Japan’s nuclear crisis

Lanka should be on alert

By Chandana J. S. Weerakoon, MSc
The ongoing crisis at Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Plant occurred with the Tsunami disaster on March 11, 2011. The disaster initiated due to the malfunctioning of cooling system in the reactor. The cooling system of the reactor is performed by the pumping of sea water by an electrical system. The electrical system malfunctioned due to the flood created by the Tsunami waves.

There were six reactors and the first reactor started heating up on March 11, 2011. This heated up to 85 degrees centigrade and prompted the explosion in the No.1 reactor. Subsequently, the same problem moved to the other reactors and the No. 4 reactor blasted on March 17, 2011. During this time, the authorities made numerous efforts to cool down the reactor in order to control the melting of fuel rods which failed due to various other systems like pumping water from helicopters was stopped due to exposing the helicopters to the radioactive steam.

Now the authorities are finding alternative ways using water cannon and boric acid to control the heat. Also, they have evacuated 750 workers from the plant keeping only the 50 workers to do the controlling who had been exposed to the higher radiation levels.
No. 2 reactor emitted radiation to the air 800 times more intense than the recommended hourly exposure limit in Japan. Also there was a 26 ft. wide hole in the side of No. 4 reactor due to the powerful explosion. At the moment, No. 5 and 6 reactors remain intact, but the chances of containing the overheating are remote. Therefore, one can predict that more disasters in the coming days with the explosion of No.5 and 6 reactors.
These reactors are using different kinds of fuel. No. 2 reactor is using radioactive material Plutonium isotope as part of its fuel mix. Also there were reports Caesium too was being used as the fuel mix. But, basically the radioactive Iodine was the main radioactive substance used for the reactor. The worst case is full scale melting down of the reactor causing much larger amounts of radiation to the air which is the dangerous part.
The Chernobyl disaster considered as 0.5 kiloton explosion in 1986, where the estimated death total was one million, can be compared to the Japanese incidence. But the experts say that the Japanese explosion is a level 4 disaster. The disaster levels have been categorised as 1 to 7 and the Chernobyl disaster was classified as a level 7 disaster due to the use of Caesium (137) as fuel. Also, there are experts from France who had recommended the Fukushima explosion at level 6. Japanese authorities have evacuated people from a 20-mile radius of the plant. Also, the most populated city in the world, Tokyo, is only 150 miles from Fukushima where the disaster occurred.

Health hazards
Health hazards of the radiation from the crippled nuclear reactors have come from different levels. It is depending on how much radiation one gets depends on the dose, duration and methods of exposure. Sometimes, radioactive particles are more dangerous or longer lasting than others. Radioactive particles can be inhaled into the lungs, fall on the skin or be ingested or contaminated through food and water.
If a person comes around a corner, he might get a high dose and the same person under a roof might get a lesser dose depending on the accumulation of the radiation of that particular spot. In the short term radiation damages rapidly, dividing cells, hair, stomach lining, bone marrow, which can cause nausea, vomiting, fatigue, loss of infection-fighting blood cells (white) and blood clotting problems.
Children are mostly at risk because they have so many rapidly dividing cells. Radioactive iodine is taken up by the thyroid gland and lead to thyroid cancer. In the long term radiation can damage DNA and raise the risk of cancer many times in time to come.

Most people get around 0.3 rem (a measurement unit of dose) each year from radiation in the environment. Whole body CATSCAN provides 15.2 millisieverts for men (1 rem = 10 millisieverts). According to US Standard, a worker in the radiation environment could get exposeed to a maximum up to 50 millisieverts but at the moment the workers in the Fukushima reactor have been exposed to 250 millisieverts.
During the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bomb explosions, the maximum exposure was up to 50 millisieverts. The report says that at the moment radiation level of the plant is around 40 millisieverts. Also they have evacuated workers who had been exposed more than 250 millsieverts in the plant. According to the US Environment Protection Agency, one can get the sickness of the nausea, vomiting and hair loss within 500 – 1000 millisieverts. Within 4000 millisieverts death within two months is the possible risk. Around 10,000 millisieverts, death can occur within two weeks. When compared with the Chernobyl, the Fukushima plant had a containment vessel around the reactor. Therefore, the radioactive fuel moving out is controlled.
The threat for the body is also depending on the different kinds of fuel as already mentioned. Most of the Isotopes of Plutonium and Caesium are very much dangerous than radioactive iodine because of their higher half life. Half life is the time which calculates the retention power of the radioactive material. Therefore, sometimes it can move down many more generations of the people like we observed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki of having jell baby syndrome.

