Tag Archives: cesium

Fukushima meltdown isotopes found on U.S. coasts.

The full extent of Japan’s 2011 Fukushima meltdown is still being uncovered, with measured levels of contamination increasing in previously identified sites throughout the North American coast. While it’s still too low to threaten human or ocean life, this confirms that the power plant continues to leak radioactive isotopes researchers report.

Image via deviantart

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant saw wide-scale equipment failure following the 11 March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The ensuing triple reactor meltdowns and escape of radioactive material on the 12th were so severe that the accident is considered as being second only to the one at Chernobyl.

Researchers at the non-profit Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution have been taking samples of Pacific Ocean water and analyzing them in an effort to monitor and document the aftermath of the accident. The results show that the Fukushima reactors still leaks radioactive isotopes (especially cesium-134) four years after the meltdowns, reports marine radiochemist Ken Buesseler. Trace amounts of these atoms have been found in several hundreds of miles-wide areas of the Oregon, Washington and California coasts as well as offshore of Vancouver Island.

Another isotope, cesium-137, a radioactive reminder of the nuclear weapons tests conducted between 1950 and 1970, was found at low levels in nearly every seawater sample tested.

“Despite the fact that the levels of contamination off our shores remain well below government-established safety limits for human health or to marine life, the changing values underscore the need to more closely monitor contamination levels across the Pacific,” Buesseler said.

In 2014 the Institute reported detecting isotope contamination about 100 miles (160 km) off the norther coast of California as well as off Canada’s shorelines. The latest readings measured the highest radiation levels outside Japanese waters to date some 1,600 miles (2,574 km) west of San Francisco.

The figures also confirm that the spread of radiation to North American waters is not isolated to a handful of locations, but rather a along a stretch of more than 1,000 miles (1,600 km) of shoreline. Currently, reported levels in these areas shouldn’t be dangerous to organisms, but this may change in the future.

Great video shows alkali metal reactions with air and water

Here is the video, go watch it (it will rock your world if you don’t know your chemistry – and even if you do, it’s still great to watch). I’ll come back with a short explanation after the video.

Alkali metals are a series of metals from Mendeleev’s periodic table; you can find them right under Hydrogen, which is the first element. They include lithium, sodium, potassium, rubidium and caesium. All the metals are highly reactive under standard conditions, which is why you see all the air corrosion and the violent reactions to water. As you go down the group, the reactions become more and more violent. The typical reaction is:
Alkali metal + water → Alkali metal hydroxide + hydrogen gas

Meet the magnetic superatoms

dadaVirginia Commonwealth University managed to discover what they have called a ‘magnetic superatom‘, a stable cluster of atoms that can ‘impersonate’ various elements from the periodic table, that could be put to use in numerous fields, especially for biomedical purposes and to create molecular devices for the next generation of computer memory.A team from the

This cluster consists of one atom of vanadium and eight cesium. Together, they act like a tiny magnet that mimics a single manganese atom in magnetic strength but allows electrons with certain spin orientations to flow through the surrounding shell atoms.

The team was led by Shiv N. Khanna, Ph.D., professor in the VCU Department of Physics, together with VCU postdoctoral associates J. Ulises Reveles, A.C. Reber, and graduate student P. Clayborne, and collaborators at the Naval Research Laboratory in D.C., and the Harish-Chandra Research Institute in Allahabad, India; they teamed up together to go against what can only be called a titanic quest, namely examining the magnetic and electronic properties of the clusters.

They found out that the eight cesium atoms provide extra stability due to a filled electronic state. Also, when one atom combines with others, it tends to lose or gain valence until it reaches stable configuration. As Khanna points out:

“An important objective of the discovery was to find what combination of atoms will lead to a species that is stable as we put multiple units together. The combination of magnetic and conducting attributes was also desirable. Cesium is a good conductor of electricity and hence the superatom combines the benefit of magnetic character along with ease of conduction through its outer skin,” Khanna said. A combination such as the one we have created here can lead to significant developments in the area of “molecular electronics,” a field where researchers study electric currents through small molecules. These molecular devices are expected to help make non-volatile data storage, denser integrated devices, higher data processing and other benefits,” he said.