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Radioactive Fallout and Fieldwork (Worldwide)
Given ongoing events at Fukushima No.1, what might be particular consequences for archaeolgoists and other professionals (agriculture, construction etc) of radioactive and toxic particulate fall out from nuclear accidents?

Are there lessons from the past? (Threee Mile Island, Cherobyl, Selafield) What are governng OHS policies and legistlation?

How might risks be defined and identified?
What precautions can be taken?
What are future consequences when disturbing buried sediments?

Will there be economic consequences worldwide for the energy industry, and development programs in particular?

...and what exactly has been released already?!
There was an archaeological project in the late 80s/early 90s in the UK that involved archaeologists coming into contact with radioactive waste from a former military instillation. This was reported in the media at the time and I wont even touch the AUP by going anywhere near the names involved. However, at the time, and even more so now now with the benefit of hindsight, it seems that the atttitude of many of the managers of this project (both inside and outside archaeology) was to downplay the potential risks and make it quite difficult for the exposed archaeologists to pursue post-exposure screening or restitution.

I am not aware that any of the exposed archaeologists has suffered any health problems as a result of exposure, but sometimes such problems can take time to show through and quite often the 'causation' process is difficult to pin down (especially where there is a lack of supporting managerial 'evidence' or willingness to admit the extent to which exposure has occurred).

I am not entirely confident that any future incidence in UK archaeology would be treated any differently....
With peace and consolation hath dismist, And calm of mind all passion spent...
how depressingly worrying.

Lets recap some Fukushima elements:

Explosions have totally destroyed upper levels of reactor buildings, probably seriously damaging containment vessels - but certainly pulverising the stores of 'spent' fuel rods housed in water tanks in upper stories. The explosion of R3 was probably c.3000 feet straight up in the air in a huge grey dusty cloud....

worse...the older reactors used MOX, including that derived/recycled from decommissioned warheads - these are stored around the site and within the upper parts of reactor buildings. MOX contains plutonium and uranium, and is as bad as it gets in terms of hazards - far far worse than the caesium and iodine already reported in Japan.

If ever Evil could be made Manifest beyond the Human Mind, then MOX is It.

Plutonium in particular when in fine particulate form is deadly - it can be hard to detect (alpha emitter - ie not directly detected on Geiger counter), and minute airborne specks, if ingested/inhaled by organisms are massively damaging to to tissue in the long term (can bind directly to DNA molecules)

In dust form it is subject to the usual aeolian processes - then accumulation in alluvial systems and soil water etc....It might quickly become embedded in soil systems, which provides the key locking mechanism in terrestrial systems.....once locked in the soil it is much harder to affect us directly...plants will not absorb in particulate form (but wash soil of those veggies well!).

Herbivorous that might consume soil and dust particles incidentally with plant food present a bigger health risk, as they might well concentrate and accumulate contamination - hence milk products are particularly vulnerable. However others also....e.g. birds can consume soil/dust particles in many ways, as well as invertebrates they feed on.

How this might affect us (archaeologist, agricultural, construction, groundwork etc.) who also disturbed soils and release dust is unclear, but predictable...avoiding a dusting of particulate nuclide from wind borne systems is one thing - releasing that some dust with every trowel scrape (perhaps years later) is quite another....especially as Geiger readings on the surface will say 'safe'.....

That 'spent' rods are on fire in the exterior containment 'pools' is bad enough - up to 600,000 or more (yes that's right) are stored on site in exterior pools (now on fire) and (incredibly) directly above the main reactors many are MOX is a big question (just heard up to 1,000 tons of MOX on site !!!!!!!that is a major catastrophe!!!)....especially as they are capable of reaching criticality and creating a massive self sustaining nuclear fire, far, far worse than Chernobyl.

However the biggest question at the moment is what happened to the rods that were stored in the exploded reactor buildings- R3 ejected its upper levels 3000 feet into the sky in a single blast and massive dust cloud....there is nothing left of the upper levels in 3 of the 6 reactors where there have also been explosions and continuous fires for 6 plutonium and uranium dust already circulating in the wind?

the dust is now carried by the Jet Stream east from Japan - first the US (over west coast on Sunday) or Canada or both, then the Atlantic, then.....

well ...our cold winter snaps etc. here in the UK over the last few years are as consequence of that same Jet Stream moving south to sit directly over Old do the Math.

Damage to marine life might by huge.

How bad will this get?

Sustained/Large ejections into the jet stream could be very very bad if plutonium etc are present...for the UK: well, we got only a tiny whiff of Chernobyle on this fair isle - as most ejected material headed west across Russia....(eventually to encircle the northern hemisphere...)

this time, after a c.3-5 week (?) delay, it will likely be heading right at us on the Jet Stream Express....

We need to all keep a close eye on this ongoing has just gone from worse to extremely fucking bad, to worser, and worser still over the last 6 days....when/what will the Worse-est be?

With a large and sustained particulate ejection of MOX we may have major health risks right across society - professionals who work outside might be more exposed to initial and ongoing dust fall, and while dust is available on surface - those who are exposed daily to particulate soil matter (dust) may be exposed for many years afterwards (even if original dust fall can be avoided or is small) we (archaeologist) need a plan for this?

