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Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Five Years Later Ocean Radiation Levels Now Normal - But…

The Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima-ken was at the root cause of the largest release of nuclear and radioactive material ever.

More than Chernobyl. More than the atomic bombs taking out first Hiroshima and then Nagasaki.

Just more.

Unlike the earthquake that caused the tsunami that effectively caused damage to the nuclear planet, the nuclear accident is a man-made construct.

But not to worry… just like that ozone hole Planet Earth was afraid of 30 years ago… things are on the mend.

Unlike humans around the world getting banding together to eliminate the use of CFC’s (chlorofluorocarbon’s) that had caused a hole to form in our ozone layer over Antarctica, the radiation levels in the Pacific Ocean waters around the nuclear planet  - and all over the globe, for that matter - are returning to normal all on its own.  

But it won’t be back to the pre-disaster levels because…

The damn Dai-ichi nuclear facility continues to leak/release radioactive materials into the waters around it.

Yup… Over five years later… that Fukushima nuclear plant continues to pollute the area.

Okay… who’s kidding whom? The nearby land is screwed after all of the radioactive materials that were belched into the air and leeched into the ground.

But… the water… the ever-refreshing water… that contaminated radioactive water… that will eventually dilute enough to not even be a blip on anyone’s Holy Crap radar.

But the plant continues to have seepage of radioactive materials into the ocean. 

An international review of the area was conducted by a team of scientists as part of the Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research and was co-authored by ECU professor of Environmental Radiochemistry Pere Masqué.

The team measured radioactive Cesium levels measured in the ocean from Japan’s coast right across the Pacific to North America. Cesium is one of those weird metals that is a liquid at room temperature (like Mercury)… but, in this case, the radioactive aspect is Cesium-137, a waste by-product of nuclear reactors.

Cesium is highly soluble in water, which makes it ideal for measuring the release of radioactive material from the nuclear plant into the Pacific  Ocean.

In the next few months when the Dai-ichi reactor nearly had several meltdowns, but was still exploding radioactive material into the air and having materials seep into the ground and waters, radiation levels off the coast of Japan were tens of millions of times higher than normal. That’s bad.

Along with the possibility that the damn facility could have exploded, the amount of radioactive materials released caused the need for a wide exclusivity zone to enforced, meaning a swathe of people had to leave their homes and moved into temporary housing—where apparently many people still reside five years on.

Anyhow… the researchers collected data from 20 studies of radioactivity associated with the Fukushima disaster—with Professor Masqué noting that the analysis showed the radiation levels in the water were decreasing rapidly.

“Oceanic currents have dispersed the radioactive material across the Pacific Ocean as far away as North America,” says Masqué.

“Radiation levels across the ocean are likely to return to levels associated with background nuclear weapon testing over the next four to five years.” (Andrew Note: Apparently this is acceptable.)

“As an example, in 2011 about of half fish samples in coastal waters off Fukushima contained unsafe levels of radioactive material however by 2015 that number had dropped to less than one per cent above the limit.” (Andrew Note: Where fish yields as high? Populations okay? What about genetic mutations?)

“However, the seafloor and harbor near the Fukushima plant are still highly contaminated and monitoring of radioactivity levels and sea life in that area must continue.” (Andrew Note: this is because there is still some leakage of radioactive into the waters… plus harbors don’t have the same wave cleansing action going on as in the wide-open ocean… )

The review was presented at the Goldschmidt Geochemistry conference on July 1, 2016 and will be published in the Annual Review of Marine Science.

The research is available at the Annual Review of Marine Science webpage - HERE.

Article Reference: Buesseler, K.O., Dai, M., Aoyama, M., Benitez-Nelson, C., Charmasson, S., Higley, K., Maderich, V., Masque, P., Oughton, D. and Smith, J.N. (2016). Fukushima Daiichi-derived radionuclides in the Ocean: transport, fate, and impacts. Annual Review of Marine Science

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