactivity typically found in the air.

“It's not normal. I've never seen 400 cpm when I just wave my Geiger around.” he said. “There has to be something radioactive for it to do that.”

Weiss is no amateur; for 40 years he has made a living designing Geiger counters, most recently for International Medcom Inc. After he verified the hotspot, he took a sample of the dark sediment and sent it to his company's main offices in Sebastopol for analysis.

International Medcom CEO Dan Sythe later put the dirt sample in a spectrum analyzer to view the radioactive “signature” of the particles, the photon energy associated with each isotope. What he found was different from cesium-137, the fissile material used in the Fukushima reactors. He would know – since the 2011 meltdown, Sythe has visited Japan nine times to help map the cesium fallout.

Instead he was seeing radium and thorium, naturally occurring radioactive elements.

“It doesn’t mean that it‘s OK. It's not something you'd want your baby playing in,” Sythe said. “All we’re saying is this radiation is not from Fukushima.”

Sythe summarized his findings on his blog in the hopes that it would dispel a sense of panic spreading on the Internet that Fukushima radiation was hitting U.S. shores. People were posting online claiming that the West Coast would soon be “toast,” he said, so it was vital to get better information online.

The radiation scare followed a constellation of other alarming news in recent months. Last month, marine biologists announced that starfish were mysteriously disintegrating along the West Coast, a trend that has not been linked yet to any cause. Past computer simulations had indicated that radioactive cesium-137 from the Fukushima reactors could begin appearing on West Coast shores by early 2014. Those findings, published in August by the Institute for Cross-Disciplinary Physics and Complex Systems in Spain, also noted that any radioactive material that crossed the Pacific would likely be diluted and fall below international safety levels.

Public fear and paranoia has clouded the Fukushima issue since the start of the disaster, said Dan Hirsch, a nuclear policy lecturer at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He believes the problem stems from a vacuum of data from the government, prompting amateur sleuths with Geiger counters to seek their own answers. He pointed out that the Environmental Protection Agency gave assurances to the public in 2011 that the Fukushima radiation posed no public health risk. But later a 2012 audit revealed that many of the EPA’s radiation monitors were out of service at the time of the Fukushima disaster. For some, that fed the perception that the government had something to hide, he said.

“I'm frustrated because the government should be doing a better job, and the people who are fearmongering are just fanning the flames,” Hirsch said.

The viral video posted last month began spreading on the Internet before government officials took notice. County health officials first learned of the video four days after was uploaded, and they sent their own inspector out to the beach the next day. Using a different unit, the county inspector measured the beach to have a radiation level of about 100 micro-REM per hour, or about five times the normal amount. REM stands for “Roentgen equivalent man,” a measurement of the dosage and statistical biological effects presented by radiation.

Although the radiation levels were clearly higher than is typical, San Mateo County Health Officer Dean Peterson emphasized that it was still not a dangerous level for humans. A person would need to be exposed to 100 microREMs of radiation for 50,000 hours before it surpassed safety guidelines by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, he explained.

Peterson forwarded the matter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state Department of Public Health, agencies with more expertise on analyzing radioactivity. Both of those agencies were contacted by the Review this week, but officials said they were still investigating the situation. Peterson said he thought it was important to go forward with his information to assure the public that local beaches were still safe.

“I’m completely confident that what we have on the beach is not a public health threat,” he said.

Nonetheless, the presence and concentration of natural thorium and radium at Surfer’s Beach left experts puzzled. Both elements are actually common at beaches. In fact, a 2008 study by the Journal of the Serbian Chemical Society found similar concentrations at Southern California beaches.

Sythe offered a couple possible explanations. A vein of thorium could be spilling out from the nearby coastal bluffs, he suggested. Alternatively, he heard mention of an old oil pipe running nearby the beach. Oil pipelines had a tendency to collect heavy radioactive minerals, he said.

Peterson thought the minerals could be just washing up with the salt water from the shores. The radioactive materials all were just past the high tide line, so it made sense that would be where the minerals would build up, he said.

“The conditions that are out on the beach could be the same conditions that have been out there for millennia,” he said.

