Brief radiation spike on Kauai

SUBHEAD: We had a brief but significant spike in radiation today that was over 30 times normal background level.

By Juan Wilson on 27 December 2013 for Island Breath -

Image above: Spiral roller coaster ride at Busch Gardens in Florida, From (

In early November I bought a Radex RD1212 radiation monitor from Amazon. The Radex is Russian made with an English menu. It's simple ans seems to work fine. One feature of the unit is that it keeps a record of the time and strength of radiation it senses.

I used it daily at first to get an idea of what was normal here on Kauai. The unit measures in micro-sieiverts per hour. That's a millionths of a sievert. As a reference;
  • A person can safely be exposed to 3,650 micro-sieiverts in a year or .4 micro-sieiverts/hour. 
  • A radiation worker in the US is limited to a dose of 50,000 micro-sieiverts in a year. 
  • A person who absorbs 100,000 micro-sieiverts in a year is considered to have a clear increased cancer risk. 
  • A person absorbing 2,000,000 micro-sieiverts will suffer severe radiation poisoning that could lead to death.
Note: I believe the reference above is lowballing the risks to long tern exposure to nuclear radiation. The first source mentioned for the material is the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission charged with licensing and regulating nuclear power plants... in other words keeping nuclear power plants going.

The Radex's first time recording in my home were measurements of five minute averages for 15 intervals. The total average value was .08 micro-sieiverts per hour. That would convert to about 700 micro-sieiverts in a year. That's much less than the 100,000 micro-sieiverts in a year considered to increase the likelihood of cancer.

The Radex is programmed to set off an alert when it measures over .3 micro-sieiverts per hour, or about 2,600 micro-sieiverts per year. That, depending on where you are, is about normal background radiation. Over the last two months I noticed a slight increase of background radiation from about .08 micro-sieiverts per hour to .09 micro-sieiverts per hour.

Sometime after lunch, the 27th of December, I turned the Radex radiation detector on and left it in the kitchen. Then I went back to work in my office.

I made a couple of phone calls on my wireless phone and noticed waves of static that occasionally almost obliterated my conversations. A bit later I turned on my FM radio and found the only Kauai station that came in without excess static was KKCR. All the KONG group stations were drowned out with static. I did not think much about that the radio signal - they often vary - but the wireless phone was almost alweays clear and without static.

Then about 1:50pm I heard a sound I thought was the electric inverter that provides power to my fridge. It's on solar and can suck up a lot of power. I thought the beeper on the inverter was going off to tell me the batteries were getting low.
Then I noticed that the beeping was irregular. I went towards where I though I heard the sound and was led to my kitchen table where the Radex sat beeping away. When the unit gets to a measurement that would lead to .3 micro-sieverts/hour it makes a ping for each decaying betta or gamma particle that hits it. The Radex was crackling with pings.

The only time the Radex alarm had gone off since I bought it was when I moved it close to a wind-up travel alarm-clock I'd been given as a gift. It had once had a coating of radium painted on its hands a blob of radium at each hour. Much of the radium seemed worn away and there was just a greenish smudge that remained. But the Radex said it was a "hot" clock so I had to get rid of it.

The Radex alarm went on steadily. In the first of three five minute intervals starting a 1:50pm HST was .25 micro-sieverts/hour (almost three times higher than normal). Part of that time was less than .3 micro-sieiverts/hour but part was higher and that's when the alarm pings went off. The second interval averaged 1.34 micro-sieiverts/hour.

By that time I was googling "Hawaii radiation alert" and visiting  for a live reading of the Maui geiger-counter. It was at 39 counts per minute and was lit up orange (meaning trending up).

The third five minute interval was averaged 1.78 micro-sieiverts/hour. Somewhere early in that five minutes I noticed a reading above 3.0 micro-sieiverts/hour (over thirty times higher than average). I got a bit freaked out then. At a continuous dose that would be over 26,000 micro-sieiverts in a year (or more than half that the NRC is allowable for a worker in a nuclear plant.

I tried to call my wife Linda and alert her. But about as quickly as it began the radiation spike ended. The following interval was a steady .09 micro-sieiverts/hour. Now at 4:00pm HST it is still .09 micro-sieiverts/hour... but the the Maui geiger-counter is at 43 CPM.

I checked the weather and found that the wind was blowing from the North-West. That is unusual and might indicate situation in which the jet-stream from Japan was diverted further south than usual.

This event really spooked me. According to more than one source I found the level I was reading was dangerous. The readings I got put me momentarily in the brown range on Table 1 and in the red zone on Table 2.

Table 1 below indicates prolonged exposure at the spike level I measured could lead to a real risk of cancer if exposed to continuously in less than a year.

Table 2 below recommends that at the exposure spike I measured one should take shelter or leave the area.I believe this table was created from the table above as a source, but advises different actions.

This Fukushima thing has us on one nasty roller coaster ride.

See also: detects Fukushima Fallout in Hawaii 6/11/11



Stock said...

That's funny, I was reading your article with great interest, and then I went to check my site for my handy dandy condensed table on Geiger interpretation.

I am the author of the table.

Then I scrolled down...and found you also linking my table. Good work!

PS Shark attack bubble in Hawaii is related to 2 things....damage to food chain, and ciguatera poisoning from excessive fecal material (boats dumping and Kihei injection wells) and too much fertilizers runoffs.

The sharks are hungry and crazy. And that is why Makena zone has it worst

Stock said...

Aloha, Thanks for promoting safety, I am the author of the Nuke Pro! Added you to my blogroll.

Stock said...

You do know that Fuku 3 was steaming on Dec 24, 25, and 27, as reported by TEPCO? Information here. Timing seems perfect, you know what I mean.

Juan Wilson said...

Aloha Stock,

And thank you for the work you are doing in this area of concern. Yes I read ENENews yesterday after I posted this article. (

I would bet that's the source of the spike here. We were having winds from the northwest (pushing the jetstream south). Glad we're missing most of these puffs.

I am concerned about "hot" particles eventually gathering in the intertidal areas (beaches).

We have a long and dangerous path before us here in Hawaii.

Have you seen radiation measurements on San Francisco beach here (

Juan Wilson
IB Publisher

Zeolite said...

Radiation poisoning is no joke, it can damage your DNA, genes, make you infertile, cause cancer and ultimately death. Take precautions to not ingest it: don't eat seafood from the pacific area, make sure your water is filtered with reverse osmosis at the least, eat cilantro, and take detox herbs if you're in an affected area.

Speculative Measures said...

Aloha Stock,

I am a radiation protection professional (Health Physics). From what I read of your article you are anxious over the temporary "spike" readings from your Radex RD1212 at 1-3 microsieverts level.

I share the mistrust of officials in charge of the TEPCO disaster but honestly your readings are nothing to be alarmed at whatsoever. I could explain in detail why and offer a way for you to independently verify your exposure and risk. I don't want to waste my time if you don't want to hear it but if you do I'll shed some light on it. Totally up to you, however I'd hate to see you stress over these levels, honestly Stock.

Juan Wilson said...

Aloha Speculative Measures,

I am not very anxious of a singular (or even infrequent) spike in background radiation. I am worried that ther will be a point where the Fukushima NPS will have to be abandoned and further Tepco mitigation is halted.

This could happen if, for example, some fuel pellets blown out of reactor #3 during its nuclear explosion,dell into the spent fuel pond and eventually produce a pyrophoric fire or criticality.

There are many other scenarios might result in abandoning the site to the fates. Another is an earthquake that would knock down what left of building #4.

Abandoning the site would likely result in the eventual uncontrolled dispersal of a continuous stream of transuranic (hot) particles into the atmosphere.

The spike we saw here on Kauai was likely hot particles from steam vented from the #3 cooling pond on 12/24-12/27. The jetstream (that is more irregular die to global warming) was blowing south to Kauai, in the days leading to the spike.

I conclude that in such conditions we will have hot particles in the air at times here. I don't care what you say, my research on this issue tells me that inhaling even small numbers of hot particles is a death sentence.

Dispersal of transuranic material is likely happening now from underground contact of the corium with tidal ocean water going into the Pacific Ocean. This material will eventually work its way up the food chain and into us.

Transuranic material will also be washed from the ocean into intertidal areas (the beaches of the Pacific Ocean shorelines). Ultimately this hot material will be carried as dust past the beaches and into the interior or our islands and the mainland.

Fukushima's 311 will certainly be seen as a much worse disaster for America (and the world) than the World Trade Center 911. It will be viewed as the worst human engineering disaster of all time.

For me, it has now passed Global Warming, Peak Oil, and Financial Collapse as the near term most immediate problem humans have to deal with.

Mankind will be lucky if it has the industrial and energy resources necessary to quench this fire and shutdown the 500 off nuclear power plants operating today before each becomes another Fukushina.

As a radiation health professional do you approve of the actions of your colleagues aboard with USS Ronald Reagan who advise the crew that they were in no danger from hot particles hitting the deck?

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Speculative Measures said...

It will be interesting to see what kind of commitment the government of Japan sustains to recover the fuel. I'm thinking they will get most of the fuel using robotics simply due to the economic fallout if they don't, but who knows. You'r right there's certainly not an easy, quick or cheap remedy.

Regarding hot particles, it's not a very precise term. When that term is used in Radiation Protection circles it refers to a specific type of material - an exceedingly small, fragmented fuel particle. Their also know as "fuel fleas" because being so small and so activated they often carry a high static charge that can cause them to jump to alternately charge objects. Now there can be radioactive particles that have elevated activity that indeed could pose health risks, particularly if concentrated, but these are not "hot particles" as the term is used.

I think if you were to find them they would be attached to some sort of debris. On their own they are typically much heavier than water so I would't expect to find them too far from the event site (i.e not >100 mi) but can very piggy back on debris from the site or potentially in sea-life as you alluded to. Honestly I'd be super surprised to see a "hot particle" anywhere near Hawaii but please keep us posted!

Regardless, were you to find a hot particle here are 3 characteristics to look for:

They are hot! - If you're not seeing at least 1000uSV/hr it's probably not a "hot particle". It could be an activation product which is a lesser of the two concern but hot particles are hot. By hot I mean 10,000-100,000 uSV/hr - we find some as high as 500,000 uSV/hr (50R/hr in US units) although most are in the former range. So if you're not seeing at least 1000uSV/hr I wouldn't spend the money getting it analysed.

Discrete high energy - If you were to have a hot particle on the end of a Popsicle stick and put it in front of your meter you would see wild swings in your meters response depending on how you position it. A few centimeters would mean the difference between 1000uSV and 10000uSV.

Beta discrimination - A significant portion of the radiation is in the form of Beta Radiation. You can stop almost all Beta radiation with a credit card. If your meter had a Beta Window (a thin film in front of the detector vs a hard plastic encasement such as yours has) you could perform a "field check" by measuring the bare particle then measuring it again with a credit card in front. If you see the sustained meter reading drop by 1/2 when using the credit card AND an original reading of at least >1000 uSV/hr sustained, then you could have a Hot Particle. If a credit card thickness of plastic doesn't drop the meter response by 1/2 you have something else.

Speculative Measures said...

Your question: "As a radiation health professional do you approve of the actions of your colleagues aboard with USS Ronald Reagan who advise the crew that they were in no danger from hot particles hitting the deck?"

I don't know the details of what was said or what the actual levels they experienced on board so I'm reluctant to comment. I suspect the crew had iodine protection (KI pills) and had a plethora ELT techs actively monitoring . If you have a link to something that reports what the level of exposure was I'd appreciate it and give you a better perspective.

What I do know is that they found themselves in the plume and had to move because of it. As a result they contaminated the deck, aircraft and 17 crew members. Do I approve of that? Idk, that is what they are there for, i.e putting themselves in harms way to help/defend others. Someone has to support emergency efforts and in a Nuclear emergency there's a real likelihood you will receive exposure and even get contaminated. What would you do?

I doubt the US navy had wanted to get their ship or crew members contaminated on purpose. I suspect their orders were to facilitate emergency response efforts for the failing reactors. If I were in the Captains shoes I know I'd have to keep the ship in helicopter range but would need to avoid unnecessary exposure to the plume as well as a host of other concerns. While I wouldn't purposely want shipmates to be contaminated the larger concern to me would be mitigating the runaway reactors and keep them from exposing millions. I expect they had defined thresholds on what actions they would take upon encountering predefined conditions. I don't know the he-said, she-said but that is the nature of military service. What would you do if you were the captain? I doubt you'd steam away leaving the Japanese people without assistance.

Juan Wilson said...

Aloha Speculative Measures,

Thanks for your thoughtful analysis.

It sounds like you agree that inhaling or ingesting a microscopic particle of plutonium could be a serious health hazard.

I am worried about such particles attached to dust or ocean spray that might end up in soil in which food is grown or other on other surfaces that could lead to internalizing such material.

IB Publsiher

Juan Wilson said...

Check out


To me it is obvious the US military has spent a lot of time hiding the dangers of radioactivity from service members. Remember the army marching soldiers into trenches so close to A-bomb tests that soldiers covering their faces against the ground with their hands reported seeing the bones in their fingers during the blast aftermath.

The US Navy participated in that history up to the present, denying the the USS Reagan crew tumors and developing cancers had anything to do with the fact that they were sweeping hot particles off the deck without any protective clothing or masks.

The carrier spent a month close and directly downwind of the Fukushima site. Couldn't they find a better place from which to do their rescue work?

As far as I'm concerned the sailors should be involved in a criminal case, not a civil suit. Of course, the way it works, they have no legal standing in either case. It's just the nature of the job....

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