Monday, March 14, 2011

As of 3-14-2001...

Quake-hit Japan battles to avert radiation leak...

FUKUSHIMA, Japan – Japanese engineers pumped sea water into a damaged nuclear reactor in a race to prevent a catastrophic meltdown on Tuesday and rescuers scrambled to help millions left without food, water or heating by a devastating earthquake and tsunami.
A rapid drop in water levels exposed fuel rods in one reactor at the Fukushima nuclear plant on Monday, hours after an explosion sent smoke billowing over the complex, but the United Nations' nuclear watchdog said the crisis was unlikely to turn into another Chernobyl.
Rescue workers combed the tsunami-battered region north of Tokyo, where officials say at least 10,000 people were killed in the 8.9-magnitude earthquake and tsunami that followed it.
"It's a scene from hell, absolutely nightmarish," said Patrick Fuller of the International Red Cross Federation from the northeastern coastal town of Otsuchi.
Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Japan was facing its worst crisis since World War Two and, with the financial costs estimated at up to $180 billion, analysts said it could tip the world's third biggest economy back into recession.
Japanese stocks closed down more than 7.5 percent, wiping $287 billion off market capitalization in the biggest fall since the height of the global financial crisis in 2008. Insurers' shares fell for a second day in London and New York, as world stocks slid to a six-week low.
The fear at the Fukushima complex, 240 km (150 miles) north of Tokyo, is of a major radiation leak after the quake and tsunami knocked out cooling systems. The complex has seen explosions at two of its reactors on Saturday and Monday.
The worst nuclear accident since the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine in 1986 has drawn criticism that authorities were ill-prepared and revived debate in many countries about the safety of atomic power.
Switzerland put on hold some approvals for nuclear power plants and Germany said it was scrapping a plan to extend the life of its nuclear power stations. The White House said U.S. President Barack Obama remained committed to nuclear energy.
Yukiya Amano, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said the reactor vessels of nuclear power plants affected by the disaster remained intact and, so far, the amount of radiation that had been released was limited.
"The Japanese authorities are working as hard as they can, under extremely difficult circumstances, to stabilize the nuclear power plants and ensure safety," Amano said in a statement, adding at a news conference later that it was "unlikely that the accident would develop" like Chernobyl.
An explosion at the Soviet Chernobyl plant sent radioactive fallout across northern Europe.
The Fukushima plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), said fuel rods at the No. 2 reactor had been fully exposed when water levels suddenly dropped. This could lead to the rods melting down and a possible radioactive leak.
The rods, normally surrounded by cooling water, were partially exposed earlier after the engine-powered pump pouring in this water ran out of fuel. TEPCO said it had resumed pumping sea water into the reactor early on Tuesday.
There were earlier partial meltdowns of the fuel rods at both the No. 1 and the No. 3 reactors, where the explosions had occurred. A TEPCO official said the situation in the No. 2 reactor was even worse than in the other units.
"This is nothing like a Chernobyl," said Murray Jennex, a nuclear expert at San Diego State University. "At Chernobyl you had no containment structure -- when it blew, it blew everything straight out into the atmosphere."
Nonetheless, the government warned those still in the 20-km (13-mile) evacuation zone to stay indoors. TEPCO said 11 people had been injured in the blast.
U.S. warships and planes helping with relief efforts moved away from the coast temporarily because of low-level radiation. The U.S. Seventh Fleet described the move as precautionary.
South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore and the Philippines said they would test Japanese food imports for radiation.
France's ASN nuclear safety authority said the accident could be classified as a level 5 or 6 on the international scale of 1 to 7, putting it on a par with the 1979 U.S. Three Mile Island meltdown, higher than the Japanese authorities' rating.
Japan's nuclear safety agency has rated the incidents in the No.1 and No.3 reactors as a 4, but has not yet rated the No. 2 reactor.
About 850,000 households in the north were still without electricity in near-freezing weather, Tohuku Electric Power Co. said, and the government said at least 1.5 million households lack running water. Tens of thousands of people were missing.
"The situation here is just beyond belief, almost everything has been flattened," said the Red Cross's Fuller in Otsuchi, a town all but obliterated. "The government is saying that 9,500 people, more than half of the population, could have died and I do fear the worst."
Kyodo news agency reported that 2,000 bodies had been found on Monday in two coastal towns alone.
Whole villages and towns have been wiped off the map by Friday's wall of water, triggering an international humanitarian effort of epic proportions.
"When the tsunami struck, I was trying to evacuate people. I looked back, and then it was like the computer graphics scene I've seen from the movie Armageddon. I thought it was a dream . it was really like the end of the world," said Tsutomu Sato, 46, in Rikuzantakata, a town on the northeast coast.
In Tokyo, commuter trains shut down and trucks were unable to make deliveries as supermarket shelves ran empty.
Estimates of the economic impact are only now starting to emerge.
Hiromichi Shirakawa, chief economist for Japan at Credit Suisse, said in a note to clients that the economic loss will likely be around 14-15 trillion yen ($171-183 billion) just to the region hit by the quake and tsunami.
Even that would put it above the commonly accepted cost of the 1995 Kobe quake which killed 6,000 people.
The earthquake has forced many firms to suspend production and shares in some of Japan's biggest companies tumbled on Monday, with Toyota Corp dropping almost 8 percent.
Global companies from semiconductor makers to shipbuilders faced disruptions to operations after the quake and tsunami destroyed vital infrastructure, damaged ports and knocked out factories.
"The earthquake could have great implications on the global economic front," said Andre Bakhos, director of market analytics at Lec Securities in New York. "If you shut down Japan, there could be a global recession."
The Bank of Japan offered a combined 15 trillion yen ($183 billion) to the banking system earlier in the day to soothe market jitters.
The earthquake was the fifth most powerful to hit the world in the past century. It surpassed the Great Kanto quake of September 1, 1923, which had a magnitude of 7.9 and killed more than 140,000 people in the Tokyo area.