What about the rest? How else might this affect our lives?

The very best case scenario is that Fukushima becomes a massive concrete and steel toxic tomb, in a many mile exclusion zone, and ongoing health problems for very many Japanese people, especially for the hundreds needed to work the clean-up....the worst is orders of magnitude greater, for significant portions of world population....

50 tons of (non-spent?)fuel at Chernobyl - perhaps 1,700 tons(non-spent?) or more at Fukushima
Chernobyl: 1 reactor - 1 explosion - 1 day of fire - 8 days of steam release
Fukushima No.1: 4 reactors in partial meltdown, fires in huge stored rod caches, - 4 explosions - 6+ days of fires and steam release the Math.

And the tons of MOX is probably still capable of explosive fission reaction if not cooled.

Where/How to get info?...difficult...Japanese Government and TEPCo definitely not being straight about events and situation...US government + UK government + others also highly unlikely to release Very Bad News 'as it happens'...
One wonders how nuclear reactors were ever allowed in an area of HUGE siesmic disturbance...would like to see the Risk Assessment on that one...and what action was taken after the earthquake in Kobe in 1995 when apparent "earthquake proof" engineering proved to be sadly, woefully inadequate...:0
Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, Merlot in one hand, Cigar in the other; body thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and screaming "WOO HOO, what a ride!
Japan has few options for energy....problem is that costs are saved by assuming that 1:1000 natural events are too rare to worry about...let alone costs saved by storing huge amounts of waste at the same location as the reactors.....also that inadequate preparations are in place...but mainly problem is that corporations and governments lie and lie and lie and lie ....always money.

Passengers arriving by plane in USA from Japan have trigged radiation detectors in airport - some contamination (dust?) on passengers/luggage/aircraft air conditioning.......levels are appreantly "safe" - but what is it? how bad is the situation in Japan?
I am watching internet pictures of loads of water being tipped onto the Japanese nuclear power station....but I am wondering. The uranium/plutonium used in this station is likely to continue reacting for 200 years or so unless stifled by boron or something similar. Are they going to continue the water treatment for that long? And where is all this contaminated water going. It looked to me as if it was going back into the sea, but I guess it could also be soaking into the ground and therefore the water table....Isn't that a big big problem building up there?
With peace and consolation hath dismist, And calm of mind all passion spent...
yes Kevin it is...

Fukuishima No.1 plant is on the coast (former beach), on reclaimed land - water table IS the sea...

unfortunately, endlessly pouring water on the damaged reactors and compromised spent fuel pools is actually one of the 3 likely outcomes...

1)massive explosion...oh dear
2)burial in concrete sarcophagus (Nb - this will not suppress ongoing reactions in same way as water + boron covering, so long - very long - term exclusion zone)
3)pour water + boron on the cores until radioactivity subsides (sometime after the sun itself has exploded and the solar system as we known it has ceased to exist)

there are no other alternatives

detectable radioactivity from last Fridays small ejections on US west coast...more to come
in Japan in gets even worse...

what will happen?... ...
What ever will happen will happen. Most of it is beyond human control now.

Not sure why you're getting so excited about it GnomeKing - you sound almost as hysterical as some of the tabloid Press.

Have you read the piece in today's Financial Times? Analysis , p11.

"More than its buildings - at least the concrete ones - Japan will be forced to re-examine a nuclear industry that provides nearly one-third of its power. Partly it was Japan's sense of vulnerability, with a dependence on foreign oil and coal, that encouraged what to a layman should look like madness - siting 55 nuclear reactors on the world's most earthquake prone islands. But it was also the supreme hubris of the Japanese state, a belief that - whatever the public thought - Japanese technicians were capable of building a safe nuclear industry on such unpromising land."

So it's not just me...and as for building them on reclaimed land ...are they not truly guilty of dangerous, short sighted folly?
Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, Merlot in one hand, Cigar in the other; body thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and screaming "WOO HOO, what a ride!
Steady yourself Gnome, and be prepared to cope with the idea that the Dail Mail may be exaggerating. This is how they were reporting Tokyo yesterday:
It somewhat contrasts with the view of a friend of mine living in central Tokyo, who signed off from his last email to me by cheerily reporting that he was heading out into this "ghost town" to get a beer. Didn't sound much like the post-apocalyptic wasteland of the DM's lens.
After 20 years of spending huge amount of cash researching the Chernobyl incident, the official enquiry struggled to find any detectable effects on the human population (apart from the firemen and power-station staff killed in the original fire) and settled on a statistically insignificant small number of thyroid cancer cases as their token additional long-term fatalities (and they didn't even seem to be very convinced by those) - indeed the wildlife around the plant is all digustingly healthy, if a bit radioactive (as indeed are all those Cumbrian sheep that we the taxpayers are still paying their owners compensation for)...considering their severe exposure to cosmic radiation (typically the equivalent of 10-15000 medical X-rays/year), why aren't all airline air-crew dead? :face-stir:

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