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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The China syndrome, Fukushima version

Japan's big, bad neighbor to the west seems a little miffed about all the radioactivity spilling into the Pacific from the triple meltdown site at Fukushima. A team of Chinese scientists were sent out several weeks ago to the waters east of Japan to see what's what with radiation in the ocean. So far, they've found quite a bit of contamination, and they say they'll keep watching:

The latest monitoring result released by the State Oceanic Administration on July 29 showed the first group of seawater samples collected from the area contained 300 times the amount of radioactive cesium that is found in nature and 100 times the amount of strontium....

The State Oceanic Administration said the marine organisms in the places that are being monitored have been contaminated to different extents. Those that live near the surface are at a greater risk of being affected.

Cesium-137 and strontium-90 both have half-lives of about 30 years, making it more likely they will eventually enter the food chain and affect the health of consumers, the environmental protection department said.

Researchers will continue to try to protect public health by monitoring and gauging the effect of the radiation release on China's marine environment, according to the department.

Meanwhile, researchers in California report that radioactive sulfur showed up in the air near San Diego in late March, when the Fukushima plant was far more out of control than it is today. Nuclear power plants don't usually give off a lot of radioactive sulfur, but they do if you pour sea water on them, which Tokyo Electric did for quite a while at Fukushima.

The levels of radioactive sulfur found at San Diego were quite low, but they had blown across the ocean. When they were in the air over Japan, they were at much higher concentrations. There's one more radioisotope for the Japanese to worry about as they await the health effects of Fukushima in the coming months, years, and decades.

Comments (1)

When it comes to radioactive contamination, the world is our neighborhood. Lax safety standards imperil all.
We are all so ... Fukushimaed.

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