Is this the Magic Anti-Radiation Protection Pill?

Sorry, but there is no magic pill or medicine that will protect you from all radiation sources. In fact, as already stated above here:
    "There is no medicine that will effectively prevent nuclear radiations from damaging the human body cells that they strike."
Also, the recently (November, 2001) released FDA document Potassium Iodide as a Thyroid Blocking Agent in Radiation Emergencies states:
    "KI provides protection only for the thyroid from radioiodines. It has no impact on the uptake by the body of other radioactive materials and provides no protection against external irradiation of any kind. FDA emphasizes that the use of KI should be as an adjunct to evacuation (itself not always feasible), sheltering, and control of foodstuffs."
Potassium Iodide (and Potassium Iodate, KIO3) will provide a very high level of thyroid protection, taken in time, for the specific radio-isotopes of iodine, which is expected by many to cause the majority of health concerns downwind from a nuclear emergency. (And, is the reason most all developed countries have stockpiled it.) 

However, there are numerous other, and very dangerous, radioactive noble gases and/or radioactive fallouts that can be associated with nuclear emergencies. You are still exposed to inhale, ingest, or be radiated externally from any number of dangerous non-radioiodine sources.
If you are ever directed to evacuate in a nuclear emergency, do so immediately, regardless of whether you have taken Potassium Iodide (KI) or KIO3, or not. 

Note: KI or KIO3 would likely not be needed for the so-called "Dirty Bomb" or RDD (Radiological Dispersal Device). Radioactive Iodine is only produced by a fission or fusion weapon detonation or in a Nuclear Power Plant as a byproduct of that process. An RDD simply spreads around existing radioactive material and it's not very likely to have been composed of the relatively short half-life radioactive iodine. We'd more likely see used in an RDD a commercially abundant, and more easily obtained, isotope like Cobalt-60, Cesium-137 or uranium fuel rods, etc.

How Does Potassium Iodide (KI) Pill Provide Anti-Radiation Protection?

