Favorable winds over Japan carrying radioactivity out to sea

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:16 PM GMT on March 16, 2011

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If there is going to be a major nuclear disaster with massive release of radioactivity into the atmosphere from Japan's stricken Fukushima nuclear plant, today would be the best day meteorologically for this to occur. The low pressure system that brought rain and several inches of snow to Japan yesterday has moved northeastwards out to sea, and high pressure is building in. The clockwise flow of air around the high pressure system approaching Japan from the southwest is driving strong northwesterly winds of 10 - 20 mph over the region. These winds will continue through Thursday, and will take radiation particles emitted by the stricken reactors immediately out to sea, without lingering over Japan. Since high pressure systems are regions of sinking air, the radiation will stay close to the ocean surface as the air spirals clockwise over the Pacific. The contaminated air will remain over the ocean for at least five days, which is plenty of time for the radiation to settle out to the surface.


Figure 1. Surface weather map for 8am EDT today, taken from the 6-hour forecast from this morning's 6 UTC run of the GFS model. A high pressure system to the southwest of Japan, in combination with a low pressure system to the northeast are driving strong northwesterly surface winds over the country. Image is from our wundermap with the "Model" layer turned on. The lines are sea-level pressure (blue contours, 4 mb interval) and 1000 to 500 mb thickness (yellow contours, 60 m interval). Thickness is a measure of the temperature of the lower atmosphere, and a thickness of 5400 meters is usually close to where the dividing line between rain and snow occurs.

Thursday night and Friday morning (U.S. time), the high pressure system moves over Japan, allowing winds to weaken and potentially grow calm, increasing the danger of radioactivity building up over regions near and to the north of the nuclear plant. On Friday, the high departs and a moist southwesterly flow of air will affect Japan. These southwesterly winds will blow most of the radiation out to sea, away from Tokyo. Southwesterly winds will continue through Sunday, when the next major low pressure system is expected to bring heavy precipitation to the country. Beginning Thursday night, the sinking airmass over Japan will be replaced a large-scale area of rising air, and any radiation emitted late Thursday through Friday will be carried aloft towards Alaska and eastern Russia by this southwesterly flow of rising air.

Ground-level releases of radioactivity are typically not able to be transported long distances in significant quantities, since most of the material settles to the ground a few kilometers from the source. If there is a major explosion with hot gases that shoots radioactivity several hundred meters high, that would increase the chances for long range transport, since now the ground is farther away, and the particles that start settling out will stay in the air longer before encountering the ground. Additionally, winds are stronger away from ground, due to reduced friction and presence of the jet stream aloft. These stronger winds will transport radioactivity greater distances. I've made trajectory plots for the next three days assuming two possible release altitudes--a surface-based release near 10 meters, which should be the predominant altitude in the current situation, and a higher release altitude of 300 meters, which might occur from an explosion and fire from a Chernobyl-style incident. Given that the radioactivity has to travel 3000 miles to reach Anchorage, Alaska, and 5000 miles to reach California, a very large amount of dilution will occur, along with potential loss due to rain-out. Any radiation at current levels of emission that might reach these places may not even be detectable, much less be a threat to human health. A Chernobyl-level disaster in Japan would certainly be able to produce detectable levels of radiation over North America, but I strongly doubt it would be a significant concern for human health. The Chernobyl disaster only caused dangerous human health impacts within a few hundred miles of the disaster site, and the distance from Japan to North America is ten times farther than that.


Figure 2. Five-day forecast movement of plumes of radioactive air emitted at 10 meters altitude (red line) and 300 meters (blue line) at 18 UTC (2pm EDT) Wednesday, March 16, 2011 from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The plumes spiral clockwise around the high pressure system to the southwest of Japan and stay near the surface. Images created using NOAA's HYSPLIT trajectory model.


