Posts Tagged ‘radiation’

Will Comet ISON bring Wormwood, or are we our own worst threat?

August 16, 2013

ISON is a comet that will become visible to the naked eye in October of this year. The fact we will be able to see it makes ISON a rare viewing opportunity indeed.

It will leave a vast streak of cosmic dust in a trail behind it.

Most remarkably, ISON may hit Mars on or about the beginning of October!

The Red Planet has had encounters with extraterrestrial bodies in its past. I know it’s not impossible for moons to strike the planets around which they orbit.

Such events are incredibly rare, and occur so rarely to actually see one is incredible.

NASA is trying to follow the trajectory of numerous asteroids and comets in the Inner Solar System. A private-led effort to chart all asteroids of a size or trajectory that threatens Earth has begun, named B612.

Part of the challenge is identifying trajectories from such a distance. And so many of these interplanetary travelers are too small to be seen.

Despite the huge numbers of asteroids, the risk of an actual collision with Earth is quite low. The vastness of space makes the chance of any one thing hitting another tiny.

It’s worth remembering that compared to the size of our solar system, our planet is just a speck. Trying to hit us with an asteroid would probably be tantamount to throwing a peanut into a cup from 3 miles away and thirteen thousand feet up.

The Tunguska event in 1908 does prove however that such things happen, and not just on an astronomer’s turtle-like time horizon, either. Recently the surface of Mars was videoed as it was struck by a comet.

Then there was the rock that exploded over central Russia earlier this year in Chelyabinsk.

The gravitational pull exerted by the relative mass of one object over another means that trajectories can change. Astrophysicists measure the gravitational pull exerted on comets and asteroids to chart their courses. Mars being a larger sized item relative to a smaller one, it can easily change ISON’s trajectory.

The closer to the Red Planet it comes, the more ISON’s course will change. Even if it doesn’t hit Mars, the threat it poses to Earth will have to be re-evaluated after it makes its pass by the Red Planet.

I can’t quantify the chance that ISON will hit Mars. It’s not predicted to come anywhere near Earth, although starting about the beginning of 2014 Earth will cross its path/wake.

The greatest risk is not fragments of ISON crashing down on Earth–a possibility if the comet smashes into Mars–but the cosmic dust that will be spewed out by the comet as it nears the Sun. Thousands of pounds of cosmic dust are being created as the comet superheats–contributing to the growing plume behind the comet as it blows through our Inner Solar System.

What is this cosmic dust? Should we be afraid of it? Undeniably, I’d say yes.

There’s that Biblical reference to wormwood. Revelation 8:10-11. Apparently over 1/3 of the world’s “rivers and springs” will be turned to wormwood. “Many” will die. See the Biblical citation below.

Could this Biblical passage refer to environmental contamination? Quite possibly. One one level, there’s the term Wormwood– a poisonous, acidic substance that makes water undrinkable.

Shockingly, the word in Ukrainian for “wormwood” is “Chernobyl.” Chernobyl is the site of a horrendous 1986 reactor meltdown.

ISON could douse our planet with radioactive particles from outer space, possibly. I don’t know the composition of cosmic dust. Some believe it holds the elements needed to form the basis for life on our planet, like an interstellar bee…a pollinator.

Could cosmic dust be radioactive? I doubt ISON could deposit on the surface of Earth a radioactive cloud big enough and bad enough to poison so much of the Earth’s water.

Sadly, the radioactive contamination of our oceans has already begun. I don’t think any comet could do to us what we’ve already done with our reckless use of nuclear power (an industry I’ve written about here at this blog and in, “Nuclear Power–Unsafe in Any Dose.“)

On a recent interview with Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman, Michio Kaku classified Fukushima on a par with Chernobyl. Both can be classified as Class 7 nuclear accidents, apparently. It’s been only very recently that the Japanese have admitted the scale and severity of ocean leakage, leading some to assume that’s been their plan all along. See the interview here:

If it saturates the Earth’s atmosphere heavily, the dust could change the pH (alkalinity/acidity) of many bodies of water on the surface.

Even if it were able to drop huge amounts of dust,  I think it would take some sort of chain reaction between water and the cosmic dust to turn so much bad.