Going back to June 23, 1966, the New England Journal of Medicine. Vol. 274 on Page 1442 states:
    "The thyroid gland is especially vulnerable to atomic injury since radioactive isotopes of iodine are a major component of fallout."
Cresson H. Kearny, the author of Nuclear War Survival Skills, Original Edition Published September, 1979, by Oak Ridge National Laboratory, a Facility of the U.S. Department of Energy (Updated and Expanded 1987 Edition) states on page 111:
    "There is no medicine that will effectively prevent nuclear radiations from damaging the human body cells that they strike.However, a salt of the elements potassium and iodine, taken orally even in very small quantities 1/2 hour to 1 day before radioactive iodines are swallowed or inhaled, prevents about 99% of the damage to the thyroid gland that otherwise would result. The thyroid gland readily absorbs both non-radioactive and radioactive iodine, and normally it retains much of this element in either or both forms. When ordinary, non-radioactive iodine is made available in the blood for absorption by the thyroid gland before any radioactive iodine is made available, the gland will absorb and retain so much that it becomes saturated with non-radioactive iodine. When saturated, the thyroid can absorb only about l% as much additional iodine, including radioactive forms that later may become available in the blood: then it is said to be blocked. (Excess iodine in the blood is rapidly eliminated by the action of the kidneys.)"
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) stated July 1, 1998 in USE OF POTASSIUM IODIDE IN EMERGENCY RESPONSE:
    "Potassium iodide, if taken in time, blocks the thyroid gland's uptake of radioactive iodine and thus could help prevent thyroid cancers and other diseases that might otherwise be caused by exposure to airborne radioactive iodine that could be dispersed in a nuclear accident."
Federal Register. Vol. 43 Friday, December 15, 1978, states in Potassium Iodide as a Thyroid Blocking Agent in a Radiation Emergency:
    "Almost complete (greater than 90%) blocking of peak radioactive iodine uptake by the thyroid gland can be obtained by the oral administration of ... iodide ..."
National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements. NCRP Report NO. 55. Protection of the Thyroid Gland in the Event of Releases of Radioiodine. August, 1979, Page 32:
    "A major protective action to be considered after a serious accident at a nuclear power facility involving the release of radioiodine is the use of stable iodide as a thyroid blocking agent to prevent thyroid uptake of radioiodines."

The recently updated (1999) World Health Organization (WHO) Guidelines for Iodine Prophylaxis following Nuclear Accidents states:
    "Stable iodine administered before, or promptly after, intake of radioactive iodine can block or reduce the accumulation of radioactive iodine in the thyroid."
And, finally, the recently (November, 2001) released FDA document Potassium Iodide as a Thyroid Blocking Agent in Radiation Emergencies states:
    "The effectiveness of KI as a specific blocker of thyroid radioiodine uptake is well established (Il'in LA, et al., 1972) as are the doses necessary for blocking uptake. As such, it is reasonable to conclude that KI will likewise be effective in reducing the risk of thyroid cancer in individuals or populations at risk for inhalation or ingestion of radioiodines."

Adverse Reactions......

There have been some reports of potassium iodide treatment causing swelling of the parotid gland (one of the three glands which secrete saliva), due to its stimulatory effects on saliva production.

A saturated solution of KI (SSKI) is typically given orally in adult doses of about 250 mg iodide several times a day (5 drops of SSKI assumed to be ⅓ mL) for thyroid blockage and occasionally as an expectorant. At these doses, and sometimes at much lower doses, side effects may include: acne, loss of appetite, or upset stomach (especially during the first several days, as the body adjusts to the medication). More severe side effects which require notification of a physician are: fever, weakness, unusual tiredness, swelling in the neck or throat, mouth sores, skin rash, nausea, vomiting, stomach pains, irregular heartbeat, numbness or tingling of the hands or feet, or a metallic taste in the mouth.

WHO Recommended Dosage for Radiological Emergencies involving Radioactive Iodine

Age KI in mg 

Over 12 years old 130 
3 – 12 years old 65 
1 – 36 months old 32 
< 1 month old 16

Thyroid protection due to nuclear accidents and emergencies

SSKI may be used in radioiodine-contamination emergencies (i.e., nuclear accidents) to "block" the thyroid's uptake of radioiodine (this is not the same as blocking the thyroid's release of thyroid hormone).
Potassium iodide was approved in 1982 by the US FDA to protect the thyroid glands from radioactive iodine from accidents or fission emergencies. In the event of an accident or attack at a nuclear power plant, or fallout from a nuclear bomb, volatile fission product radionuclides may be released, of which 131I is one of the most common by-products and a particularly dangerous one due to thyroid gland concentration of it, which may lead to thyroid cancer. By saturating the body with a source of stable iodide prior to exposure, inhaled or ingested 131I tends to be excreted.
Potassium iodide cannot protect against any other causes of radiation poisoning, nor can it provide any degree of protection against dirty bombs that produce radionuclides other than isotopes of iodine. See fission products and the external links for more details concerning radionuclides.