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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs