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Swearing french man

Dear Reader,

Here is a film by a foul mouthed man (he swears way too much).

I am not sure exactly what is motivating the person, he has put up a film of a man with a french accent who is angry about the Fukushima accident.

1. The person is upset about some workers getting doses in the range of 600 to 700 mSv. Now I hold the view that these doses are high when compared with normal occupational doses. Under the Swedish rules these doses represent 30 to 35 years of exposure at the highest normal occupational exposure limits (20 mSv per year). But the good news is that these doses are too low to cause the short term effects which the general public know as “radiation sickness”.

2. The man is upset about strontium appearing in ground water, I hold the view that the appearance of strontium in the from under the reactor building is bad. But the man is upset that an acceptable level of strontium in drinking water exists. The problem is that many things can be measured at levels at which they cause no ill effect or are very unlikely to cause an ill effect.

Let me give you an example, alcohol. We all know that trying to drive a car when you have alcohol in your body is a very bad idea. Drunken driving leads to all manner of adverse outcomes, the great problem is that normal people drink alcohol and then think that they can drive better than Jackie Stewart, Stirling Moss or some other star of motor racing.

In fact these people after drinking are often driving worse than Mr Bean. As a result all manner of horrible accidents tend to occur when drivers have been drinking. Quite wisely governments from around the world have set laws which are designed to curb this vile menace. One part of this legal response are the limits for alcohol in blood which define who is sober and who is not. Here we have a series of limits, now if you sniff the bar maid’s apron you will get a tiny amount of alcohol in your body.

Imagine that we made a new super high tech blood alcohol meter which can measure even the smallest trace of alcohol. Now we take the man who sniffed the barmaid’s apron, and then we find he has a tiny trace of alcohol in him. Even if we can now measure it, it does not mean that he is now condemned to have a drunken car wreck or that you should go to jail for drinking and driving. All that it means is that we have a limit of detection which is lower than the legal limit. In the same way for radioactivity in drinking water it is possible to measure very low levels which are smaller than the legal limit. Just because we can detect it, does not mean that it is a threat.

3. The man needs to clean out his mouth and stop swearing. I can suggest several cures for people who swear too much.

4. He is right that strontium can accumulate in bone and cause serious diseases. This accumulation in bone is likely to be the reason behind the fact that the exposure limits for strontium are so much lower than many other beta emitters. If you look at the data for cesium-137 (beta/gamma) then you will find that the annual limits are much higher. This is because cesium does not stay in the body nearly as long as strontium does. Also strontium goes into one of the more sensitive parts of the body.

5. The discovery of strontium in the ground water under the reactor is a very different matter to the discovery of strontium in the drinking water supply. If strontium does appear in the drinking water system then it can be removed, if the drinking water was to be passed through a zeolite water softener then much of the strontium would be removed at the same time as the calcium is removed from the water.

6. The man is getting upset about plutonium, I would like to point out that the accident in Japan has released very little plutonium. The cesium and iodine released by the accident are far greater threats to the general public than the plutonium is.

7. The man seems to be making some jokes which are in very poor taste about radioactivity in the environment. He also seems to have a problem with the IAEA ! Making threats to force feed people radioactive water is the height of bad taste.

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