Eureka! Fukushima radiation plume nears California


The U.S. news media continues to largely ignore both the ongoing massive problems at the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan and the lingering fallout — literally and metaphorically — from the 2011 tsunami and accident there. That’s unfortunately, because practically every week there’s one or more significant developments that show the accident exceeding science’s expectations for negative consequences. Each piece of news should worry us from a public health standpoint, and should also cause us to ask tougher questions about the safety of our other existing nuclear plants, not to mention the wisdom of allowing new ones.

This week’s news is that the plume of radiation from Fukushima has nearly completed its journey across the Pacific, traveling much farther east than the nuclear experts had imagined three years ago. Today, contaminated water from Fukushima is nearing the California coast:

Trace amounts of radiation originating from the Fukushima disaster have been detected off the Californian coast.

Although the levels are not high enough to cause any health issues in humans, the discovery is a worry that radiation can travel so far from the disaster.

Scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute said the radioactive plume is 100 miles west of Eureka in northernmost California:

In the aftermath of the 2011 tsunami off Japan, the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant released caesium-134 and other radioactive elements into the ocean at unprecedented levels.

Since then, the radioactive plume has travelled east across the Pacific, propelled largely by ocean currents and being diluted along the way.

At their highest near the damaged nuclear power plant in 2011, radioactivity levels peaked at more than 10 million times the levels recently detected near North America.

Using models scientists are able to predict where this radiation from Fukushima will go.

It is expected to appear off the coast of Alaska and Canada before drifting down to Hawaii.

Not surprisingly, scientists are tripping over each other to downplay the significance of this news. However, the bottom line is that Fukushima — thanks to its ill-advised construction in an earthquake zone, and its almost inevitable accident — is altering our natural world in ways that once would have seemed unimaginable. Some experts are worried.

“We are not at the peak, it’s still coming, and it will continue to come as long as Fukushima continues to bleed into the Pacific, we’re seeing the beginning of this…,” radiation expert Arnie Gundersen told Radio Ecoshock last month. “The problem is that the fish that live in that water bioaccumulate that material.” In a subsequent interview, he added: “There will still be a huge residual amount of radiation in the soil and in the groundwater so that the site will continue to bleed into the Pacific a century or more.”

And here’s the biggest problem: The contaminated water keeps on coming:

More than three years into the massive cleanup of the Fukushima No. 1 power plant, only a tiny fraction of the workers are focused on key tasks such as preparing for the dismantling of the wrecked reactors and removing radioactive fuel rods.

Instead, nearly all the workers at Fukushima No. 1 are devoted to a single, enormously distracting problem: coping with the vast amount of contaminated water, a mixture of groundwater running into recycled water that becomes contaminated and leaks after being pumped into the reactors to keep their melted cores from overheating.

Needless to say, it’s critical that Japanese officials and clean-up crews do whatever is necessary to bring this situation under control. If more radioactive water pours into the Pacific, the plumes of radiation in the ocean will only get worse. At what point will this contamination have a more serious impact on the health of the food chain, including humans? The best answer is to stop the radioactive bleeding before we find out.

Read more news of the radioactive plume nearing California:

Here’s a roundup from EneNews of scientific reactions to the radiation findings:

Check out this AP report on the troubled cleanup at Fukushima:

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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