Effects on Sri Lanka
The radioactive fallout can travel longer distances with the clouds. During the Chernobyl disaster in Russia radioactive materials have moved to far countries as England and Sweden. The speed of movement of radioactive materials is depending on the speed, of the wind during the time. Radioactive materials are merging with the wind due to steam coming out from the crippled reactors.
During this season (from January to July) Japan wind direction is towards South West and the present maximum wind speed is 26 km per hour. The distance from Tokyo to Sri Lanka is 6,890 km. Basically with the mentioned speed it will take about 11 days. The first blast in the first reactor occurred on March 11, 2011 and the blast in the fourth reactor took place on March 17, 2011. The third reactor was the most critical one, which contained mix plutonium which crippled on March 15, 2011. Therefore, the fallout would have reached the Sri Lankan air latest by 22.03.2011.

This is the worst case scenario while analysing the crisis in Japan. Therefore, the country should be on alert and need continuous monitoring of radioactive levels. Further, this information should go to every nook and corner and educate the people of hazards and possible counter measures.
Taking the model as Chernobyl, Hiroshima and Nagasaki the scientist can take many analytical factors. Also we should not neglect that countries are hiding vital information during this kind of a disaster for obvious reasons. It can be witnessed by browsing different sources. Also, it is good to know that SLAEA is on the alert checking radiation levels of the environment and the arriving people from Japan.
Considering the worst case scenario, all the countries on the wind path must be alert on the hazards. The country should be medically and educationally alert on this kind of alienated situations. Specially, poor countries like Sri Lanka should be armed with necessary equipment for monitoring and acquire necessary know-how to get immediate counter measures. The medical sector has more responsibility on this matter due to the above-mentioned health hazards.

(The writer is the author of the book, Nuclear and Sri Lanka)


Workshop by Artemis Preeshl in Colombo

Creative Practice and Performer Training Workshops will be conducted by Artemis Preeshl in Colombo as a part of a one-week artistic residency with Floating Space Theatre Company from March 28 to April 2.
Associate Professor Artemis Preeshl teaches acting for the camera, directing, movement, dialects, voice and speech at Loyola University New Orleans. She has taught Fitzmaurice Voicework in Malaysia, Kosovo, India, The Ukraine and the US. A certified Assistant Teacher of Fitzmaurice Voicework, Preeshl is a Fulbright-Nehru Senior Researcher at Kalakshetra Foundation in Chennai where she is conducting research on 2D and 3D Visual Literacy in theater, dance and film.
The Floating Space Theatre Company creates and facilitates collaborative creative arts projects with local and international artistes, theatre practitioners and companies; it advocates the use of theatre outside its more traditional understandings and the study of theatre through workshops, training, research and publications.
The one-week artistic residency conducted by Artemis Preeshl with Floating Space comes under the theatre company’s objective to create through collaboration opportunities for training for creative arts practitioners, students and anyone interested in the creative arts. The workshops are designed with a specific focus on acting, directing and movement.
The acting workshops will involve training in Stanislavsky’s ‘actioning’ leading to an introduction to Michael Chekhov approaches to performing (April 1, 10:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.). Some acting experience will be required of those attending this workshop. The directing workshop will take participants through the process of conceptualizing, experimenting and working with contemporary approaches to directing and is open to directors and those interested in the field (March 31, 10:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.). The movement workshops will focus on a series of exercises to energise the body and focus it for performance, more specifically characterisation. This workshop is designed for performers with a medium to high level of experience in creative arts contexts (April 2, 2:00pm – 7.00pm) and non performers with limited or no experience in creative arts contexts (March 28, 10.30am – 1.30pm). Each workshop is priced at Rs. 350/-.
For a more detailed breakdown of the workshops along with the workshop schedule, or an expression of interest, email info@floatingspace.org.


The incarnations of Wilson Guneratne on Celeb Chat

Popular stage, TV and screen actor Wilson Guneratne gets into ‘Charitha Hathak’ mode and takes centre stage on CSN/Prime TV’s Celeb Chat at 9:30 p.m. on Monday March 28, 2011.
Guneratne who enjoys popularity not only in Sri Lanka but also among overseas audiences, talks about the creation of his popular play and why he later added on an eighth character making it ‘Charith Atak.’
Listen to him share unforgettable moments and hilarious incidents in a long and colourful acting career.
Watch him effortlessly slip in and out of different characters on the Celeb Chat set and confuse the programme’s host Kumar de Silva.


Short Story

You are the wind beneath my wings

By Jayashantha Jayawardhana
Mr. Weerasuriya watched his wife picking wathusudda with their daughter, Sachini, a six year old. Upeksha, his wife picked the flowers and cast them into the plastic bowl the child held in her hands. When she saw him watching them, she smiled at him the same dear smile she had given him when they had first met at school some 15 years ago. It was clear that her youthful features had begun to fade faster than his. But, he knew they had grown dearer still to each other. And Sachini`s arrival into their lives had increased their conjugal bliss almost a thousand-fold.