Update: Tests by government health inspectors have found no connection between the elevated radiation levels at Coastside beaches and the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, according to a statement by the California Public Health Department released late on Tuesday evening. An analysis by county and state officials found the radiation was the result of naturally occurring minerals, a conclusion similar to reports by independent experts.

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17 comments:

  • Frank11 posted at 5:05 pm on Wed, Jan 15, 2014.

    Frank11 Posts: 1

    "The 2011 Fukushima Daiichi reactor meltdown in Japan is not the cause of abnormally high radiation levels discovered recently along Surfer's Beach, according to an analysis by independent experts."

    Yeah, right...wink, wink. It's probably due to some undiscovered cash of bananas hidden nearby. I'm going with that.

     
  • John Charles Ullom posted at 10:02 am on Wed, Jan 15, 2014.

    John Charles Ullom Posts: 1024

    TalkerMark goes all uppercase and asks:

    "WTF IS IT COMING FROM THEN?!?!? "

    It starts out as part of massive Neutron Star collisions, Black Hole implosions, and Super Nova Explosions. That is how most of the heavy radioactive elements are formed.

    Billions of years later, (unless you are a young earther in which case none of this matters), the dust resulting from the above Alchemy collapses into new stars and planets. As for the planets, the heavy elements are slowly concentrated by time and the various thermal and geologic forces that an unstable planet like ours experiences.

    Eventually, one ends up with veins of heavy elements including radioactive ones. These veins of concentrated elements are sought out by humans so that they can be mined, refined, and made useful.

    Some of the veins are exposed by the long term action of plate tectonics and the short term action of rain. Once exposed, the elements are washed downstream and into the ocean.

    The tide action of the ocean acts sort of like a gold miners pan and water. The heavy elements tend to accumulate at the high tide mark as they drop out of the water that is washed ashore. This results in wrack lines where the heavy elements including radioactive ones, both naturally occurring and man induced, are concentrated.

    Now a question for those who just know what TalkerMark knows for a fact. How did Fukashima cause the radioactive beaches found in this 2009 study? -- http://www.doiserbia.nb.rs/img/doi/0352-5139/2009/0352-51390904461R.pdf


    If on the other hand, Surfers Beach is dangerously radioactive, a win for the environment can still be had. For you see, most surfers and indeed beach goers drive CO2 emitters when they visit the beach. See the thousands of cars that head South along the Coast on nice days.

    Maybe if we spread the notion that the beaches are bad for people, we won't be pumping CO2 into the atmosphere just to take a walk on one? The no growthers will like it. The localistas will applaud it. Those that know that CO2 is going to fry the planet will be thrilled!

    I say we make Lemonade out of this situation and save the planet. By the way, a significant percentage of the electricity used by all of us to make this conversation possible was caused by the emission of CO2 and the accelerated decay of fissionable elements.

    For those of you who are outraged by the production of CO2 and the accelerated fission of fissionable elements, you know what you should not do.

     
  • Jasonn posted at 9:24 am on Wed, Jan 15, 2014.

    Jasonn Posts: 1

    I'm surprised that the lamestream media hasn't picked up on your story and pursued it. Not only wouldn't you want your baby playing in that stuff, but you probably wouldn't want to eat any seafood that has been living in it. Bet you a (AHEM) tuna sandwich that some radioactive waste has been dumped into the Pacific and that the container is now leaking that material into the water.

     
  • TalkerMark posted at 8:51 am on Wed, Jan 15, 2014.

    TalkerMark Posts: 1

    Which raises an interesting question for authorities.... WTF IS IT COMING FROM THEN?!?!? ARE YOU TRYING TO MAKE US FEEL BETTER BY ACTING STUPID??? US Sawfish on way in investigate?

     
  • Mikkai posted at 12:27 am on Fri, Jan 10, 2014.

    Mikkai Posts: 1

    The radioactive were labeled "Not made in Fukushima"
    By the way it is easier to remove fear
    than radiation.

     
  • ajurado800 posted at 2:15 pm on Thu, Jan 9, 2014.

    ajurado800 Posts: 2

    @MsLane9 - So in other words, you've already made up your mind and won't even *consider* anything that doesn't confirm your pre-existing belief. Very scientific outlook.