Figure 3. Five-day forecast movement of plumes of radioactive air emitted at 10 meters altitude (red line) and 300 meters (blue line) at 18 UTC (2pm EDT) Thursday, March 17, 2011 from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The plumes initially spiral clockwise around the high pressure system to the southwest of Japan and stay near the surface. By Saturday, though, the plumes get caught in a southwesterly flow of air in advance of an approaching low pressure system. Ascending air lifts the plumes to high altitudes, where winds are stronger and rapid long-range transport occurs. Images created using NOAA's HYSPLIT trajectory model.


Figure 4. Five-day forecast movement of plumes of radioactive air emitted at 10 meters altitude (red line) and 300 meters (blue line) at 18 UTC (2pm EDT) Friday, March 18, 2011 from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The plumes get caught in a southwesterly flow of air in advance of an approaching low pressure system. The plume emitted near the surface (red line) stays trapped near the surface, but the plume emitted at 300 meters is lifted to 3.5 km altitude by the rising air associated with the approaching low pressure system. Images created using NOAA's HYSPLIT trajectory model.

Resources
Seven-day weather forecast for Sendai near the Fukushima nuclear plant

The Austrian Weather Service is running trajectory models for Japan.

Current radar loops from the Japan Meteorological Agency

Rare subtropical cyclone forms near Brazil
An unusual low pressure system that came close to becoming a tropical storm is in the South Atlantic, a few hundred miles east of the coast of Brazil. The Brazilian Navy Hydrographic Center has officially named the system Subtropical Storm "Arani", but I'm not sure the low would have been named by NHC, since Arani has somewhat of a loose circulation and limited heavy thunderstorm activity. The storm is expected to move slowly eastward out to sea, and does not pose a threat to South America. The latest run of the GFDL model shows little development of Arani, and the storm is now encountering a frontal system, which is bringing 20 - 30 knots of wind shear. It is unlikely that Arani will become a tropical storm. Some runs of the GFDL last weekend were predicting Arani would intensify into a Category 3 hurricane; that's the first time I've even seen such a prediction for a South Atlantic storm. The metsul.com blog has more info on Arani, for those of you who read Portugese.


Figure 5. During the daytime on Tuesday 15 March 2011 at 1820 UTC the TRMM satellite flew over a rare cyclone labeled Arani in the South Atlantic. Arani had the appearance of a tropical cyclone but has been classified as a subtropical cyclone. NOAA's Satellite and Information Service classified Arani as a T1 on the Dvorak intensity scale which would indicate an estimated wind speed of about 29 kt (~33 mph). TRMM's Microwave Imager (TMI) and Precipitation Radar (PR) data were used in the image above to show rainfall near Arani. Image credit: NASA.

Jeff Masters

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Quoting IKE:

Not nice to say that about someone either. Maybe you should be reported?


He is not here. He is also a known troll that has been banned repeatedly.
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812. IKE
NEW BLOG!
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I am glad to hear a global hawk is helping with reactor reconnaissance. I wish our ground surveillance military tech. could help out as well.

Do we have multispectral satellites that can track radiation in air mases?
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810. IKE

Quoting FloridaHeat:


I do not know what that means, but I am working diligently to earn the respect of everyone on the blog. I know I am ignorant in many areas, but I am trying to learn. So JUST BE NICE. Also, I am not JFV, and hate the idea of being compared to him. I'm not a loser such as he.
Not nice to say that about someone either. Maybe you should be reported?
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There are reportedly 700,000 spent fuel rods at the Fukushima plant. Giving up is not an option.
Stop gap measures until better solutions are found are better than doing nothing at all.
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Quoting aquak9:
ike...thinking warm n fuzzy thoughts about ya, m'friend...

FlaHeat- you're cracking me up here.


I am glad that I have brought joy into your life. Please let me know if I can be of help to you.
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Quoting Neapolitan:
The Japanese--arguably the most high-tech and careful people on the planet, and the ones with the greatest, saddest experience with the horrors of radiation--nonetheless allowed profit motives to convince them to allow not just one but six reactors in a seismically-sensitive area. (And that's just at Fukushima I; there are many others on the island.) And now, as evidence of the very poor planning that went into the design of the plant, the very best solution that the very best minds in the country can come up with is to ineffectually drop water from helicopters, or shoot at the reactors with fire hoses.