Weerasuriaya, in his early thirties, was a lecturer in Accountancy at Sabaragamuwa University. He was of medium height with an intelligent brow, sharp eyes beneath dense eye-brows and a small mouth that occasionally broke into a tender smile. His complexion was more dark than fair, but he was certainly not coal-black. Upeksha, his wife, was fair and buxom with a fine mouth, large brown eyes and cheeks that dimpled when she smiled. It was with her smile that she had bewitched him, he remembered with a smile. The folded newspaper lying on his lap, be now began to reminisce dreamily.

He met her while they were both studying for their A/Levels in the Commerce stream. She outdid him at studies and at the exams. In fact, it was from her that he got further clarifications about some concepts in Economics and some sums in Accountancy. When the results had been released, it was obvious that they were both qualified for university entrance. And she had outranked him. But so poor were their parents that it seemed that neither of them could afford to enter university and continue their higher education.
Upeksha, the unselfish girl, then suggested that he enter the university and told him she would secure a job at a garment factory. It, she assured him, would help him continue his studies at the university. First, he never liked her suggestion, his masculine pride forbidding him to depend on her and wanted to find a job. But, as she pressed him continuously, he gave way and entered the University of Kelaniya to read for a degree in Accountancy.

Despite her parents` warnings and admonitions, Upeksha got a job as a seamstress at a garment factory nearby and gave him over 75 per cent of her monthly pay to meet his expenses. As he studied at the university, he was constantly driven by the need to excel at his studies as he always felt for her over her generosity. His parents too helped him in the small way they could. His hard work eventually paid off and he graduated summa cum laude from the University of Kelaniya, which offered him the chance to join the academic staff as a probationary lecturer. Later on, he joined Sabaragamuwa University closer to his home town.
Overjoyed at his success, his parents brought him proposals from wealthy families, ready to offer whopping dowries. His mother was in earnest and constantly tried to persuade him to forget Upeksha and get married to a richer and more educated girl. But, he never heeded her reasoning and went on to marry Upeksha. Although his mother still chided him for his decision to marry her, he was more than certain he had done the right thing and he would never regret his decision.

And they were a happy family now. He knew it was love, pure love and not marriage that bound them to each other so strongly. It was Upeksha he knew who was the wind beneath his wings. He loved her for that so immensely, so completely. It was not the sort of love that evaporated with time; rather, it drew them closer and closer still to each other and strengthened their ties as time went by. Such love, he knew, worked wonders.
He felt a spray of cold water on his face, which awakened him from his reflection and saw Sachini grinning at him with a bowl of flowers with her smiling mother behind him.

(Writer is a member of the Faculty of Business Studies and Finance at the Wayamba University)


Sri Lanka’s first Vitrification test tube baby born at Lanka Hospitals

With over 300 pregnancies and 150 successful deliveries – the highest in Sri Lanka – to its credit, the Lanka Hospitals Fertility Centre is unquestionably on par with the best IVF (InVitro Fertilisation) centres in the world. Operational for just over 28 months, the fertility centre recently announced yet another achievement for the hospital as well as for Sri Lanka itself – the birth of the first Vitrification test tube baby.
Speaking on the occasion of the announcement, Lakith Peiris, CEO of Lanka Hospitals said, “we are very happy to be able to offer this service to families that are unable to conceive through conventional methods and normal medical procedure. The advancements in technology and the fertility clinics commitment to ensuring that our slogan, ‘where life begins’, ensures that each of our patients receive our fullest attention to make their hopes for a family a reality”.

The latest development in InVitro Fertilisation – Vitrification is the scientific process that involves converting a substance into a glass like solid form through the quick removal of heat. Applying this procedure to freeze embryos, the hospital is able to prevent damage to the embryos and ensures that storage is possible for up to ten years – giving the patient an opportunity to repeat the procedure at a fraction of the cost and without going through the entire process from the start.

With a 42% success rate, the ability to have multiple embryos in stored safely makes it possible for patients who do not conceive immediately to try again, or to utilize those embryos to repeat the process for a second baby.
Speaking on the successful delivery of Sri Lanka’s first Vitrification IVF baby, a Dr. Madara Ralapanawe, clinical embryologist said; “because our clinic operates with technology that is on par with the best fertility centers in the world and since our staff consist of best gynaecologists and other staff in Sri Lanka – the Lanka Hospitals fertility centre aims to deliver results to each and every one of our patients. We plan to further increase our success rate to over 50%, by blastocyst culture (day 5 embryo transfer) the successful delivery of our first Vitrification test tube baby is indeed a cause for celebration”.