Tag Archives: fukushima nuclear plant

Ocean still suffering from Fukushima fallout

Radioactivity is still persisting in the ocean waters near the Fukushima nuclear plant, despite researchers expectation to drop.

Researchers published new data showing that radioactivity levels near the plant remain stable, instead of falling as expected; they believe this is mostly caused by run-off from the river and continued leaks from the plant. The levels are not big enough to cause significant human worries, but it is likely to cause damage to the local ecosystem, posing a long term economic threat to the area.

The Fukushima contamination was the result of one of the biggest earthquakes ever recorded, the 9.1 event that struck Japan and caused a huge tsunami. After the spill, most of the radiation dispersed into the ocean, until it reached extremely low levels which basically pose no threat. However, the surrounding area remained radioactive.

But nobody was expecting the levels to remain at these levels.

“There must be a source,” says Scott Fowler, an oceanographer at Stony Brook University in New York.

A new model created by oceanographer Jota Kanda at the Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology suggest that not one, but three sources are causing this remanent radioactivity. The first is radioactivity from the land is being washed by rainfall into rivers, which carry it to the sea; second, the plant itself continuously leaks.

But the third source is the most important, he says. Marine sediments, he explains, are responsible for over 90 percent of the continuous contamination. Analysis showed a large quantity of radioactive caesium in sandy ocean floor near the plant. It may be that the sediment itself absorbed the caesium, or perhaps microorganisms such as plankton fed on it, and then excreted it to the bottom of the ocean.

Whether originating from plankton or sediment, the contamination is finding its way into the food chain. Bottom dwelling fish show levels above the level considered ‘safe’; other species are only sometimes contaminated, while squid and octopuses are contamination free. The implications are extremely serious for the fishing industries, who estimate a loss of about $2 billion.

Scientific source


Mutant butterflies found near Fukushima linked to radiation exposure

Immediately after the incident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, as a result of the devastating tsunami which swept the country resulting thousands of casualties and damage amount to $40 billion, Japanese authorities quickly evacuated the local human population such that exposure to radiation could be kept at a minimum. The local wildlife, however, wasn’t treated with the same privilege. A month after the tsunami, scientists collected butterfly specimens in the vicinity of the nuclear power plant and found that the insects presented a number of peculiar mutations. Six months later the same check was made for the same species, and findings suggest that the mutations actually multiplied, as an evident effect of radiation exposure.

fukushima-butterfly-radiationSome 144 pale grass blue butterfly were collected, of which 12% of them showed a number of strange mutations, like dented eyes and deformed wings.  When they mated, the offspring showed a mutation rate of 18%, and when one ‘infected’ butterfly was mated with a healthy one, that rate jumped to 34%.This suggested that the butterflies’ germ line, or the cells that turn from egg to sperm, had suffered irremediable damage, which get transmitted to the offspring. Scientists say these mutations will get passed down for many generations.

“Our results are consistent with the previous field studies that showed that butterfly populations are highly sensitive to artificial radionuclide contamination in Chernobyl and Fukushima. Together, the present study indicates that the pale grass blue butterfly is probably one of the best indicator species for radionuclide contamination in Japan,” researchers wrote in the report published in the journal Nature.

The species is notoriously sensitive to environmental contaminants, which is why scientists decided to study them to begin with, so the fact that the pale grass butterfly has suffered mutations isn’t a indicator that other local fauna may have been subjected to the same genetic anomalies, though possible. I’d like to see, personally, a similar research catering to other species, insects or mammals.

The levels of radiation absorbed by the butterflies are not enough to harm humans, however. In fact, Japanese researchers have found very low amounts of radioactivity in the bodies of about 10,000 people who lived near the Fukushima Daiichi power plant when it melted down. The threat appeared to be considerably lower than in the aftermath of the Chernobyl accident, the experts agreed.

“Out of 10,000 people with a dose of 1 millisievert, the radiation would cause two to get cancer during their lifetimes, but about 3,500 would get cancer also without any radiation,” said Roy Shore, chief of research at the Radiation Effects Research Foundation in Hiroshima, Japan. “The jury is still out, but I expect the public health impact from radiation to turn out to be considerably lower than that of Chernobyl.”

via 80 Beats.