To penetrate deep into the water table–the source of springs–might require some sort of wave like gamma rays to go through bedrock. There again the worst incarnation of cosmic evil would have to compete with the toxic fracking process occurring throughout so much of the world, where chemicals are pumped deep underground in order to locate deposits of shale gas (the documentary Gasland 2 from HBO offers a look into that Hell, one of our making, not the Devil’s and certainly not one created by Nibiru, the presence of that mysterious dark star (brown dwarf) thought to be a companion star to our sun.)

Maybe confining the Wormwood to “rivers and springs” is lost in the translation of the Biblical passage from the original Greek, as so much of the Bible is. There’s no mention of lakes or oceans becoming wormwood/being wormwood-ized.

Maybe the conditions in the ocean aren’t as immediately impactful as where we get our drinking water, although whatever turns rivers and springs bad can’t be good for the world’s oceans upon which we depend so much for our sustenance. Many will die if fish are made inedible.

Trying to tie 2,000 year old prophecies to what may or may not happen is too speculative. At this point, all we can do is take adequate preparations for disruptions to our food and water supply, which ALL of you should do, not because of what might happen, but what you’ll need if something goes wrong, which is a real possibility considering recent natural disasters, degradation of infrastructure, climate change (more radical weather, flooding, storms, droughts), and localized episodes of civil disorder, all of which will increase the risk of bad things happening.

Rather than be sucked into one doom prophecy or another, I’d be willing to use common sense to identify risks. Encourage self-reliance, a trait too many of us have abandoned in favor of 24/7 retail availability, air conditioning, media, electricity and all those other “essentials” that makes us depend on a functioning energy grid, roads, emergency services. Beware also the psychological condition that leads us to assume that what has happened will happen again–what is called “normalcy bias.”

Enjoy ISON’s beauty. It might be the best thing to ever come from the heavens. Or the worst.

Rev 8:10-11 “And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters; And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.”


Fukushima poses ongoing danger

April 24, 2012

Unit 4, one of the reactors at Fukushima, is in critical danger.

This from The Oregonian, via

“Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden’s recent daylong field trip from Tokyo to the zone of Japan’s nuclear devastation is worth at least a week in the telling. Bunny-suited with a breathing device for protection against radiation exposure, Wyden walked through the ruined Fukushima Dai-ichi complex and saw what few from the West have seen: another bomb waiting to go off.”

According to the article, Senator Wyden sent letters expressing alarm to Secretaries Clinton and Chu which “paint a picture of extreme nuclear vulnerability, especially in Reactor No. 4.”

The length of the cleanup–more than 10 years–as well as the risks of building a new superstructure around the failed reactor–have caused alarm on both sides of the Pacific.

The problem, as best as I can describe it, is that a seismic event (earthquake or a tsunami created by one offshore) could damage the already damaged structures–what remains of Reactor Building 4, housing the fourth reactor.
Especially problemsome are the thousands of spent fuel rods which are suspended in pools above the reactor. The design is common to dozens of reactors, despite the obvious danger of storing radioactive waste not only next to the reactor, but above it.

Rumors have spread since the 3/11/11 disaster that fissile materials at Fukushima include MOX fuel, which is a highly radioactive form of nuclear energy–made from nuclear weapons–notorious for its high plutonium content.

Plutonium, unlike Cesium and Iodine, is a heavy metal which will continue to irradiate all surrounding skin and organ tissue for a matter of thousands of years. To ingest even the smallest speck is a death sentence, executed in slow motion.

The Cesium isn’t much better, which a half-life of thirty years or more. Iodine doesn’t last as long, but can still do major damage and like all radioactivity is particularly dangerous to newborns, children, and pregnant women.

The problem with radioactive contamination is the unknown effects upon the human body and the ecosystem. The more potent the radioactive gases and vapor that escape from the plant, the bigger the potential risk.

Now if everything goes according to plan and no major seismic event occurs, the radiation leaking out of Fukushima can be stopped. In ten or twenty years time. Yes, you read me right: it will take decades.

Senator Wyden certainly learned during his fact-finding mission that such a prolonged mission increases the chance that a new seismic event occurs.