Seriously? That's it?

Those are firefighting tools, of course, used to control open flames burning at 1,000 degrees or so. They are definitely not intended for removing decay heat from tens of thousands of prone-to-melting-into-a-huge-ball- of-permanently-lethal-goo-while-emitting- vast-quantities-of-uncontrollable-radiation nuclear fuel rods hidden deep inside the exploded and crumbling remains of what used to be containment buildings. (Kinda reminds me of a time not long ago when the best oil industry minds on the planet ended up devising a scheme to end one of the worst oil spills in history by shooting crushed up tennis balls and rubber boots into a broken pipe a mile underwater.)

The water pumping idea, at any rate, has little chance of injecting the 300 metric tons of pressurized water needed for each reactor each and every day to keep the decay heat dampened. I realize they have to do something, or at least look like they are, and more power to them. But folks shouldn't get their hopes too high. At least not yet.

And now I'm reading that, while running the big emergency extension cord to Fukushima will help restart some pumps, it's still only delaying the inevitable. Bottom line is this is a mess that will take years to clean up at a cost of tens of billions of dollars--and but for typical corporate corner-cutting to add a few pennies of share value, completely foreseeable and avoidable.

Nuclear energy is not clean energy. It's an extremely dangerous stopgap measure that should only be allowed in certain very well-regulated--as opposed to industry-regulated--areas, and then only after very careful consideration.


Last night I was looking for a certain shut down Nuclear Power plant on the west coast. It was built on an unknown fault.

Humboldt Bay Nuclear Power Plant
So, even though the reactor had problems with a Mag 6 quake..and was shutdown.. here is what they have decided...

"Until the federal government approves the construction and operation of a waste-storage disposal facility, the Humboldt Bay plant will continue to store the spent fuel assemblies on-site, in keeping with safety practices approved by the NRC. The 390 spent fuel assemblies are now kept and monitored under specially treated water in a stainless-steel lined, spent fuel pool in the fuel handling building (SAFSTOR)."

I also found many others... so before you start jumping on the "We are better, and smarter" bandwagon, you might want to clean up your own backyard first.

I found many of your reactors on the westcoast are built on or near fault lines.

When Mt St Helen blew up, it was pretty close to another Shut down Nuclear Power plant... I am pretty sure that was not thought about during the disaster planning scenario either.


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806. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
wow

what is it 9AM and we're fighting already.
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ike...thinking warm n fuzzy thoughts about ya, m'friend...

FlaHeat- you're cracking me up here.
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 165 Comments: 25905
Only way to solve this issue is literally sinking the land the plants are sitting on into the ocean. But how would you do it? you couldn't...all the water in the world right next to the plants and can't even tap it, so close...but yet so far.
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A much-needed reactor-by-reactor update from Reuters:

Q A: Risks at each reactor of Japan's stricken plant explained

Edit: a much nicer PDF version may be found at Link
Member Since: July 15, 2005 Posts: 3 Comments: 1266
801. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)


Moderate Tropical Storm Cherono track map

Rodriques Island, Mauritius, and Réunion may need to watch the progress of "Cherono".
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
800. IKE

Quoting Orcasystems:


Its good to see I don't have to miss JF* anymore....
***the winterized version on the blogs***

Pass the anti-freeze.
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Quoting FloridaHeat:


You will go on the ignore list if you keep it up. I am not defined by my job. I am a good person that brings joy to everyone I touch.
just stop being a gear box and everything would be ok
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 170 Comments: 53767
The grand and glorious water cannon idea didn't work to lower radiation--surprise!--so they're apparently giving up on that and sending the firefighters home. I had my fingers crossed, but even the best water cannon can only shoot a stream a few hundred feet, and by then it's a gentle mist--not the high pressure, condensed stream needed.