     
  • MsLane9 posted at 7:43 pm on Wed, Jan 8, 2014.

    MsLane9 Posts: 1

    Is there anything that the media won't lie about? No matter how much you, the media, lies we will never believe that there is no growing concern of radiation in the Pacific Ocean. We don't believe you. Stop wasting everyone's time with worthless news and let's figure out what we can do to protect ourselves. That would be news worth reading and it could have some truth to it.

     
  • ChemE posted at 7:07 pm on Wed, Jan 8, 2014.

    ChemE Posts: 2

    Guys,

    Up above the hill from the beach At pillar point are SEVEN high-powered Doppler radar tracking stations. They are pulsing up to THREE megawatts each of polarized microwave RADIATION. I have just finished research that shows increased fish kills, dolphin, manatee and pelican deaths and algae blooms within 50 miles of these radar towers in Florida. This is the cause for your sea star wasting. My research is at @ darkmattersalot

     
  • Strangest I could find posted at 5:57 pm on Wed, Jan 8, 2014.

    Strangest I could find Posts: 1

    A heavy mineral layer (lag) on a beach contains sand and silt size minerals that are heavy- as in they have relatively higher density than other particles of sand and silt on the beach so they are not as easily transported by wave action, wind or runoff. So they tend to accumulate in little dark layers.

    The types of minerals that make up these layers are largely a function of what is available for erosion and how durable the minerals are. Some of these minerals contain elements that are radioactive, such as thorium. Others, like radium are probably present as intermediate daughter products of radioactive decay of parent nuclides such as uranium and thorium.

    If you crush a granite boulder into sand size pieces and then separate the high density minerals from the low density minerals, excluding potassium (which is also radioactive) the highest concentration of the radioactive elements thorium and uranium would be in your high density fraction. What is happening at the beach is a sorting process somewhat like that. When you stick a geiger counter on the high density fraction, it registers more (naturally occurring) radiation.

     
  • DavidV posted at 4:56 pm on Wed, Jan 8, 2014.

    DavidV Posts: 52

    Shouldn't there be warning signs posted while the source of radiation is being evaluated and they make plans to remove it? How would out-of-town visitors - or locals for that matter - know of this risk? If they can post shark and sewage warnings, certainly a radiation warning could be used to alert folks to the hazard.

    Also, could the black sediment be associated with the construction and shoring up of the adjacent roadway? Granite (like counter tops) has been known to contain radiation so I wonder if the road surface materials might be at play given the proximity to Highway 1 - the obvious differentiator between this and other local beaches?

     
  • John Charles Ullom posted at 2:33 pm on Wed, Jan 8, 2014.

    John Charles Ullom Posts: 1024


    Suskuki says this:

    "The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County have NO records of conjoined gray whales being found." : and then implies that Fukushima caused it.

    But the story linked says this:

    "Although this is not the first instance that scientists have discovered conjoined whales, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County have no records of conjoined gray whales being found."

    So, even though Siamese Twin Whales have been found before, the fact that Siamese Twin Gray Whales is somehow indicative of something?

     
  • Isis posted at 1:06 pm on Wed, Jan 8, 2014.

    Isis Posts: 9

    Correction on Per Day flow of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean

    http://enenews.com/twice-as-much-contaminted-water-entering-ocean-from-fukushima-as-officials-claim-japan-govt-600-tons-of-groundwater-enters-ocean-each-day-at-plant-nytimes-tepcos-figures-assume-all-water-ent

     
  • Suzuki posted at 12:16 pm on Wed, Jan 8, 2014.

    Suzuki Posts: 1

    Conjoined Gray Whale Calves Found Dying Near the West Coast Raise Questions About Fukushima and Radiation
    January 8, 2014 American Live Wire

    Conjoined gray whale calves have been found dying off the West Coast by scientists in Mexico’s Scammon’s Lagoon. (the Mexican state of Baja California Sur)
    Scientists made the discovery on Sunday and stated that none of the calves they found survived.
    The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County have NO records of conjoined gray whales being found.

