Home  |  Top News  |  Most Popular  |  Video  |  Multimedia  |  News Feeds  |  Feedback
  Medicine  |  Nature & Earth  |  Biology  |  Technology & Engineering  |  Space & Planetary  |  Psychology  |  Physics & Chemistry  |  Economics  |  Archaeology
Top > Nature & Earth > For Disaster Debris Arriving from… >
For Disaster Debris Arriving from Japan, Radiation Least of the Concerns

Published: February 22, 2012.
By Oregon State University
http://oregonstate.edu

The first anniversary is approaching of the March, 2011, earthquake and tsunami that devastated Fukushima, Japan, and later this year debris from that event should begin to wash up on U.S. shores – and one question many have asked is whether that will pose a radiation risk.

The simple answer is, no.

Nuclear radiation health experts from Oregon State University who have researched this issue following the meltdown of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant say the minor amounts of deposition on the debris field scattered in the ocean will have long since dissipated, decayed or been washed away by months of pounding in ocean waves.

However, that's not to say that all of the debris that reaches Pacific Coast shores in the United States and Canada will be harmless.

"The tsunami impacted several industrial areas and no doubt swept out to sea many things like bottled chemicals or other compounds that could be toxic," said Kathryn Higley, professor and head of the Department of Nuclear Engineering and Radiation Health Physics at OSU.

"If you see something on the beach that looks like it may have come from this accident, you shouldn't assume that it's safe," Higley said. "People should treat these debris with common sense; there could be some things mixed in there that are dangerous. But it will have nothing to do with radioactive contamination."

Higley and other OSU experts have been active in studying the Fukushima accident since it occurred, and are now doing research to help scientists in Japan better understand such issues as uptake of radioactive contamination by plants growing near the site of the accident. They also studied marine and fishery impacts near Japan soon after the incident.

"In the city and fields near Fukushima, there are still areas with substantial contamination, and it may be a few years before all of this is dealt with," Higley said. "But researchers from all over the world are contributing information on innovative ways to help this area recover, including some lessons learned from the much more serious Chernobyl accident in 1986 in the Ukraine."

Some of the technology to deal with this is complex. Other approaches, she said, can be fairly low-tech – removal of leaf litter, washing, plowing the ground, collecting and concentrating water runoff.

The repercussions of the event in the ocean, however, and implications for distant shores are much more subdued. Most of the discharge that was of concern was radionuclides of iodine and cesium, which were deposited on widely dispersed, floating marine debris days after the tsunami. Most of the iodine by now will have disappeared due to radioactive decay, and the cesium washed off and diluted in the ocean.

"There are a lot of misconceptions about radioactivity," Higley said. "Many people believe that if it can be measured, it's harmful. But we live in a world of radiation coming to us from the sun, or naturally present in the earth, or even from our own bodies.

"There are higher natural levels of radiation found all around the Rocky Mountains, for instance," she said. "And we can still measure radioactive contaminants in nature from old atmospheric nuclear weapons tests more than 50 years ago."

Like most of those other forms of radiation, Higley said, any measurable radioactivity found on debris from Fukushima should be at very low levels and of no health concern – much less, for instance, than a person might receive in a single X-ray.

Debris from Japan should start to arrive in the U.S. and Canada late this year or in 2013 following normal ocean currents, say other OSU experts who are studying this issue. When they do, some aspects of them might be dangerous – a half-filled, floating, sealed bottle of a toxic chemical, for instance. So people should exercise caution.

But they don't need to worry about radiation.


Show Reference »


Translate this page: Chinese French German Italian Japanese Korean Portuguese Russian Spanish


Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the ScienceNewsline.
Related »

Effects 
7/17/12 
Stanford Researchers Calculate Global Health Impacts of the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster
By Stanford University
Radiation from Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster may eventually cause anywhere from 15 to 1,300 deaths and from 24 to 2,500 cases of cancer, mostly in Japan, Stanford researchers …
Radiation 
3/24/11 

U.S. Safe from Japan Radiation, Berkeley Lab Expert Says
By Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Radiation 
6/30/11 
★★★★ 

Fukushima Radiation in the Pacific
By Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Iodine-131 
4/2/12 

Dartmouth Scientists Track Radioactive Iodine from Japan Nuclear Reactor Meltdown
By Dartmouth College
Radioactive 
2/22/12 
New Study Confirms Low Levels of Fallout from Fukushima
By United States Geological Survey
Fallout from the 2011 Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power facility in Japan was measured in minimal amounts in precipitation in the United States in about 20 percent of 167 sites …
Matisoff 
3/29/11 
Radiation from Japan Detected in Cleveland
By Case Western Reserve University
A researcher at Case Western Reserve University has detected tiny amounts of Iodine 131 from Japan in rainwater collected from the roof of a campus building. Gerald Matisoff, …
Earthquake 
4/1/11 
Japan Earthquake Affects the World’s Mineral Supplies
By U.S. Geological Survey
In addition to its other effects, the magnitude 9.0 Tohoku earthquake that struck northeast Japan on March 11, 2011, will affect Japan’s and the world’s supply of some minerals, …
More » 

Most Popular - Nature »
CARBON »
Amazon Rainforest Survey Could Improve Carbon Offset Schemes
Carbon offsetting initiatives could be improved with new insights into the make-up of tropical forests, a study suggests. Scientists studying the Amazon Basin have revealed unprecedented detail of …
DROUGHT »
NASA Satellites Show Drought May Take Toll on Congo Rainforest
NUCLEAR »
Is Nuclear Power the Only Way to Avoid Geoengineering?
VENTS »
How Productive Are the Ore Factories in the Deep Sea?
About ten years after the first moon landing, scientists on earth made a discovery that proved that our home planet still holds a lot of surprises in store for …
CATTLE »
Remote Surveillance May Increase Chance of Survival for 'Uncontacted' Brazilian Tribes
ScienceNewsline  |  About  |  Privacy Policy  |  Feedback  |  Mobile  |  Japanese
The selection and placement of stories are determined automatically by a computer program. All contents are copyright of their owners except U.S. Government works. U.S. Government works are assumed to be in the public domain unless otherwise noted. Everything else copyright ScienceNewsline.