Kyodo says the extension cord won't be ready today; they should finish by tomorrow. Also, smoke has been observed on satellite coming out of unit #2.
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I tell you what, last night on tv when I saw those fire hoses on those trucks I thought if this was a late night comedy show this would be hillarious. A dinky nozzle with those skinny hoses to put out a nuclear time bomb was just insane. Would be funny, but it's not because it's for real.
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Like shooting fish in a barrel.
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
hey bag boy clue in or i will clue you in


snap!
Member Since: July 15, 2005 Posts: 3 Comments: 1266
Quoting IKE:

Well...drag out the lawnmower. No...people shouldn't call others stupid but plenty of us do...including me.

Still...you get a touch worked up.


Its good to see I don't have to miss JF* anymore....
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Quoting FloridaHeat:


Re-ported!
hey bag boy clue in or i will clue you in
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 170 Comments: 53767
791. IKE

Quoting FloridaHeat:


It is not polite to call someone stupid and I re-port it every time I see it. I do not have kids to take on walks. I am enjoying life right now as I respond to the many emails that I have received. Thank you and good day to ye.
Well...drag out the lawnmower. No...people shouldn't call others stupid but plenty of us do...including me.

Still...you get a touch worked up.
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Quoting cat5hurricane:

"If this is successful, everything would be back to normal." If I said this, that would be a ridiculous statement. I said that if this is in fact true about the power line and they can effectively get it up and running, then the situation would be at least halted from getting any worse from the critical stage it is at. Believe me, it is going to take weeks or months before everything is stable--and that's saying if these methods EVEN pan out that will get the situation under control.


Respectfully, what is the "it" that you think they might get up and running? What basic components must be intact to "get the situation under control."

I'm trying to be hopeful, but I'm finding it difficult. This situation appears to be totally FUBAR. It keeps going from bad to worse.
Member Since: July 15, 2005 Posts: 3 Comments: 1266
788. IKE

Quoting FloridaHeat:


Re-ported!
Again?

FloridaHeat...maybe a walk in the park...or mowing the yard or taking your kids to the park?

Life is short....get out and enjoy it!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting aquak9:
before everyone slams him...ya gotta admit, it's funny as can be...


Top O' the morning to ye quak.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
The Japanese--arguably the most high-tech and careful people on the planet, and the ones with the greatest, saddest experience with the horrors of radiation--nonetheless allowed profit motives to convince them to allow not just one but six reactors in a seismically-sensitive area. (And that's just at Fukushima I; there are many others on the island.) And now, as evidence of the very poor planning that went into the design of the plant, the very best solution that the very best minds in the country can come up with is to ineffectually drop water from helicopters, or shoot at the reactors with fire hoses.

Seriously? That's it?

Those are firefighting tools, of course, used to control open flames burning at 1,000 degrees or so. They are definitely not intended for removing decay heat from tens of thousands of prone-to-melting-into-a-huge-ball- of-permanently-lethal-goo-while-emitting- vast-quantities-of-uncontrollable-radiation nuclear fuel rods hidden deep inside the exploded and crumbling remains of what used to be containment buildings. (Kinda reminds me of a time not long ago when the best oil industry minds on the planet ended up devising a scheme to end one of the worst oil spills in history by shooting crushed up tennis balls and rubber boots into a broken pipe a mile underwater.)

The water pumping idea, at any rate, has little chance of injecting the 300 metric tons of pressurized water needed for each reactor each and every day to keep the decay heat dampened. I realize they have to do something, or at least look like they are, and more power to them. But folks shouldn't get their hopes too high. At least not yet.

And now I'm reading that, while running the big emergency extension cord to Fukushima will help restart some pumps, it's still only delaying the inevitable. Bottom line is this is a mess that will take years to clean up at a cost of tens of billions of dollars--and but for typical corporate corner-cutting to add a few pennies of share value, completely foreseeable and avoidable.

Nuclear energy is not clean energy. It's an extremely dangerous stopgap measure that should only be allowed in certain very well-regulated--as opposed to industry-regulated--areas, and then only after very careful consideration.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting FloridaHeat:
I apologize for not being able to issue an update before now. With my busy work schedule, it is almost impossible to be on much earlier than this. To those of you that emailed me for updates and my insight into the disaster in Japan, I will reply to your email shortly.