    Experts are expressing their concerns that the deformities and deaths with rare animals may have something to do with the Fukushima disaster.
    The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published a study which stated that the death rate in the Pacific has risen to the highest it has ever been over the course of 24 years.

    http://americanlivewire.com/2014-1-8-conjoined-gray-whale-calves/

     
  • Isis posted at 11:43 am on Wed, Jan 8, 2014.

    Isis Posts: 9

    Here is what is known.

    Cesium will not exist without the presence of uranium and plutonium. US stuck on Cesium counts - so get your Geiger counters out for uranium and plutonium.

    The Associated Press had asked for the documents from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for the days after the explosion at Fukushima using the Freedom of Information Act. You have to dig for these but they are on the NRC website.

    See this video going over those documents

    http://hatrickpenryunbound.com/?p=3942

    And this site
    http://hatrickpenry.wordpress.com/2013/12/16/video-about-arnie-gundersen-and-the-nrc-foia-documents/

    What we read is that the NRC, EPA, DOD, DOE, and DHS all knew about the fact that Reactor 4 had 100% explosion in the first few days . (there are no rods to remove). There video of moving rods in such a pristine building is old footage and propaganda. Agencies agreed not to get info out to citizens.

    So we can see in this instance how they lie. And again in this article which came out yesterday on enenews.com, stating that the IAEA withheld info to the public and lied about the health effects of Chernobyl. Guess what folks? There were no medical issues with Chernobyl. BS - plenty of stories about that explosion and health issues.

    http://enenews.com/secrecy-agreement-between-fukushima-and-iaea-revealed-by-tokyo-newspaper-iaea-has-a-history-of-hiding-information-about-health-effects-in-chernobyl-same-thing-could-happen-to-fukushima

    You can see international scientist all over youtube talking about how dangerous this is and it could be the end of our planet, see Helen Caldicott, Arnie Gunderson, Leuren Moret and Maichio Kaku and so many others.

    DO NOT BELIEVE THE GOVERNMENT AND DO NOT WAIT TO GET GOING ON THIS. Get lots of people with calibrated machines and hit the beach.

    Image the government doesn’t exist and you have to figure this out for yourselves. Because the money makers don’t care about people, they care about the economy. Dead animals and people just make for a bad economy so they want to keep it quiet.

    Remember 400 tons of radioactive water has been spilling into the Pacific Ocean since 2011. It is cutting off the oxygen to animals and soon the whole ocean will be dead.

    IT DOES NOT DILUTE WHEN IT KEEPS A COMIN’

    Wow! And if you believe that BS I've got some red utensils for you!

    Having worked in Engineering and specifically energy and the environment, I tell you that their are scientists that are paid to say what the gov wants. Do not believe the government! Do not believe me! Check it out for yourselves.

     
  • rambojim posted at 3:41 am on Wed, Jan 8, 2014.

    rambojim Posts: 4

    Folks,
    The cause of the higher than normal radiation readings is "red -painted disposable eating utensils"....

     
  • Suzanne posted at 7:23 pm on Tue, Jan 7, 2014.

    Suzanne Posts: 38

    Re that "black silt":
    "Magnetite is sometimes found in large quantities in beach sand. Such black sands (mineral sands or iron sands) are found in various places, such as California and the west coast of the North Island of New Zealand.[7] The magnetite is carried to the beach via rivers from erosion and is concentrated via wave action and currents." See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnetite for starters.

    Magnetite is very common on our sandy beaches manifested as black streaks and patches of sand (I've seen lots at Dunes and Roosevelt Beaches.).

    Is it possible it is somehow adsorbing natural thorium and radium from nearby and has simply never been analyzed with Geiger counter before? I think that possible connection should be explored, but I'm no geochemist.

     
  • August East posted at 3:53 pm on Tue, Jan 7, 2014.

    August East Posts: 42

    “It doesn’t mean that it‘s OK. It's not something you'd want your baby playing in,” Sythe said.

    As opposed to:

    “I’m completely confident that what we have on the beach is not a public health threat,” [Peterson] said."

    So.... Which is it? How much longer before the beach is shut down?