Water Closet for August 14, 2015
70 YEARS AGO AND AFTER
[pullquote]“The wind-water borne radiation from Chernobyl fell even further away than distant Wales where 25 years later the soils in certain pastures still grow grass that taints the milk of grazing livestock.” [/pullquote] August 8, 2015. Seventy years ago our country dropped an atomic bomb on beautiful Nagasaki. It was the second of those bombs exploded over a Japanese city in the terrible heat of war. In subsequent years we learned the results of both. One old Closeteer hasn’t been able get them out of his head. Residents who survived the bombs still suffer more tangibly.
As this is being written radioactive isotopes in Fukushima ground water are leaking into the Pacific. Over one thousand miles to the southeast Bikini and Eniwetok atolls, testing grounds for atomic and hydrogen bombs, are still slightly radioactive. Native populations were evacuated prior to bomb tests there in the late 1940s and 1950s. Half a world away in the largely abandoned area around Chernobyl’s hot ruins new mutant organisms are still being found. Instruments there still detect strong pockets of radiation in soil and ground water.
In Japan, as memorial services are being held this month, debate over a bill to allow a greater role for the Japanese Self Defense Force is heating up. Many who remember the awful war of Japan’s own making oppose an increase of weapons and even more nuclear power plants.
The old Closeteer, thanks to the U. S. Navy and no plans of his own, visited Nagasaki, participated in the tests at Eniwetok, and later visited Hiroshima. Memories of those experiences are still very much with him.
The following Water Closet was written soon after the tsunami swept over the Fukushima power plant and beyond.
RADIOACTIVE WATER (WC 4-1-11)
Trinity Test, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Ameican and Russian nuclear bomb tests, Three Mile Island, and Chernobyl are events burned in old memories of when radioactive elements resulting from man’s activities got out of control purposely or otherwise. Now we add Fukushima. The poisons rose and are rising with water into the air to become part of the clouds. Water is a neutral carrier of life’s good stuff like salts in the sea and sugars, salts, amino acids, and hormones in the blood to mention but a few of thousands of natural solutes. It also carries radioactive isotopes, pesticides and herbicides in air and flowing water beyond where they ought to be. Quiet Rachel Carson, very loudly in writing, warned us a half century ago in Silent Spring of agricultural chemicals on the loose in our waters. This past week in the Boston Globe we were reminded of another outspoken woman, pediatrician Helen Caldicott, who spoke against the dangers of radiation. She started a decade after Carson bothered us and has gone on ever since. She opposes all nuclear weapons and power plants. One old Closeteer remembers attending a meeting where she in quiet fury told the group what people were doing. Sometimes the truth it is very uncomfortable. Now politicians are warned over and over, often by timid advisors, about keeping their cool. Caldicott continues to speak out from her home and medical practice in Newton. She is now watching the out of control events at Fukushima’s damaged power plants very carefully. She hasn’t and doesn’t need to say “I told you so.” The media are making that point very loudly. They remind us daily of past events and doubts; leaders around the world are listening.
Men, and women, such as Marie Curie, brilliantly learned to separate radioactive elements from natural rock, and later not always for the right reasons. We saw that at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Many survivors there still suffer 65-years later. Homo sapiens then decided to “harness” these elements’ tremendous power and release it slowly as is happening in several hundred power plants around the world. The nearest to us is just a half-hour up the road at Seabrook. At Chernobyl and Fukushima the faulty harnesses broke. (In most places they haven’t and provide lots of clean power.) The wind-water borne radiation from Chernobyl fell even further away than distant Wales where 25 years later the soils in certain pastures still grow grass that taints the milk of grazing livestock. Poisons that will last centuries descended with the rain. The measurable, but not dangerous we are told, plumes from Fukushima passed over the United States last week, more may still be coming. Two generations have passed since the nuclear bomb tests of the 1950s when radioactive elements in jet stream droplets circled the world. The tests in northwestern Russia resulted in strontium-90 contaminated milk being dumped in New York state 20,000 plus jet stream miles down wind. We could go on about the contamination from U.S. tests and others far away. We needn’t; past and present escapes are now being recalled daily on BBC, CNN, PBS and other media. Have you noticed how many times even the experts are saying “We don’t know.” when asked questions? That was a main point of Caldicott’s. She told us as a medical doctor who studied radiation on the side what was known and warned again and again about what wasn’t. As we have, and are again learning, even very small doses may cause harm. That is why they put a lead apron over your lap when ex-raying in the dentist’s office. They don’t want sperm, eggs, and vital organs too much affected. In Tokyo as of this writing milk and certain other foods are being banned for babies due to low level contamination.
President Obama, who is about as well read as any leader we’ve had, perhaps since Teddy Roosevelt, probably knows all the above and more. Last year he announced his administration’s energy plans; nuclear power despite daily vulnerability and the potential dangers from long lived wastes, was an important part of his plans. He and others the world over, stimulated by communications from Japan, not yet physically by abnormally high levels of radiation, are giving the whole subject further thought. We hope he and his advisors will also speak with fire brands like Caldicott. It will provide balance for the cool rational assurances they are receiving from engineers who say water will cool reactors down and keep their operations safe if systems are designed and built right. Alas, we’ve seen with the BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf and now in Japan that the engineers don’t and can’t know so aren’t fully prepared. Who would have predicted a 9 point quake and the resulting tsunami? We do know that when fuel rods, active and spent, are not surrounded by water things spin out of control. The results end up in the natural water of the sky, ground and seas and there do we know not what.
We need lots of energy that doesn’t produce greenhouse gases say the president and other movers and shakers for environmentally responsible progress. In the Closet we naively ask, why not put much more money into wind and solar, but most of all settle for less of everything? That’s just not human nature you scoff. We counter: human nature much needs changing. Naturalist Edwin O. Wilson brilliantly argues that some, perhaps much, of our behavior can be traced to evolution and is in our DNA; however, by no means all. We are not fully hardwired. Our advances in science and Wilson’s, Carson’s and Caldicott’s ideas strongly support this statement.
We end with the old saw “moderation in all things”. Radioisotopes and cosmic rays are natural constituents of our habitats. It is the excesses, which we have some control over that we should worry about. The life styles of too many are examples of excess. Huge houses with few people; multiple houses per some families; several large vehicles per household; no good public transport systems in too many places, and none even seriously asked for; thousands of acres of huge shopping centers at a distance, many like those in Danvers and Peabody covering once good agricultural land; common foods and flowers shipped thousands of miles instead of being raised here, etc., etc., etc. . . Our English teachers warned us repeatedly against the use of etc., its use likened to “and stuff”. Et cetera sure does apply to life styles in many countries, styles that are poisoning the planet.
Let’s cool it. We can see what heat is doing at Fukushima. Excessive mutations and radiation sicknesses are far too high a price to pay for the life styles of a fraction of the world’s human populations. Let us start by keeping bomb and power plant wastes from water.
WATER RESOURCE AND CONSERVATION INFORMATION
FOR MIDDLETON, BOXFORD AND TOPSFIELD`
|Precipitation Data* for Month of:||May||June||July||Aug|
|30 Year Normal (1981 – 2010) Inches||4.06||3.95||3.89||3.37|
|2015 Central Watershed Actual||0.94||5.87||2.12||0.75 as of 8/11**|
Ipswich R. Flow Rate (S. Middleton USGS Gage) in Cubic Feet/ Second (CFS):
For Aug 11, 2015 Normal . . . 6.3 CFS Current Rate . . . 0.19 CFS
*Danvers Water Filtration Plant, Lake Street, Middleton is the source for actual precipitation data thru July.
**Middleton Stream Team is source of actual precipitation data for Aug.
Normals data is from the National Climatic Data Center.
THE WATER CLOSET is provided by the Middleton Stream Team: www.middletonstreamteam.org or <MSTMiddletonMA@gmail.com> or (978) 777-4584