The journal of Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics has published a paper that disputes the Japanese government’s account of radiation releases from Fukushima Daiichi. The study used CNTBTO global radiation data and a large network of independent monitoring points to estimate the releases from Fukushima Daiichi. Some of the findings include:
- pools used to store spent nuclear fuel played a significant part in the release of the long-lived environmental contaminant caesium-137
- dousing the fuel pools with water caused the plant’s caesium-137 emissions to drop markedly, the finding implies that much of the fallout could have been prevented by flooding the pool earlier
- the accident released around 1.7 × 1019 Bq of xenon-133, greater than the estimated total radioactive release of 1.4 × 1019 Bq from Chernobyl
- The new model shows that Fukushima released 3.5 × 1016 Bq caesium-137, roughly twice the official government figure, and half the release from Chernobyl.
- Japanese estimates rely primarily on data from monitoring posts inside Japan3, which never recorded the large quantities of radioactivity that blew out over the Pacific Ocean, and eventually reached North America and Europe.
- xenon-133 began to vent from Fukushima Daiichi immediately after the quake, and before the tsunami swamped the area, showing that there was damage and leaks before the tsunami.
- The model also shows that the accident could easily have had a much more devastating impact on the people of Tokyo. “There was a period when quite a high concentration went over Tokyo, but it didn’t rain,” says Stohl. “It could have been much worse.”
A recent study also explored the contamination levels in Japan and also in the US:
A field sampling effort was undertaken to characterize the form and concentration of radionuclides in the air and in environmental media which can accumulate fallout. Samples included settled dusts, surface wipes, used filter masks, used air filters, dusty footwear, and surface soils. Particles were collected from used motor vehicle air filters and standard 0.45 micron membrane air filters. Soils and settled dusts were collected from outdoor surfaces, interior surfaces, and from used children’s shoes. The Japanese filters contained cesium 134 and 137, as well as cobalt 60 at levels as high as 3 nCi total activity per sample. Materials collected during April 2011 from Japan also contained Iodine 131. This short-lived nuclide was not observed in later samples. US air filter and dusts samples did not contain hot particles, except for air samples collected from Seattle, WA during the month of April 2011. The samples of Japanese children’s shoes were found to have relatively high radiocesium contamination levels. Isolated US soil samples contained up to 8 nanoCuries per Kg of radiocesium, while control samples showed no detectable radiocesium. Dusts containing radioactive cesium were found at levels orders of magnitude above background more than 100 miles from the accident site, and were detectable on the US west coast.
Radiation Exposure to the Population in Japan After the Earthquake was recently published at the American Public Health Association.
Marco Kaltafan, the author of the above paper also did an extensive interview with Fairewinds Associates about both the fallout in Japan & the US and how people can understand and protect themselves. More of Mr. Kaltafan’s work can be found at Boston Chemical Data Corp.
*Editor’s note: these research papers do not include known releases directly into the ocean. The considerable leakage directly into the Pacific ocean from Fukushima Daiichi and dumping of radioactive water by TEPCO are in addition to the releases and contaminations mentioned.
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