Fukushima: The Gift that Keeps on Giving
Earlier this morning, I wrote about how Japan’s government is considering restarting a few nuclear reactors for the summer energy crunch.
Today, let's quickly dive in to one of the reasons some environmentalists aren't too excited about powering up those nuclear plants again.
Turns out, radioactive material from Fukushima has now been found in sea creatures as far away as 186 miles off Japan’s Pacific coast. This is the first time the extent of the environmental damage of the nuclear disaster has been shown.
The researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) found cesium radiation hundreds of times higher than natural rates in certain currents that have both carried radioactive debris out to sea and concentrated it.
Researchers estimate it will take another year or so until this radioactive debris traverse the entire Pacific Ocean to end up on America’s Pacific coast.
Using small devices called “drifters,” researchers released them into the ocean. These drifters can track by GPS while also getting radiation readings. The drifters found naturally occurring cesium and traces of cesium-137 (which has a half-life of 30 years) some of which is leftover from atmospheric nuclear tests in the 1960s and the Chernobyl meltdown in 1986.
However, researchers found nearly equal parts of cesium-137 and cesium-134, the latter of which has a half-life of only two years, thus denoting recent contamination. The oceans generally hold 1 becquerals (Bq) of radioactivity per cubic meter of water, but some spots of up to 3,900 Bq per cubic meter were found near the Japanese coast and 325 Bq as far as 372 miles off-coast.
Whether or not Japan fires up those nuclear power plants again, I suspect we'll continue to see more and more data showing just how catastrophic Fukushima was – both in the immediate aftermath of the meltdown, and for many decades to come.