This morning does not bring any good news from Japan. The temperatures at the plants are not dropping even though millions of gallons of water are being poured over the reactors.

Many are evacuating Tokyo if they can. Winds are expected to bring radiation to the city as early as this weekend. Most countries are arranging for the evacuation of their citizens from the area as soon as possible. The United States has charted planes to get its citizens out of the country.

Please be patient while I answer emails at this time.
you are a special kind of stupid huh
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 170 Comments: 53767
before everyone slams him...ya gotta admit, it's funny as can be...
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 165 Comments: 25905
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from NHK english:

Police failed to spray water to cool No.3 reactor

Japanese police have failed in their attempt to use water canon to cool the No.3 reactor at the quake-damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

The high-pressure water did not reach the reactor and the police squad has now evacuated to a safety zone.

The operation on Thursday evening followed efforts by the Self-Defense Forces using helicopters earlier in the day.

Thursday, March 17, 2011 20:06 +0900 (JST)

*****

Not sure if the "very powerful" fire engines are still on the job - sounds like they might be (2 out of 5 trucks).

The police water cannons and fire trucks seem about as efficacious as peeing into a volcano. The radiation from reactor no. 3 went *up* after efforts to get sufficient water on that.
Member Since: July 15, 2005 Posts: 3 Comments: 1266
779. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Mauritius Meteorological Services
Tropical Disturbance Advisory #10
TEMPETE TROPICALE MODEREE CHERONO (07-20102011)
16:00 PM RET March 17 2011
==========================================

At 12:00 PM UTC, Moderate Tropical Storm Cherono (995 hPa) located at 15.2S 75.2E has 10 minute sustained winds of 35 knots with gusts of 50 knots. The cyclone is reported as moving west southwest at 12 knots.

Gale Force Winds
===============
Near the center

Near Gale Force Winds
=======================
30 NM from the center extending up to 70 NM in the southern semi-circle

Dvorak Intensity: T2.5/2.5/D0.5/12 HRS

Forecast and Intensity
======================
12 HRS: 15.9S 73.1E - 40 knots (Tempête Tropicale Modereé)
24 HRS: 16.7S 70.4E - 45 knots (Tempête Tropicale Modereé)
48 HRS: 18.4S 65.8E - 55 knots (Forte Tempête Tropicale)
72 HRS: 22.1S 61.3E - 65 knots (CYCLONE Tropical)

Additional Information
=====================

Deep convective activity has re-organized closer to the center since last night. Conditions are becoming more favorable for a progressive reintensification. Low level inflow is good on the polar side, equatorial inflow is weak, but it is expected to improve slightly. An upper level outflow exists poleward but none is expected to build equatorward. System has now a favorable window for intensification of 2-3 days. Beyond, it should again undergo a strengthening vertical wind shear ahead of a strong mid latitude trough. Most of Numerical Weather Prediction models are in a good agreement for a track west southwestward on the northern edge of the low to mid levels subtropical ridge.

The next tropical cyclone advisory from Mauritius Meteorological Services will be issued at 18:30 PM UTC..
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Quoting P451:


What are they planning to do with that electricity? Hook it up to the same seawater pumps that failed running on generators?

You have to get hoses into the reactors and into the spent rod pools. I think we've all seen the buildings and the infrastructure around them. Everything is an obliterated mess. You also cannot approach the cores or the pools for you'll be dead in days after you do it. Also how do you get four stories up to spent fuel rod pools when the entire building has been destroyed?

This is a little more than "Everything's fine, power on the way, water cannons on the way."

That WOULD be fine if the buildings weren't leveled which they are.

These are all last ditch attempts....not easy cures.

Every plant and it's spent rod pools have experienced meltdowns of varying degrees.

There is no easy fix here at all.


Agreed. They are doing something because they have to be seen as doing something. The odds of success seem low, given what has gone before.