Unlike the Japanese, the Russians didn’t have as serious a worry about repairing Chernobyl due to the lack of seismic activity there. Stuck square on the volcanically active Ring of Fire, the Fukushima site is at far greater risk of suffering a seismic event.

The Russians attacked the problem while the Japanese are content to save face and delay a resolution. The Russians sent in battalions of soldiers who volunteered to protect their Motherland; the most Japan seems capable of mustering are some sub-contractors on a timeline that would put the laziest construction schedule to shame.

In the absence of assuming responsibility, the people of the world are left to face the consequences. Just like Chernobyl, a certain amount of leakage has escaped; the only remaining variables are how much more radiation will escape, and how far it will spread.

We saw from Chernobyl in 1987 that radiation could be dispersed over a vast area without any immediate health impacts. Conveniently for the proponents of this dirty and dangerous source of energy, disease caused by radioactive contaminates can be blamed on sources other than Fukushima, particularly if the disease it causes–leukemia, cancer, etc.–take years to develop.

In this respect, the leak at Fukushima represents a ongoing genocidal threat, even if new leaks are prevented. Its toll will come in the form of premature deaths, and few people will be able to attribute their illness to the radionuclides which are still falling over North America, and places wherever they may land downwind.

During my youth we were told to fear all the fallout that would come from nuclear war, specifically Russian missiles detonating to the West. The Fukushima problem is perhaps far worse because fallout from Fukushima will travel greater distances. Unlike nuclear weapons, whose surface detonation throws nuclear-contaminated soil only so far into the air, radioactive gases and vapors are free to travel far higher.

Depending on how high up in the atmosphere the fallout gets, no one in the world is safe. One scenario in particular is scary: the China Syndrome. In that, radioactive fuel burns through the earth’s crust, then combines with superheated magma below, catapulting a vast cloud of radioactive steam and gaseous vapor high into the atmosphere.

Thrown into the fire, the radioactive debris superheats whatever water it contacts. Radioactive particles will blast upward like red-hot magma in a volcano. Being much lighter though, and combined with steam, they’ll obviously go far into the reaches of the upper atmosphere and spread for thousands of miles.

As these particles land, they represent a direct risk of ingestion in the air. Worse, they’ll land on food particles. Unless you’re actively monitoring the radioactivity in your food and water, ingestion is just a function of luck and distance of your air and food sources from Fukushima.

Geographically, more particles will land closer to the source than farther away. That said, there are no guarantees that just because you are farther away, or not directly downwind, that you’ll absorb less radiation. Unforeseen impacts on the food chain will persist for decades.

Fallout patterns are quite random, meaning predicting where they’ll fall may or may not ever be possible. And even if no radiation can be found in the air, watt or food, no one can assume that previously radioactive free-areas will remain safe.

Travelling to the East and South, farther away from Fukushima, might reduce the risk of eating or drinking contaminated food or water but not eliminate it altogether. If there’s enough radiation blowing around in the upper atmosphere, it will land somewhere. Obviously the more radiation that escapes, the wider the geographical impact zone. If the radiation is bad enough, after a certain point, it won’t matter where on the planet you go.

Chernobyl gives us a casualty estimate: about 1 million premature deaths. I don’t know how much radiation escaped from Fukushima compared to Chernobyl, but estimates are from ten times that up to a hundred times more.

Since I’m not qualified as a resource to determine the effects of radiation, I won’t hazard a guess. I do know that the last thing anyone wants is a preventable release.

Right now, the Japanese are incinerating radioactive waste, which simply puts more into the atmosphere. Also, they’ve dumped large quantities of radioactive water into the Pacific, where it will contaminate fish hatcheries up the food chain, manifesting in the apex predators in the Eastern Pacific: tuna, as well as other fish.

If the waste from Fukushima can be disposed of safely, it must. It’s not for the Japanese government to worsen this colossal tragedy even further.

Extreme measures were taken by the Russians and the Japanese need to take a similar proactive response to stem the ongoing threat posed by Fukushima. As bad as the event has been, it makes no sense to try and exert damage control for political or public relations purposes especially if further contamination can be prevented by acknowledging the full scope of the problem and recognizing the urgent need to resolve it.