Fukushima Nuclear Accident Radiological Consequences (3.28.11)

Category: Energy, Think Tank

The End of QE2

Joshua Brown, author of “The Reformed Broker,” says he believes there will be no QE3 and that Bernanke deserves some credit for keeping the bottom from falling out. CNBC’s Melissa Lee and the Fast Money traders discuss how to trade the end of QE2 and stimulus.

Airtime: Mon. Mar. 28 2011 | 5:43 PM ET

Category: Federal Reserve, Video

Economic data

S&P/CaseShiller said home prices in Jan fell 3.06% y/o/y in the top 20 cities, a touch better than expectations of a fall of 3.2% but it does take the index right back to the lows. At 140.86, it is just 1.1% above the low reached on Apr ’09 and is 31.7% below the record high…Read More

Category: MacroNotes

Financial Profits

• Real Time Economics (WSJ Blog) – Like The Phoenix, U.S. Finance Profits Soar Not too long ago, during the depths of the global crisis, the finance industry was on the brink of collapse. How times have changed. Friday’s revisions to U.S. gross domestic product contained news on fourth-quarter profits. Top-line, or pretax, operating profits…Read More

Category: Earnings, Think Tank

Time to quantify

Beginning today with the March Conference Board Consumer Confidence figure (key employment questions included), economic data will start to reflect the late Feb spike in oil prices and the human and economic reverberations of the March 11th Japanese earthquake so we can thus start the process of better quantifying the impacts. Specifically with gasoline prices…Read More

Category: MacroNotes

Who Has Tougher Bank Regulations, US or Europe?

The two bits of regulation are at tension with each other. One bit is saying you should have more funding with a longer duration and the other is saying watch out when buying this stuff if you are an insurance company. It’s a big problem for banks.” -Simon Hills, an executive director at the British…Read More

Category: Credit, Fixed Income/Interest Rates, Regulation

Casio EX-Z550 14.1MP Digital Camera: $79

My first digital camera was a Casio. It had several advantages over other digital cameras, but most noteworthy were the very fast shutter speed (less of the usual lag) and very competitive price (~$250 when the competitors were mostly $300+) The prices have plummeted, and these cameras are now so cheap as to be near…Read More

Category: Digital Media, Weekend

Comparing Japan’s Radiation Release to “Background Radiation”

Washington’s Blog strives to provide real-time, well-researched and actionable information.  George – the head writer at Washington’s Blog – is a busy professional and a former adjunct professor.


Apologists for the type of old, unsafe nuclear reactors which are leaking in Japan argue that the amount of radiation released from Fukushima is small compared to the amount of “background radiation”.

There Are NO Background Levels of Radioactive Caesium or Iodine

Wikipedia provides some details on the distribution of cesium-137 due to human activities:

Small amounts of caesium-134 and caesium-137 were released into the environment during nearly all nuclear weapon tests and some nuclear accidents, most notably the Chernobyl disaster. As of 2005, caesium-137 is the principal source of radiation in the zone of alienation around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Together with caesium-134, iodine-131, and strontium-90, caesium-137 was among the isotopes with greatest health impact distributed by the reactor explosion.

The mean contamination of caesium-137 in Germany following the Chernobyl disaster was 2000 to 4000 Bq/m2. This corresponds to a contamination of 1 mg/km2 of caesium-137, totaling about 500 grams deposited over all of Germany.Caesium-137 is unique in that it is totally anthropogenic. Unlike most other radioisotopes, caesium-137 is not produced from its non-radioactive isotope, but from uranium. It did not occur in nature before nuclear weapons testing began. By observing the characteristic gamma rays emitted by this isotope, it is possible to determine whether the contents of a given sealed container were made before or after the advent of atomic bomb explosions. This procedure has been used by researchers to check the authenticity of certain rare wines, most notably the purported “Jefferson bottles”.

As the EPA notes:

Cesium-133 is the only naturally occurring isotope and is non-radioactive; all
other isotopes, including cesium-137, are produced by human activity.

So there was no “background radiation” for caesium-137 before above-ground nuclear testing and nuclear accidents such as Chernobyl.

Japan has already, according to some estimates, released 50% of the amount of caesium-137 released by Chernobyl, and many experts say that the Fukushima plants will keep on leaking for months. See this and this. The amount of radioactive fuel at Fukushima dwarfs Chernobyl.

Likewise, iodine-131 is not a naturally occurring isotope. As the Encyclopedia Britannica notes:

The only naturally occurring isotope of iodine is stable iodine-127. An exceptionally useful radioactive isotope is iodine-131…

And New Scientist reports that huge quantities of iodine-131 are being released in Japan:

Austrian researchers have used a worldwide network of radiation detectors – designed to spot clandestine nuclear bomb tests – to show that iodine-131 is being released at daily levels 73 per cent of those seen after the 1986 disaster.

(Indeed, some experts are saying that the amount of radioactivity released in Japan already exceeds Chernobyl.)

Naturally-Occurring Radiation

There are, of course, naturally occurring radioactive materials.

But lumping all types of radiation together is misleading … and is comparing apples to oranges.

As the National Research Council’s Committee to Assess the Scientific Information for the Radiation Exposure Screening and Education Program explains:

Radioactivity generates radiation by emitting particles. Radioactive materials outside the the body are called external emitters, and radioactive materials located within the body are called internal emitters.

Internal emitters are much more dangerous than external emitters. Specifically, one is only exposed to radiation as long as he or she is near the external emitter.

For example, when you get an x-ray, an external emitter is turned on for an instant, and then switched back off.

But internal emitters steadily and continuously emit radiation for as long as the particle remains radioactive, or until the person dies – whichever occurs first. As such, they are much more dangerous.

Dr. Helen Caldicott and many other medical doctors and scientists have confirmed this. See this and this.

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Category: Energy, Think Tank

Did Plosser and Bullard have impact on 2yr auction?

The 2 yr note auction was light as the yield was above the when issued and the bid to cover of 3.16 was below the 12 month average of 3.33 and the 2nd lowest dating back to last August. Impacting the bidding positively on one hand was likely the Japanese disaster and subsequent negative impact…Read More

Category: Fixed Income/Interest Rates, Think Tank

What is the Half Life of Your Favorite Technology?

I mentioned this on Bloomberg early this morning, but its worth exploring further: What is the average half life of your favorite technology? We operate under the false assumption of substance and solidity, when in reality, things are deeply in flux. Everything changes, nothing lasts. The various technologies we use are physical manifestations of ideas,…Read More

Category: Cycles, Philosophy, Technology