As you say, what are they going to *do* with the electricity? Has anyone seen any specific comments about this?
Member Since: July 15, 2005 Posts: 3 Comments: 1266
Quoting cat5hurricane:
Kyodo: Fukushima plant likely to be connected to external power line Thurs.: TEPCO (21:24)

If this is in fact true, this would be excellent news to finally stabilize the power plants. I'm not saying in any way that they would be out of the woods, but this is a big step forward in the right direction.
you think its going to be that easy ya right you see the damage to those buildings iam telling you now they will be lucky if anything in those buildings even work wiring is damage along with some electronics are likly damaged pumps have more than likly locked up from being shifted by explosions holding tanks and containment vessels are more than likly warped and cracked and leaking whatever is put in them out
how do i know this because iam a building superintendent and in accessing the damage i have seen most services are more than likly damage to the point of being inoperable anyway maybe some lights will come on maybe even a pump or two might even get some alarms going off but iam telling you this is not going to be the case of hooking up a hydro wire and everything is going to be running back to normal far from normal very far from normal
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 170 Comments: 53767
Quoting DEKRE:


Nonsense. The meltdown has nothing to do with a chain reaction, the heating is from radioactivity, not from fission.

This can happen with spent fuel if they are close enough for the heat to be trapped - it is actually more likely with used fuel rods then with fresh ones which are much less radioactive.

In any case, absolutely nothing related with nuclear reactions is dependent upon temperature.
when i say chain reaction its not a nuclear chain reaction its a reaction in the sense that the rods are without water they are heating and continue to heat till white hot then they begin to melt as others melt they then fuse with other rods till a molten mass of melted rods are acheived then the entire thing burns pass the tank onto the floor and so on and so on a chain reaction of events
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 170 Comments: 53767
768. DEKRE
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
yes if holding tank drains of water the rods can begin to reheat to the point of chain reaction


Nonsense. The meltdown has nothing to do with a chain reaction, the heating is from radioactivity, not from fission.

This can happen with spent fuel if they are close enough for the heat to be trapped - it is actually more likely with used fuel rods then with fresh ones which are much less radioactive.

In any case, absolutely nothing related with nuclear reactions is dependent upon temperature.
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Quoting Grothar:


It's always good to go to sleep with a smile. Take care guys. I may have to drop out before I drop down. Watching all these horrible stories and images makes one a little depressed.


same w/waking up
thankful to scroll back and get a little laugh
I woke up with tears rolling down my face -I must be more deeply grieved about all this then I realized
and rightly so -- the Natural disasters are bad enough - but the Man-Made one.... geegus... there's Human Ego written all over the place....

and all our questions,the "vanilla box" answers from the Corporation responsible,once again, a corporation handling all the information to the press & handling the disaster --

do you think BP's Man-Made Disaster in the Gulf was handled or managed any differently? .... NOT ONE BIT..... and the Privilege get to move away but the working People..... they have no choice - they must brave it out & inhale.

My gratitude to this Blog, to WeatherWunderground & Dr. Masters for providing information and a forum that we may educate OURSELVES.
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wanda jackson hit single from the 50s fujiama baby blow you top http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jVs3iwkAP0k&feature =related
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Read what Xyrus2000 said, not what you want to think he said.

"The high energy beta radiation from I-131 causes it to be the most carcinogenic of the iodine isotopes, and it is thought to cause the majority of the excess in thyroid cancers seen after nuclear fission contamination (such as bomb fallout or severe nuclear reactor accidents...)"

"Strontium-90...undergoes [beta] decay...
...Strontium-90 is a 'bone seeker'...Its presence in bones can cause bone cancer, cancer of nearby tissues, and leukemia."

Cs-134 "Cesium-134...Mode of decay: Beta to Ba-134"

"Cesium-137 decays by beta emission...
...As of 2005, cesium-137 is the principal source of radiation in the zone of alienation around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Together with cesium-134, iodine-131, and strontium-90, cesium-137 was among the isotopes with greatest health impact distributed by the reactor explosion."

Now how the heck does that show pro-nuclear bias???
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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