I thought I'd start a thread about the ongoing disaster and human tragedy affecting Japan. What a horrific thing.
Tonight and for as many days as needed, I stand with the Japanese people and will do what I can to support them and help them recover from this. I once lived in Japan and remember the people as being reserved, yet at times spontaneous. They always treated me with respect and courtesy, which is something lacking in many Americans these days.
Right now I am focused on the events at their nuclear power plants. As many of you know my professional career was in nuclear power and radiation protection. I've been doing it since 1979. I am seeing reports which tell me they are facing a laundry list of worst-case situations, and I have no doubt that substantial damage to the reactor cores has occurred at more than one reactor. This means fuel cladding failure, fuel melting, and the release of several radioactive isotopes. Most notable among them being Iodine-131 and Cesium-137. I-131 has a short half-life of 8 days. Cs-137 has a long half-life of 30 years. However, the I-131 can be the worst since it concentrates in the thyroid. This is why Japanese officials are distributing KI tablets (potassium iodide) to the citizens near the nuclear sites. KI doses up the thyroid and prevents it from absorbing the radioactive iodine.
Strontium-90 will also be released, which is a bone-seeker isotope since it behaves like calcium. Finally, there is also the possibility of Plutonium-239 which has a tremendously long half-life and is also poisonous simply by virtue of being a heavy metal, even if it was not radioactive.
I am overwhelmed by all of this unfolding. It is a nightmare for anyone who knows about or works with nuclear power.