You Got Any Iodine Pills?

Japan is in crisis.  Some of the statistics, right off the top of my head, that I have heard in the last several days: 544,000 in shelters, 3,300 dead, over 7,800 missing, and the numbers change almost hourly.  There were four commuter trains completely missing, with people on them, after the tsunami hit.  But the most frightening, and the crisis I followed immediately, was the nuclear reactors in the quake zone that were damaged.  The cooling systems failed in two reactors, then four.  Hydrogen explosions created by using sea water to cool the reactor cores further damaged them and killed 11 workers.  I remembered Three Mile Island and Cherynobl .  They call Cherynobl “The Lost City”.

There is a 30-km uninhabited ring around the Chernobyl plant, and they have spent billions of dollars on cleanup that is not finished.  They need more funds to safely encase the damaged reactor.  The people around Chernobyl are not convinced that the government is telling them the truth  about the lack of danger from radiation.  The most telling thing about the Chernobyl disaster 25 years later is that the danger of radiation leakage still exists from under the layers of sand and cement.  The radioactivity doesn’t go away.

My first thought about the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear facility was the wisdom of building it in a coastal area near a major fault.  In  fact the known “Ring of Fire” where more than 75% of the world’s active volcanos exist, and 90% of the world’s major earthquakes occur.  Wouldn’t the threat of a tsunami be a consideration in constructing not one, but two nuclear plants there?  Wouldn’t there be some pretty fail-safe backup systems in place should the power go out, or the water supply get cut off?  Apparently those systems failed as well.

I’ve tried to understand what a melt-down of the core will mean, and the after-effects of radiation that will surely spread.  They talk about the direction of the winds.  They want the radiation to blow out to sea.  It will become less of a danger as is dissapates and heads towards the US.  The radiation will be in the form of steam released  from the super-heated reaction in the cores once the containment enclosure it melted through.  I’m not a nuclear expert, in fact I know little more about it than what I have read, but none of this sounds very good.

Three Mile Island

 The experts are telling us that the likelihood of any of the radiation reaching the United States is very slim.  Similiar to the exposure you would get on a flight from NY to LA if any of the radiation does make it here.  (Bet you didn’t think you were exposed to radiation on a flight.)  Do we believe that?  Most, if not all, of this is new.  In truth even the experts don’t really know what will happen.  They haven’t dealt with this before.  Although we keep hearing about the other two nuclear disasters, or near disaster in the case of Three Mile Island, this isn’t the same.  So it will be a slow wait-and-see for months and even years.  And the proof that no one is listening to the experts:  the shortage of potassium iodine pills in the US.  As though it is a miracle drug for surviving radiation.

Iodine pills only protect your thyroid.  It will do nothing to protect the rest of your body from radiation poisoning.  It works by saturating the thyroid with iodine for 24 hours so no more iodine, either stable or radioactive, can enter.  There are possible dangers and side-effects from taking the drug, and officials and medical experts in California are warning against taking the drug.  Do you really think there is a miracle drug out there that protects you from radiation?  WTF         

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