News

New Data Show Fukushima Radiation Moved Rapidly Out Into Pacific Ocean

The badly damaged Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) Number 1 Daiichi nuclear power plant at Okuma town in Fukushima prefecture, March 31, 2011
The badly damaged Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) Number 1 Daiichi nuclear power plant at Okuma town in Fukushima prefecture, March 31, 2011

American and Japanese scientists say they have found elevated levels of radioactive cesium throughout a 150,000 square kilometer area of the Pacific Ocean off Japan.    

Scientists say some radioactive cesium levels in seawater are higher farther away than adjacent to Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant.  

Marine chemist Ken Buesseler, a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in the U.S. state of Massachusetts, was among those carrying out the research in Pacific waters last June.

“Some of those concentrations were up to 100-1,000 times higher than what had existed off Japan before the accident," said Buesseler. "Those levels are still low relative to direct impacts on humans, in terms of exposure, and organisms living in them. And, even if you eat the seafood from these waters off shore, that would be the primary pathway by which you might be affected at this point in time.”

The findings appear in this week's edition of the Proceedings of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.

Elevated concentrations of Cesium-134 at levels up to 325 becquerels per square meter were found more than 600 kilometers from the Fukushima nuclear plant.

A circular pattern of ocean current, known as an eddy, is responsible for the highest ocean radioactive hot spot of 3,900 becquerels per square meter, located 130 kilometers off the Fukushima coast.

Buesseler says the marine radiation levels are comparable to those seen after past accidents, such as Chernobyl.

"People still eat the fish in the Baltic and the Black seas," said Buesseler. "So I am not too concerned about the offshore fisheries in Japan. I still have some concerns about the near shore fish or the bottom dwelling or shellfish that live on the bottom."

That is because of accumulation of radiation in sediment.

There is also concern among marine biologists about the continuing runoff of contaminated water from the Fukushima plant, as well as ongoing radiation emissions from its crippled reactors drifting into northern Pacific waters.

Three reactors at the Fukushima-1 nuclear power plant suffered core meltdowns last March after the area was hit by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake that triggered a massive tsunami.

Scientists from Woods Hole, as well as Stony Brook University in New York state and Tokyo University, measured a dozen different isotopes on and below the ocean surface, and collected plankton and fish for analysis.

Buesseler says one particular radionuclide of concern is strontium-90, which has a half-life of nearly 30 years.

“It accumulates more in bones," continued Buesseler. "It replaces calcium in your bones or in fish bone. And in fish, in particular, there is a concern of this accumulation. And if you were to eat small fish, as is done commonly more in Japan, then you would accumulate strontium-90 that would then affect your dose through the accumulation in your bone.”

Research on the strontium-90 levels off the Japanese coast is due for publication in a few months.

Such reports are considered significant because there has been little information about the distribution and movement of radiation in the north Pacific and independent confirmation of whether the levels raise significant health concerns.




Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Interneti
X
Mike O'Sullivan
June 30, 2015 8:20 PM
Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs