Saturday, April 16, 2011

Where will the radioactive contamination go?

In short, the contaminated water rushing into the pacific ocean from the near-meltdown in Japan will go everywhere in the Northern Hemisphere.

Notice the current labeled "Alaskan Current" in the top center. Where does that go?

It reaches the Northern Atlantic and visits the US and Europe, eventually. There, it will continue to infect the local fisheries, both fish farms and wild catches.

Energy Bulletin Online
Published Apr 7 2011 by Yale Environment 360, Archived Apr 12 2011
Radioactivity in the ocean: Diluted, but far from harmless
by Elizabeth Grossman

With contaminated water from Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear complex continuing to pour into the Pacific, scientists are concerned about how that radioactivity might affect marine life. Although the ocean’s capacity to dilute radiation is huge, signs are that nuclear isotopes are already moving up the local food chain...

Still, the world has never quite seen an event like the one unfolding now off the coast of eastern Japan, in which thousands of tons of radioactively contaminated water from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant are pouring directly into the ocean. And though the vastness of the ocean has the capacity to dilute nuclear contamination, signs of spreading radioactive material are being found off Japan, including the discovery of elevated concentrations of radioactive cesium and iodine in small fish several dozen miles south of Fukushima, and high levels of radioactivity in seawater 25 miles offshore...

“Given that the Fukushima nuclear power plant is on the ocean, and with leaks and runoff directly to the ocean, the impacts on the ocean will exceed those of Chernobyl, which was hundreds of miles from any sea,” said Ken Buesseler, senior scientist in marine chemistry at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts. “My biggest concern is the lack of information. We still don’t know the whole range of radioactive compounds that have been released into the ocean, nor do we know their distribution. We have a few data points from the Japanese — all close to the coast — but to understand the full impact, including for fisheries, we need broader surveys and scientific study of the area.”

...Since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, and the resulting damage to the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, huge quantities of water have been poured on four stricken reactors to keep them cool. Thousands of tons of radioactively contaminated water have then been released from the Fukushima complex into the ocean. And even though the Japanese this week stopped a leak of highly radioactive material from the badly damaged Reactor No. 2, the water used to cool the reactor cores continues to flow into the sea. In addition, atmospheric fallout from the damaged reactors is contaminating the ocean as prevailing winds carry radioactivity out over the Pacific.

...How the radioactive materials released from the Fukushima plants will behave in the ocean will depend on their chemical properties and reactivity, explained Ted Poston, a ecotoxicologist with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, a U.S. government facility in Richland, Washington. If the radionuclides are in soluble form, they will behave differently than if they are absorbed into particles, said Poston...“If particulates in the water column are very small they will move with the current,” he explained. “If bigger or denser, they can settle in sediment.”

...“Cesium behaves like potassium, so would end up in all marine life,” said Arjun Makhijani, president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research in Maryland. “It certainly will have an effect.”

...“This is not an imminent health concern, but we haven’t seen the end of it,” said Theo Theofanous, professor of chemical and mechanical engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara...

The problem with this radioactivity traveling in the currents is that it will mix with other heavy metals and chemical contaminants already found in sealife, and will make its way not just to our fish dinner but to all of our foods in the way of fish meal fertilizers used in vegetable and fruit production and fish meal feed given to factory farmed animals. Nor is it liable to be any safer to eat pasture-raised beef or chicken from West of the Rockies, because fallout has already been detected in those areas.

Early US reports concerning radioactive fallout on our West Coast were purposefully derived from readings taken too early to detect the main force of the fallout and are a case of purposefully whitewashing, several news sources complain.

It is certainly curious that a Google search of "radioactive fallout california" revealed nothing posted later than March 18th, a month ago - long before significant levels of fallout could have reasonably reached our coast and before the worst parts of the near-meltdown actually took place.

You have to get all the way to page 15 of the Google search to find one dated April 1st which admits that radioactive isotopes were turning up in milk produced in California (because cows ate grass and hay from the fields, of course). That was 3 weeks ago. It seems pretty clear that the government is purposefully feigning disinterest and failing to publish readings in order to not cause economic damage to California's farmers - not because there's nothing going on. There is something going on, and if you knew about it, some senator or representative might not get his check from the lobbyists promptly because you wouldn't buy radioactively contaminated products.

Short of passing a geiger counter over the produce at your local supermarket, there's no way for you to tell what is contaminated and what isn't. Radioactive particles are not visible and won't cause immediately sick-looking plants or animals. The damage caused (except in the obvious case of high-level up-close exposure, otherwise known as radiation burns) is slow-acting and long term, not necessarily immediately deadly.

And we all know the law in America - if it doesn't kill you immediately, then there's nothing government will do about it. So caveat emptor, class.

No comments: