Censored US gov’t emails reveal proposed plan to test West Coast residents for Fukushima fallout — “Many cases of cancer may end up being attributed to exposures” — Doses could exceed EPA’s emergency levels — UC Berkeley Nuclear Dept.: “Prompt action should be taken”

Published: June 1st, 2015 at 1:55 pm ET
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FOIA Document — Excerpts from email by Per Peterson, Chair of Dept. of Nuclear Engineering at Univ.of California Berkeley & scientific adviser to Energy Secretary Steven Chu , Mar 23, 2011 at 1:35p (emphasis added):

  • [Sent to John Holdren, senior adviser to Pres. Obama on science & technology, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, DOE/NRC officials, and others who were redacted]
  • I would like to raise another issue which now merits expeditious, near term action. There is a short time window… during which it will remain possible to… measure any I-131 that members of the public may have ingested…
  • Collecting this data… would be very valuable… 
  • UCB faculty [is in] general agreement that prompt action should be taken
  • Many cases of thyroid cancer, and other health problems, may end up being attributed to exposures from the Fukushima accident… on the U.S. west coast
  • It is possible that we will find that some people have received doses of I-131 and other radionuclides that could exceed the levels… Protective Action Guidelines are designed to prevent. This could provide a basis for immediate action to change PAG’s…
  • It could identify individuals who have had significant exposurealert them and their medical care professionals to monitor for potential health effects
  • There are very strong reasons to gather data, but it must be done in a way that is broadly viewed as being in the interest of the public and the individuals involved…
  • I would recommend that we look at making facilities at the national laboratories… available to the public… Thoughts?

Reply from Dick Garwin, IBM Fellow (who Enrico Fermi called the only true genius he’d met): Right on, Per! But it seems to me that one could promptly validate the use of a single counter…  since the thyroid is so efficient in concentrating iodine

Per Peterson, Mar 23 @ 2:27p: Dick, Good idea… An important point for doing this in the U.S… is that the protocols must receive approval by a Human Subjects Committee. If one were to initiate an effort to perform whole body counting at LLNL and PNNL, the human subjects review can likely be done faster if it is initially for lab employees who would volunteer to be counted… Again, collecting statistically useful data on uptake of 1-131 and other radionuclides on the U.S. west coast and in Japan could be very valuable in the longer term, when many people may begin to believe that the Fukushima accident is the cause of a variety of health problems.

US Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s internal correspondence concerning the emails above:

  • Kathy Gibson (NRC), Mar 23 @ 3:03p: Please confirm that you are looking at this…
  • Gibson @ 5:46p: Are they talking about members of the public in US or Japan?
  • Stephanie Bush-Goddard (NRC) @ 5:54p: … the public in the US
  • Gibson @ 6:07p: Do we think it is a bad idea
  • Bush-Goddard @ 6:12p: … Yes, setting up additional monitoring stations for the public (without detecting anything) could cause additional alarm… I think they are responding to the public RASCAL run that shows very high doses to the Thyroid.
  • Gibson @ 6:35p: [NRC’s Radiation Protection and Health Effects Branch] think it’s a bad idea for people in the US because there (so far) isn’t measurable iodine in the US… They think this may be a funding opportunity for the entities making these proposals.

Per Peterson, Mar 25 @ 2:13p: … we have detected small concentrations of… radioactive materials in rainwater in Berkeley… I am now working with faculty in our school of public health to see how we can… verify what exposures have occurred. I do believe that these measurements will be very important in the longer term in assessing the consequences of the Fukushima accident.

See also: Former DOE official rips UC Berkeley for comparing ingestion of fallout to air travel

Published: June 1st, 2015 at 1:55 pm ET
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463 comments

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