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Beach Radiation Makes Californians Nervous

January 9, 2014
Written by: , Filed in: Uncategorized
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Something of a Fukushima freak-out has begun hitting California. Whether Fukushima-related radioactive materials themselves have actually reached the state is less certain.

As we mentioned yesterday in a Facebook post, an amateur video posted last month on YouTube showed abnormally high Geiger counter readings on Surfer’s Beach near Half Moon Bay, California, less than an hour south of San Francisco. The video has attracted more than 640,000 views.

Earlier this week, reports the Half Moon Bay Review newspaper, electrical engineer Steven Weiss checked for himself. He found nothing he considered worrisome until he scanned a line of black silt near the back of the beach. His two Geiger counters registered about 415 counts per minute (cpm) of radiation.

Weiss told the newspaper that ordinary background radiation, typically about 30 cpm, couldn’t be the cause:

It’s not normal. I’ve never seen 400 cpm when I just wave my Geiger around. There has to be something radioactive for it to do that.

Weiss designs Geiger counters for a living. He sent samples of the silt to the office of his employer, International Medcom Inc., in Sebastopol, California. Chief Executive Officer Dan Sythe analyzed the material. He found radium and thorium—naturally occurring radioactive elements. He detected no cesium-137, which would have indicated that the source was Japan’s nearly 3-year-old nuclear power plant disaster.

Sythe posted the results on his Geiger Counter Bulletin blog: “We are confident that it is not related to Fukushima, based on the spectral signature.” Sythe has visited Japan nine times since the Fukushima accident to help map the radioactive fallout.

A photo on the blog shows a Geiger counter reading of 258 cpm from a sample of the sand. “The radiation level is elevated,” the blog says, “but roughly equivalent to some granite counter top material from Brazil.”

Yikes! Now we all need to start radiation testing our kitchens.

Sythe told the Review that the finding of radium and thorium  “doesn’t mean that it’s OK. It’s not something you’d want your baby playing in. All we’re saying is, this radiation is not from Fukushima.”

Related CME seminar (up to 8.5 AMA PRA Category 1 credits™): ALARA – CT (As Low As Reasonably Achievable)

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