Defy nuclear war with the doomsday survival suit [photos]

Doomsday suit

For the 2012 panicked or just the doomsday memorabilia  collectors, Kacey Wong‘s doomsday survival suit will definitely spark interest. The Hong Kong artist has designed the robot-shaped suit inspiring herself after the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster, with the idea of protecting people from radiation leaking from nuclear power stations.

Mobile and equipped with glowing red alarm lights for eyes, the doomsday suit is entirely made out of led plates and can be unfolded to create a bed so you can have some well deserved rest after a nuclear war night. It also features solar panels to power electrical devices the inhabitant may need during radiation alerts.It only generates about 15 volts of electricity, which is just maybe enough to power an iPod and soundtrack the apocalypse.

Previous robot-like mobile homes by Wong include this one designed for rich people made homeless by the credit crunch and another that doubles as an office for homeless people.

Here’s how Wong describes her doomsday suit.

Natural and man-made disasters killed tens of thousands of people and many more lost their home, Hong Kong being much closer to the Daya Bay Nuclear Power Station than to the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, maybe it is about time to reflect and address the potential risk and hazard produced by nuclear energy.

Unfortunately for now, the suit is not available for sale and has been designed only for illustrative purposes – or art. If you want to snag a look at it, though, you’ll be able to find it at the 30 x 30 exhibition in Hong Kong from July 7 to August 9.

Doomsday suit


Monitoring radioactivity levels near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Photograph: Christian Slund/Reuters

Japan raises nuclear crisis level to that of Chernobyl

Japan’s nuclear crisis level has been regulated from level 5 to 7  by the International Atomic Energy Agency, at the top of the nuclear hazard scale and right on par with the 1986 Chernobyl incident, according to the level of radiation released in the accident. The new ranking signifies a “major accident” with “wider consequences” than the previous level, according to the Vienna-based IAEA.

“We have upgraded the severity level to 7 as the impact of radiation leaks has been widespread from the air, vegetables, tap water and the ocean,” said Minoru Oogoda of Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.

The decision was made after assessments of data on leaks of radioactive iodine-131 and cesium-137 showed critical levels of radiation.

“We have refrained from making announcements until we have reliable data,” NISA spokesman Hidehiko Nishiyama said.

“The announcement is being made now because it became possible to look at and check the accumulated data assessed in two different ways,” he said, referring to measurements from NISA and the Nuclear Security Council.

As opposed to the Chernobyl crisis, however, the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant hasn’t experienced any reactor core explosions, despite hydrogen explosions occurred during the first waves of tsunami which hit Japan after the deadly 9.0 earthquake. Actually, the amount of radiation leaking from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant is around only 10 percent of the Chernobyl accident.

The magnitude-9.0 earthquake that caused the tsunami immediately stopped Fukushima’s three reactors, but overheated cores and a lack of cooling functions led to further damage. Engineers have been able to drop water into the damaged reactors to cool them down, but leaks have resulted in the pooling of tons of contaminated, radioactive water that has prevented workers from conducting further repairs – and if it wasn’t enough, aftershocks on Monday briefly cut power to backup pumps, halting the injection of cooling water for about 50 minutes before power was restored.

It could take weeks or months to stabilize the reactors. And containing and cleaning up the radioactive material could take at least 10 years, at a cost of more than $10 billion.

Leaks send radioactivity into the ocean at the Fukushima power plant

The situation at the Fukushima power plant, albeit not being as catastrophic as it was broadcasted on main news channels, is far from being calm. The workers in the Japan nuclear plant are now trying to limit the environmental contamination, and this time, they are facing a break that allowed contaminated water to reach the ocean.

TEPCO, which runs the reactors, announced just a few hours ago that the leak has been stopped, and fortunately, we are talking about short-lived isotope of iodine that will decay and become harmless in a matter of months. The ability of the Pacific to dilute the contaminated water will also help this problem; there were worries that a serious contamination would cover a massive area, but it is now believe that we are talking about acceptable levels.

As a matter of fact, this has encouraged workers to think about dumping water with low level contamination directly into the ocean, for the sole purpose of diluting the radioactivity levels quickly.

There are still some questions regarding the state of the reactors themselves, and there is still uncertainty floating around the whole thing, because of the lack of information; however, a manager at the utility has been quoted as saying, “I don’t know if we can ever enter the No. 3 reactor building again”. Restoring and reusing the nuclear power plant was never on the table, but how we can handle large scale dangers such as this one, is still an ongoing debate – and the answers given by the Japanese are not bad at all.

Picture source