Fukushima Radiation in Pacific Reaches West Coast

John LaForge

“[W]e should be carefully monitoring the oceans after what is certainly the largest accidental release of radioactive contaminants to the oceans in history,” researcher Ken Buesseler said Sept. 27.

Thank you, clean, cheap, safe nuclear power. No thank you, US EPA for halting your emergency radiation monitoring of Fukushima drift in May 2011, three months after the disaster began. Neither is Japan monitoring radioactivity in coastal waters near to Fukushima, according to The Ecologist, Sept. 28 (“Japanese government and IAEA ignore radiation risks to coastal population”).

Among dozens of deadly isotopes, the amount of cesium alone that Dr. Buesseler’s researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution found off Vancouver Island is six times the concentration ordinarily found. Cesium and other radioactive toxins contamination was permanently left in the oceans by hundreds of open-air nuclear bomb tests (which ended 52 years ago). Cesium didn’t exist on Earth before nuclear weapons and reactors, so there is no normal or ordinary level of its concentration in the sea. It’s all abnormal and extraordinary. The six-fold increase in Pacific cesium is a stunner, and should be the final insult from nuclear power before it is permanently abandoned.

The nuclear weapons complex (NWC) is the only other pollution-intensive industry that is both capable of and has caused whole-Earth poisoning, and it’s the NWC that brought us commercial power reactors. Dirty war spawns dirty business. Of course, nuclear industry proponents claimed the long-lived cesium would be diluted to infinity after the Fukushima plume’s dispersion across 4,000 miles of Pacific Ocean.

Hundreds of tons of radioactive materials, isotopes that bio-accumulate and bio-concentrate as they climb the food chain (5 metric tons of plutonium alone), were aerosolized and spread to the world’s watery commons and land masses by nuclear bomb testing. Today, globalized nuclear contamination of public spaces and food by private corporations has become the cost of operating commercial reactors.

Dr. Buesseler announced his jaw-dropping assessment Sept. 27 after his researchers found that cesium-134 from Fukushima’s triple reactor self-destruction had reached the West Coast of North America. And instead of assuring the public that cesium rates in the radiation plume is harmless, Dr. Buesseler said, “[E]ven if they were twice as high and I was to swim there every day for an entire year, the dose I would be exposed to is a thousand times less than a single dental X-ray.”

This comparison says more about the dangers of dental X-rays than about the risk of swimming with cesium. Dr. Buesseler was surprisingly unclear in his communique, especially for a scientist. He conflated the important difference between external radiation exposure (from say X-rays or swimming in radioactively contaminated seawater) and internal contamination from eating, breathing or drinking radioactive isotopes.

Dr. Chris Busby of the Low Level Radiation Campaign in the UK says to think of the difference between merely sitting before a glowing wood fireplace on one hand, and popping a burning hot coal into your mouth on the other. Internal contamination can be 1000 times more likely to cause cancer than the same exposure if it were external, especially for women and children. Because cesium-137 stays in the ecosphere for 300 years, long-term accumulation and concentration of cesium isotopes in seafood (and then in whatever consumes that seafood) is the perpetually worsening consequence of what has spilled and is still pouring from Fukushima.

Fifty million Becquerels of cesium per-cubic-meter were measured off Fukushima soon after the start of the triple reactor meltdowns; cesium-contaminated Albacore and Bluefin tuna were caught off the West coast a mere four months later; 300 tons of cesium-laced effluent has been pouring into the Pacific every day for 4-and-½ years; the Japanese government on Sept. 14 openly dumped 850 tons of partially-filtered but tritium-contaminated water into the Pacific -- portending what it will try to do with thousands of tons more that continue to accumulate at the devastated reactor complex in Northeast Japan.

Officials from Fukushima owners, the Tokyo Electric Power Co., have said effluent with “at least’ two trillion Becquerels of radioactivity entered the Pacific between August 2013 and May 2014. This 9-month period isn’t even the half of it.
That Fukushima has contaminated the unfathomable entirety of the Pacific Ocean must be viewed as cataclysmic. The ongoing introduction of Fukushima’s liquid radioactive wastes may be slow-motion, and the inevitable damage to sea life and human health will take decades to register -- because of the latency period for cancer and other radiation effects. But the “canary in the mineshaft,” is tuna, found contaminated with Fukushima cesium only a few months after the catastrophe started. And the writing on the wall is the current cancer plague already foisted on the human race by bomb testing and industrialized nuclear madness. Fish eaters may want to stick with the Atlantic catch for 15 generations or so.

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