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Message Subject *** Fukushima *** and other nuclear-----updates and links
Poster Handle Anonymous Coward
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Survey checks radioactive contamination in the Pacific
In mid-November last year, the U.S. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and the University of Tokyo’s Atmosphere and Ocean Research Institute held a symposium in Tokyo titled “Fukushima and the Ocean.” Over two days, around 90 marine researchers from the United States, Japan and so on gathered to discuss the extent of marine radioactive contamination and how this information should be communicated to the general populace.

On the final day, the debate was opened to the public and close to 200 people attended; proof, if any were needed, that these issues are not merely the concern of a few specialist researchers.

The symposium’s roots can be traced back to less than a week after the accident occurred, when Ken Buesseler, senior scientist at WHOI, called on researchers from all over the world to help ascertain radiation levels off the coast of Fukushima and the accident’s impact on marine life.

The team surveyed an area 30 to 600 kilometers offshore from the nuclear plant. They took samples of seawater from more than 30 locations, from the ocean surface right down to depths of 2,000 meters. The samples were then analyzed by 16 laboratories in seven countries, including Monaco and Slovakia. The Tokyo symposium was held in the wake of this research.

According to Buesseler, when radioactive debris is released into the sea, it usually gets dispersed far and wide by ocean currents before eventually finding its way to the seabed. This survey showed radiation levels spiking in areas where eddies commonly form due to the complicated interplay of the Kuroshio and Oyashio currents.

One of the participants, Jun Nishikawa, assistant professor of the University of Tokyo’s Atmosphere and Ocean Research Institute, says the highest detected cesium-134 and cesium-137 activity was around 3,900 becquerels per cubic meter (bq/m3). This reading was made not in the seas close to the nuclear plant, but in an area of near-shore eddies to the southeast. The research also revealed that concentrations of radioactive cesium isotopes in the surveyed area were 10 to 1,000 times higher than before the accident occurred.

“We still don’t know enough about how cesium isotopes accumulate in the bodies of fish, so further observations will be needed from hereon,” says Buesseler.

Professor Jota Kanda from the Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology adds that “fish species absorb cesium in different ways. Even in areas with low concentrations of radioactive material, we are still finding some fish types that manifest higher-than-normal concentrations.”

Kanda, who compiled the results of the two-day symposium, says that when flatfish were exposed to cesium-134 during an experiment, “young fish absorbed high levels quickly, whereas mature fish absorbed it more slowly.”

“The Fukushima accident demanded research above and beyond what any one single nation could undertake,” says Buesseler. “Our survey involves research institutions from several countries and is independent from the Japanese government, so I think it will live up to the expectations of the Japanese people too.”

[link to ajw.asahi.com]
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