Nuclear Leaks, Pacific-Current Edition

February 25, 2014

radioaktivitaet-fukushima-ia-14586-20130711-71Beyond weather and the Olympics last week, a lot of shit went nearly unnoticed, one such was the highly-under-reported news story of yet another episode from the continuing horror tale taking place at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant: About 100 tons of highly radioactive water leaked from one of the hundreds of storage tanks at the devastated Fukushima nuclear plant, its operator said on Thursday, calling it the worst spill at the plant in six months.

(Illustration found here).

And that’s just of what we’re aware — the Japanese government is slow to report anything
Last August, it was announced that every day about 80,000 gallons of radioactive water leaks into the Pacific Ocean, and that same month, experts feared that a vast underground reservoir of radioactive water was perilously close to reaching the ocean.
In October, radioactive water leaked while workers transferred water between two tanks.
Tepco (Tokyo Electric Power Company, operator of the plant) announced a few days later, a smaller amount of radioactive water had leaked into the ocean after workers miscalculated the capacity of the tank due to it sitting on a slope. The list goes on.
And now the latest…via link above:

Each liter of the water contained, on average, 230 million becquerels of particles giving off beta radiation, the company said. About half of the particles were likely to be strontium-90, which is readily taken up by the human body in the same way as calcium, and can cause bone cancer and leukemia.
That means the water was about 3.8 million times as contaminated with strontium-90 as the maximum allowed under Japan’s safety standards for drinking water.
It also showed levels much more radioactive than a worrisome groundwater reading that Tepco announced earlier this month.

And here on the California coastline, shit like that does cause some concern. In a report released yesterday, some of that shit could reach the US West Coast by April, although no one is actually looking.
From the San Francisco Chronicle:

The report came even as some Internet sites continue claiming that dangerously radioactive ocean water from Fukushima is showing up along California beaches — reports that have been denied by health officials and scientists since they first surfaced more than a month ago.
Ken Buesseler, a chemical oceanographer at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod, Mass., reported that four coastal monitoring sites in California and Washington have detected no traces of radiation from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant destruction — “not yet,” he said during a telephone press briefing.

Buesseler said no federal or international agencies are monitoring ocean waters from Fukushima on this side of the Pacific, so he has organized volunteer monitors at 16 sites along the California and Washington coasts and two in Hawaii to collect seawater in 20-liter specialized plastic containers and ship them by UPS to his Woods Hole laboratory.

How can the guy say “no traces” have been found, when he then says “no” agencies are watching? A “volunteer” group collecting radioactive water in buckets, then shipping the possibly-dangerous shit via UPS?
A real, big WTF!
Buesseler does explain, however, this shit can be really, really bad:

One is cesium-137, whose radioactivity decays very slowly — its half-life is 30 years — while the other is cesium-134, which decays rapidly with a two-year half-life.
So while cesium-137 is still detectable in the world’s oceans from old nuclear-weapons tests, any traces of cesium-134 that are detected by monitoring instruments could only have come from the Fukushima nuclear accident, Buesseler said.

Well,that’s good to know. As he himself explained last November about Fukushima water samples: “It’s still safe to handle. Safe to put in the mail.”
Yeah, right — sounds like some of those ‘famous last words.’
And the risks? Last December, the Washington Post posted a check list for danger. And like others, there’s no real danger, yet.
Even our local brainiacs agree.
From our daily, the Times-Standard, last month:

In an effort to determine how radioactive contamination affects kelp forests off the California coastline, California State University Long Beach biology professor Steven Manley and Kai Vetter, the head of the Applied Nuclear Physics lab at the University of California Berkeley, are launching the “Kelp Watch 2014” research campaign.
Among the 19 academic and government institutions participating in the study is Humboldt State University marine botany professor Frank Shaughnessy.
“There aren’t too many monitoring programs that take a snapshot over such a large part of the coast,” Shaughnessy said.
“It’s a good opportunity for public education.”
Shaughnessy said he hopes the information generated from the statewide study will clear up some of the confusion concerning Fukushima radiation.
“There’s a lot of misinformation about Fukushima out there that’s scaring people,” Shaughnessy said.
“People need to be a little more patient and wait for the results to come out. I’m hoping this study will calm them down a bit.”

Yet still there’s a lot of mystery still out there. And Dr. Buesseler again, this time yesterday, speaking at the Ocean Sciences Meeting 2014 in Honolulu, Hawaii. He seemed concerned no one is watching:

No caesium-134 has yet been detected.
Caesium-137, which was also released by the damaged power plant, is in the environment already as a result of the A-bomb tests in the 1950s and 1960s.
However, Dr Buesseler expects a specific Fukushima signal from both radionuclides to be evident very shortly in US waters.
The sampling project, which is organised at the website ourradioactiveocean.org, is having to be funded through private donation because no federal agency has picked up the monitoring responsibility.
“What we have to go by right now are models, and as John Smith showed these predict numbers as high as 30 of these becquerels per cubic metre of water,” he told reporters.
“It’s interesting: if this was of greater health concern, we’d be very worried about these factors of ten differences in the models. To my mind, this is not really acceptable.
“We need better studies and resources to do a better job, because there are many reactors on coasts and rivers and if we can’t predict within a factor of 10 what caesium or some other isotope is downstream – I think that’s a pretty poor job”

And a bit scary, too. We’re in the wind/sea current bulls-eye.

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