Background radiation in Park City, Doel, Tokyo & Hell

DISCLAIMER – Outdated – For reference only.

[added 6.6.’11:  The post below has lead to this latest question-blogpost (couple blogposts later), which might be of interest: ]

Gorgeous sunny day, spring at last.  The weather’s too nice to spend much time online, but… [no no, no but, see if I don’t put in the time I normally put in, then a whole bunch of outright errors or lack of nuances slip in… Luckily people on Facebook have been kind enough to point them out; they beg corrections… So: corrections in blue]  just this quick update (why not more, see the PS below):

  • Kasai Rinkai Koen (park), Tokyo, Japan* – in the 0.103  to  0.259 µSv/h range
  • Bdng #1 ……….  4,000,000.000 µSv/h**  (see right below)
  • Park City, UT: ……………. 0.193 µSv/h  (common daily spikes of 0.3+ µSv/h)
  • Los Angeles, CA: ………………. 0.125  µSv/h (-ish – see below)
  • Brussels Airport: ………………. 0.117  µSv/h
  • Doel NPP: …………………………. 0.081  µSv/h  (see image below)

Note: as far as I know, all are for gamma rays only, but with different GeigerCounters and at varying heights from the ground, thus making this comparison very rudimentary.  Additional nuances have been added below.  The AVERAGE in Japan at comparable height is now close to what it was pre-NPP-accident (as can been seen at the graphed monitor in nearby Hino on my page for Japan:, with a normal range for Hino (near Tokyo) said to be 0.o8 – 0.21 µSv/h, making 0.259 µSv/h really just a slight spike above the normal range and thus not necessarily due to fallout. (–> this is a major correction.  My bad.)  This leaves the point I made further below basically moot, hence these corrections.  

There’s a whole other point though, which is very much related, which is that contaminated soils don’t necessarily make much of a difference in background radiation levels.  Even for highly contaminated areas within the 20km zone surrounding the troubled NPP are, dose rates are often not more than 10-20 times normal, and while much of the radiation will remain in the soils and plants, background radiation levels will give a deceiving sense of safety.  Anyhow…   

Doel 1, one of Belgium’s main Nuclear Power Plants (view):

Click image for more info on the various reactors there (from )








“Hell on Earth” – Off the map altogether… 

  • Fukushima Daiichi NPP bldg 2-Drywell: ………………………… 15,700,000 µSv/h **
  • Fukushima Daiichi NPP bldg 2-“Containment” Vessel: …. 33,800,000 µSv/h **
  • Fukushima Daiichi NPP bldg 1 (June 5, 2011): …………………. 4,000,000 µSv/h***
  • (NB:  7,000,000 µSv/h kills quickly)

* As reported with images on Facebook’s ‘Tokyo Radiation Levels’ page (June 4, 2011 data);  Those levels for coastal Japan are quite high in my opinion.  If the highest reading were the average for the level in the grass, it would seem quiet high to me.  

But apparently I should probably make a different post sometime of why I think we need to be more cautious with the dose concept, pushed by the nuclear industry, has become the way to evaluate radiation dangers, even though there’s plenty reasons why dose rates only give a fraction of the info needed to actually know what you’re dealing with (as I explain a little on my Radiation Exposure Effects page).  From what I gathered, sealevel Japan radiation levels WAS (pre-Mach 11) normally in the 0.05 to 0.1 µSv/h range

I’ve still not actually found conclusive data on what is ‘normal’ in Tokyo, and as time goes by all I’m noticing is that what people refer to as normal seems to be inching up, albeit slightly.  Early news reports where usually in the “so many times normal”, with very few reports actually stating what was measured nor what was normal.  Here’s an example that DID give actual numbers, from March 15, 2011, when the first radioactive invisible cloud hit Tokyo:

“… Another city official said 0.809 of a micro-sievert was measured between 10am and 11am in Tokyo today.  Jiji Press said this figure was 20 times higher than yesterday. …”  SOURCE:  :

If 0.809 µSv/h was 20 times the radiation the day before, when it was still (I’m assuming) ‘normal’… then Tokyo’s pre-Fukushima ‘normal’ was somewhere around 0.04045 µSv/h  (let’s say less than 0.05 µSv/h).  But I’ve also seen many other reports, as well as checked the current data from SPEEDI and MEXT, that has me under the impression that the normal AVERAGE lies closer to 0.15 µSv/hr for Tokyo, with spikes in the 0.25 area, especially closer to the ground (whether that is soil or fallout or a combination is unclear), and also times it dipped even below 0.05 µSv/h, which is considered very low in most places around the world.

; and to gauge what’s really on the ground (0.259 µSv/h in the grass is a pretty good clue it’s damn hints at the possibility that it is contaminated with fallout, but you’d need a longer-term average to know more), and you probably need an activity reader (in CPS or CPM, ideally calibrated for Cesium-137 (as my Gamma Scout is); or even better: a activity analyser to test samples to get the exact Becquerels of a sample of soil or plant.).  [Search for “Tokyo Radiation Levels” and you’ll find the page, and the comment thread that lead to many of these correcions in blue  ;-).]

NOT QUITE COMPARABLE:   0.193 µSv/h in Park City, UT (elevation: 2134 meters or 7000 feet) is almost certainly practically all from natural sources (cosmic rays, of which there’s more at high altitude, and radon and uranium in some rocks/soils), and thus can essentially not really be compared to 0.193 µSv/h IF THE LATTER IS a combination of (for example) 0.093 µSv/h normal background and 0.100 µSv/h from fallout, the latter would be incomparably more hazardous. High altitude cosmic rays pass right through us (and may do a little damage, sure, but not much), while radionuclides, such as I-131 and Cs-137, may end up in tissue and over time cause x number of additional cases of cancers, mental disorders, birth defects and so on.  If I had kids, I would probably not let my kids play in that grass, and if it were an average (which it isn’t!!!), that bad everywhere…  Well… in any case ;-)  It remains a concern I wouldn’t make light of.  See my  Radiation Exposure Effects page for more on why I’m not the only one who views it this way.

** = As found here (NISA): (language is adjustable)
*** = highest yet for Building 1, as reported by the Japan Time, June 5, 2011:

———————————–SOURCES and additional info:———————————-
The AVERAGE background radiation over the last several days (second floor, indoors) in Park City, UT (Prospector neighborhood) this past week has been:  0.193 µSv/h (microsievert per hour).  This is for gamma only, high above ground level, with no noticeable difference inside or on the deck outside.

In West Los Angeles (Santa Monica), the normal background radiation is in the 0.120 – 0.130 µSv/h range, as reported by … {edited in 2014:  as reported by a known bs-spreading fear-monger, who’s proven untrustworthy.  See HERE.}

According to FANC, the Belgian radiation monitoring network: Near Antwerp (Belgium), just a stone’s throw from the Doel Nuclear Power Plant (one of its about 20 radiation monitors surrounding the premises), currently 0.081 µSv/hr is being measured.  NOTE: This is not an average, but lies close to it (the average there is below 0.1 µSv/h):

“Klik voor meetresulaten” means “Click for measurement results”, and gives more details for the last days, etc on a graph (Dutch or French – Click to access)

Just a little further away from the North Sea, such as in Brussels: 0.120 µSv/hr or below is more average.  On the coast it is often below 0.1 µSv/hr, similar to what most of Japan used to be like, although some sources claim 0.2 µSv/hr is normal too, which I seriously doubt as an average, as I can’t imagine that officials would describe 0.8 µSv/hr
as “20 times normal” if they could have described it as “4 times normal”.   But that is my non-expert armchair view from 5,000 miles away…

PS: Why no measurement graphs yet:   I have been spending WAY too much time trying to get the Toolbox software to run, for which I first needed to install Windows on this Mac (so now can run Linux X11 for Gimp, Mac OSX for mostly everything, and Windows 7 for whatever Microsoft stuff still out there).  Needed to add anti-virus software, of course, ’cause… it’s microsoft.  A first scan found 271 errors, which I find rather amazing upon starting, and a good reminder why I try to stay away from anything Microsoft; fixed most.  But the drivers weren’t all working, so I actually bought a piece of software to get rolling.  $30 Grrr.   So I thought… But no; then a borlndmm.dll couldn’t be found to run as part of the GammaScout’s Toolbox software (even though it’s right there on the install disc in the list…).  Hours… freak’n hours.  The main problem is that the pdf refered to in the manual is no longer available, and the new one online is ‘under construction’ and will be available ‘soon’ (whatever that means).  I emailed, haven’t heard back yet.  I understand.  They’re swamped…   Since I’ll be off doing other things for a couple weeks, it could be till July when I actually get to post some data visually.  Excellent GeigerCounter (I love it!), crappy software.  Maybe I’ll think differently once I get it to work.  When that day comes, I’ll be all excited and likely sharing about it here.

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