Previously-Secret 1955 Government Report Concluded that Ocean May Not Adequately Dilute Radiation from Nuclear Accidents

Fukushima Likely to Produce “Pockets” and “Streams” of Highly-Concentrated Radiation

The operator of the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant has been dumping something like a thousand tons per day of radioactive water into the Pacific ocean.

Remember, the reactors are “riddled with meltdown holes”, building 4 – with more radiation than all nuclear bombs ever dropped or tested – is missing entire walls, and building 3 is a pile of rubble.

The whole complex is leaking like a sieve, and the rivers of water pumped into the reactors every day are just pouring into the ocean (with only a slight delay).

Most people assume that the ocean will dilute the radiation from Fukushima enough that any radiation reaching the West Coast of the U.S. will be low.

For example, the Congressional Research Service wrote in April:

Scientists have stated that radiation in the ocean very quickly becomes diluted and would not be a problem beyond the coast of Japan.

***

U.S. fisheries are unlikely to be affected because radioactive material that enters the marine environment would be greatly diluted before reaching U.S. fishing grounds.

And a Woods Hole oceanographer said:

“The Kuroshio current is considered like the Gulf Stream of the Pacific, a very large current that can rapidly carry the radioactivity into the interior” of the ocean, Buesseler said.

“But it also dilutes along the way, causing a lot of mixing and decreasing radioactivity as it moves offshore.”

But – just as we noted 2 days after the earthquake hit that the jet stream might carry radiation to the U.S. by wind – we are now warning that ocean currents might carry more radiation to the at least some portions of the West Coast of North America than is assumed.

Specifically, we noted more than a year ago:

The ocean currents head from Japan to the West Coast of the U.S.

As AP notes:

The floating debris will likely be carried by currents off of Japan toward Washington, Oregon and California before turning toward Hawaii and back again toward Asia, circulating in what is known as the North Pacific gyre, said Curt Ebbesmeyer, a Seattle oceanographer who has spent decades tracking flotsam.

***

“All this debris will find a way to reach the West coast or stop in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” a swirling mass of concentrated marine litter in the Pacific Ocean, said Luca Centurioni, a researcher at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego.

Here is what the North Pacific Gyre looks like:

North Pacific Subtropical Convergence Zone Previously Secret 1955 Government Report Concluded that Ocean May Not Adequately Dilute Radiation from Nuclear Accidents

NPR reports:

CNN said that “the Hawaiian islands may get a new and unwelcome addition in coming months — a giant new island of debris floating in from Japan.” It relied in part on work done by the University of Hawaii’s International Pacific Research Center, which predicts that:

“In three years, the [debris] plume will reach the U.S. West Coast, dumping debris on Californian beaches and the beaches of British Columbia, Alaska, and Baja California. The debris will then drift into the famous North Pacific Garbage Patch, where it will wander around and break into smaller and smaller pieces. In five years, Hawaii shores can expect to see another barrage of debris that is stronger and longer lastingthan the first one. Much of the debris leaving the North Pacific Garbage Patch ends up on Hawaii’s reefs and beaches.”

Indeed, CNN notes:

The debris mass, which appears as an island from the air, contains cars, trucks, tractors, boats and entire houses floating in the current heading toward the U.S. and Canada, according to ABC News.

The bulk of the debris will likely not be radioactive, as it was presumably washed out to sea during the initial tsunami – before much radioactivity had leaked. But this shows the power of the currents from Japan to the West Coast.

An animated graphic from the University of Hawaii’s International Pacific Research Center shows the projected dispersion of debris from Japan:

Simulation of Debris from March 11 2011 Japan tsunami Previously Secret 1955 Government Report Concluded that Ocean May Not Adequately Dilute Radiation from Nuclear Accidents

Indeed, an island of Japanese debris the size of California is hitting the West Coast of North America … and some of it is radioactive.

In addition to radioactive debris, MIT says that seawater which is itself radioactive may begin hitting the West Coast within 5 years. Given that the debris is hitting faster than predicted, it is possible that the radioactive seawater will as well.

And the Congressional Research Service admitted:

However, there remains the slight potential for a relatively narrow corridor of highly contaminated water leading away from Japan …

***

Transport by ocean currents is much slower, and additional radiation from this source might eventually also be detected in North Pacific waters under U.S. jurisdiction, even months after its release. Regardless of slow ocean transport, the long half-life of radioactive cesium isotopes means that radioactive contaminants could remain a valid concern for
ears.

Indeed, nuclear expert Robert Alvarez – senior policy adviser to the Energy Department’s secretary and deputy assistant secretary for national security and the environment from 1993 to 1999 – wrote yesterday:

According to a previously secret 1955 memo from the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission regarding concerns of the British government over contaminated tuna, “dissipation of radioactive fall-out in ocean waters is not a gradual spreading out of the activity from the region with the highest concentration to uncontaminated regions, but that in all probability the process results in scattered pockets and streams of higher radioactive materials in the Pacific. We can speculate that tuna which now show radioactivity from ingested materials [this is in 1955, not today] have been living, in or have passed through, such pockets; or have been feeding on plant and animal life which has been exposed in those areas.”

Because of the huge amounts of radioactive water Tepco is dumping into the Pacific Ocean, and the fact that the current pushes water from Japan to the West Coast of North America, at least some of these radioactive “streams” or “hot spots” will likely end up impacting the West Coast.

Category: Energy, Science, Think Tank

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

3 Responses to “Fukushima Likely to Produce “Pockets” of Highly-Concentrated Radiation”

  1. Frwip says:

    Please, please, Barry. Don’t relay Washington’s Blog on nuclear stuff.

    It’s so wrong, it’s not even wrong.

    Just that crap ‘imminent disaster’ on the pool at reactor 4 when the fuel in question has been too cold to flue or melt its zirconium cladding for more than a year, and even more so to catch fire, even if the pool in question dried up completely. And I don’t want to get to the ‘expert’ bozo who was at the start of this ‘alert’, Robert Alvarez.

    Or take the ‘radioactive’ tuna, when the original paper had nothing to do with public health. “Oh my God, the radioactivity is ten times higher than the norm !”. Well, no. The radioactivity from cesium is ten times the usual post-1945 level of radioactive cesium, which, by the way, is an infinite times more radioactive than it was before 1945. See, the background cesium in question comes entirely from the open air nuclear tests in the 40s and 50s and from Chernobyl.

    But, what matters is that the freaking cesium radioactivity is 30 times lower than the naturally occurring radioactivity from potassium in the bloody fishy and at least 20 times lower than the also naturally present polonium-210 (and that one packs a much bigger punch per ping than potassium or cesium). If you took a counter to the fishy, the cesium would not even register.

    The paper was published because 1) it was a way cool experiment on ultra low-level radiation measurement, especially using the Cs-134/Cs-137 ratio to establish the origin of the radioactive cesium, and 2) it provides really interesting information on the migration patterns of thunnus orientalis.

    The paper in question is here, btw:

    http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/05/22/1204859109

    And this whole post is the same tune.

  2. mathman says:

    Oh yeah – clean, safe, too cheap to meter . . .
    i’m sure everything is just ducky, go about your business and don’t worry about this, we’ve got it covered

    http://www.naturalnews.com/036022_Fukushima_radiation_food_supply.html
    Fukushima radiation now detected in the U.S. food supply

    (from the article)
    ‘Not a large amount at all’
    “Daniel Madigan of Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Station did not make a determination about the safety of the fish, though he did say the amounts of radiation detected in the tuna are far less than Japan’s safety limit.

    “I wouldn’t tell anyone what’s safe to eat or what’s not safe to eat,” Madigan told Reuters. “It’s become clear that some people feel that any amount of radioactivity, in their minds, is bad and they’d like to avoid it. But compared to what’s there naturally [...] and what’s established as safety limits, it’s not a large amount at all.”

    Madigan said researchers found higher levels of two radioactive isotopes of the cesium element, 137 – which was present in the eastern Pacific before the disaster at Fukushima Daiichi – and 134, which is caused only by manmade activities and wasn’t present before the tsunami smashed into the plant.

    Since cesium 134 only exists through human activity, such as nuclear power plants and the manufacture of nuclear weapons, Madigan’s team figured the 134 they were measuring had to have come from Fukushima.

    “There was about five times the background amount of cesium 137 in the bluefin tuna they tested, but that is still a tiny quantity, Madigan said: 5 becquerels instead of 1 becquerel (It takes 37 billion becquerels to equal 1 curie; for context, a pound of uranium-238 has 0.00015 curies of radioactivity, so one becquerel would be a truly miniscule proportion),” Reuters reported.

    Not much contamination, but how much is too much?
    Bluefin tuna only spawn in the western Pacific, off the coasts of the Philippines and Japan. The researchers believe that the elevated radioactive isotopes came from Fukushima because of the way the tuna migrate across the Pacific Ocean. As young fish, some of them tend to migrate off the coast of California, and then remain there as they grow.

    Judging by the size of the tuna examined (about 15 pounds), researchers believe the fish left the waters off Japan about a month after the accident.

    Most of the radiation from the damaged plant was released only for a few days in April 2011. Unlike some other compounds, radioactive cesium doesn’t sink quickly but instead remains spread out from the ocean’s surface to the seafloor. That means fish can swim through it and ingest it through their gills, researchers said, or by either taking in contaminated sea water or contaminated organisms.

    Madigan said bluefin tuna off Japan’s coast soon after the accident probably had much higher levels of cesium 134 present in their bodies, perhaps as much as 40-50 percent more than normal.

    Still, the fact that any radioactive contamination has showed up off the nation’s coastline at all should be cause of concern because, as Madigan himself noted, it’s hard to say what levels of contamination in our food are ultimately dangerous enough to cause harm.”

    pass the cesium sea salt, please?

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