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NOAA Study: Radiation From Fukushima Very Dilluted, Seafood Safe 267

Posted by timothy
from the actually-the-seafood-is-now-even-more-delicious dept.
JSBiff writes "Ars Technica is reporting on a study by NOAA scientists who surveyed the ocean near Fukushima, which concludes that while a lot of radioactivity was released into the water, as would be expected, it diluted out to levels that pose little risk to wildlife or humans, and that the seafood is safe to eat. Perhaps we needn't worry so much about "millions of gallons of radioactive water" being released into the ocean, like it's a major environmental disaster, as it's really not — the ocean is many orders of magnitude larger than any accidental release of radiation which might happen from a nuclear plant."
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NOAA Study: Radiation From Fukushima Very Dilluted, Seafood Safe

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  • by OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @10:45AM (#39560109) Homepage

    I wonder which will prevail ?

    I lied. Heh. I wish I wondered.

  • by vlm (69642) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @10:48AM (#39560151)

    Unless they were doing a lot of extra work to match isotopes, most of the "bulk" radiation in the ocean from power generation is from burning coal.
    There's really quite a bit of U in coal, and if you burn a gigatons of the stuff a ppm here and there starts to add up.

  • by miknix (1047580) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @10:55AM (#39560269) Homepage

    It is interesting to see that even with all of current scaremongering about nuclear power, the oil spills still were orders of magnitude MORE dangerous to oceanic wildlife than the Fukushima radioactive leak. This should be something to think about..

  • by SoupGuru (723634) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @11:11AM (#39560467)
    But I need to be OUTRAGED by something!!!
  • by 0racle (667029) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @11:25AM (#39560661)
    Scaremongering it is.
  • by Max Littlemore (1001285) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @11:27AM (#39560691)
    What do we do with the waste? It's mostly ( >90% ) more dangerous than ore. The biggest problem with Fuckishima (sic) is the ponds of waste. Scaremongering aside, when solar is cheaper for a country than nuclear, why go with nuclear? (as is the case in my country)
  • by Baloroth (2370816) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @11:27AM (#39560699)

    Actually, which will prevail? Politically motivated scaremongering or corporations manipulating safety data to prevent a drop in stock price.

    [citation needed]

    Seriously, unless you have some evidence to back that up, simply claiming scientific fraud because you happen to disagree with the results is not a valid argument, sorry. The scientists give hard numbers to justify their conclusions, even mentioning that the released contamination was on the high sides of the estimates. Fortunately, the ocean is really, really big, so even an apparently massive amount of contamination (relatively speaking) amounts to an extremely diluted concentration.

  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @11:43AM (#39560907) Journal
    It's not stupid if there is no safe option. Our choices are something unsafe or something else unsafe. The rational thing to do is evaluate the problems with both and compare them.
  • Comparisons (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dragonhunter21 (1815102) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @11:49AM (#39560987) Journal

    Wikipedia says that an estimated 520 tons of radioactive water were dumped into the sea. That rounds out to a shade under 60,000 gallons of water. Compare that to the volume of the whole Pacific Ocean (174400000000000000000 gallons) and you start to see just how minor the release was in the grand scheme of things. Just to really show the difference, if we use the same ratio in terms of distance and make the Fukushima release as the height of a common housefly, then the Pacific Ocean is a trip to Pluto, halfway back, and a bit more besides.

  • by squizzar (1031726) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @11:51AM (#39561009)

    Nuclear material will decay, mercury will not.

  • by Hatta (162192) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @11:56AM (#39561077) Journal

    Failing to realize that there are different degrees of safety, and that nuclear is much, much safer than coal, is even stupider.

  • by Max Littlemore (1001285) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @11:57AM (#39561089)
    Yeah, but a decent infrastructure in hot salt works for most of the world, including your country. There's no need for fission or even coal
  • by Raul654 (453029) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @12:08PM (#39561213) Homepage

    "simply claiming scientific fraud because you happen to disagree with the results is not a valid argument, sorry." - while this is true a philosophy class, in the real world it falls down. In the real world, there are plenty of scientists whose results can be discounted a priori. I automatically discount anything a "scientist" employed by a tobacco company has to say about cigarette safety, or that an oil company scientist has to say about global warming or the safety of fracking. It's too easy for them to cause bias in their results in ways that are nearly impossible for a non-expert to figure out.

    In this case, the results were from NOAA, which doesn't have a horse in the race, as far as I'm aware.

  • by michelcolman (1208008) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @12:30PM (#39561459)

    On the contrary, they will all go to the beach to be protected from radiation. After all, a lot of homeopatic "medicines" work by diluting a harmful components so much that only its "memory" is left, and this supposedly protects you from that component.

  • by Raul654 (453029) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @12:42PM (#39561605) Homepage

    I'm not an expert on cigarette safety, global warming, or hydraulic fracturing. With each of these industries, there's an obvious conflict of interest between the people employed in those industries putting out data related to those industries. And, I should add, each of those industries have long histories of putting out scientific misinformation that is nigh impossible for a non-expert to spot.

    Here's a little case study to prove my point. It's a classic 9/11 trutherism argument. Can you spot the fallacy? (Without looking it up, that is)
    Fact #1 - Steel melts at 1300 degrees C.
    Fact #2: Jet fuel burns at roughly 650 degrees C.
    Conclusion - The Twin Towers could not have been brought down by jet planes because airplane fuel does not burn hot enough to melt steel.

    The fallacy in the above case lies in the assumption that steel has to melt in order to bring down the trade towers. At 650 degrees C, steel loses 90% of its strength. But how many ordinarily non-engineers know this off the top of their head?

    As far as your claims about climate scientists, I'll be more skeptical of their conclusions when I'm shown that they have a horse in the race.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @12:45PM (#39561629)

    And replacing something unsafe with something unsafe is just as stupid.

    This is one of the most patently stupid things I've ever read on /. (and that's saying a lot). *EVERY*thing in life is inherently unsafe. Get out of bed? Unsafe. Don't get out of bed? Unsafe. Eat? Unsafe. Don't eat? Unsafe.

    Time to come to grips with the reality that every aspect of life is a calculated risk.

    Or, feel free to return to your fantasy that you are somehow able to attain non-unsafeness. But expect rational and realistic people to continue to deride your fantasy.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @12:48PM (#39561667)

    We're talking about nuclear accident, in particular a recent one and you're trying to claim its safe. This technology will NEVER be safe.
    How can anyone consider a nuclear meltdown safe?

  • by Hatta (162192) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @12:50PM (#39561693) Journal

    Risk is damage * incidence. A high damage event with low incidence can be lower risk than a low damage event with high incidence. This is in fact the case when we compare nuclear with coal power.

    If you can't understand this basic principle of risk analysis, you are too stupid to contribute anything to this discussion.

  • by Solandri (704621) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @12:53PM (#39561743)

    What do we do with the waste? It's mostly ( >90% ) more dangerous than ore. The biggest problem with Fuckishima (sic) is the ponds of waste. Scaremongering aside, when solar is cheaper for a country than nuclear, why go with nuclear? (as is the case in my country)

    Off the top of your head, how much coal do you think needs to be burned to power your house for 30 years? How much high-level nuclear waste do you think is generated from powering it with nuclear?

    Photovoltaic solar is nearly an order of magnitude more expensive than nuclear. If you live somewhere where it's cheaper, then you're probably failing to subtract out government subsidies from the equation. Hydro is cheaper, but already tapped out in most developed countries. Wind is getting close, at about 1.5-2x more expensive. If you live in an area with strong, consistent, and abundant winds (like one of the respondents in Portugal), it's probably already cheaper than nuclear/coal. Solar thermal can be the cheapest yet, but due to directly converting the solar energy into heat its applications are limited.

    Back to my first questions. It takes about a train car full of coal to power your house for 30 years. That's how much mass is turned into pollution - either ash or particulates which get into the atmosphere (including trace amounts of atomic mercury, uranium, and thorium - the trace uranium in coal actually contains more energy than the coal itself). In contrast, nuclear can provide the same amount of electricity while generating about a tablespoon of high level waste. Yes when you scale up to the electrical needs of an entire country, the amount of nuclear waste starts to look scary. But only if you fail to scale the alternatives - the waste is a minuscule amount compared to pollution from fossil fuels. The U.S. generates about 20% of its electricity from nuclear. In the process, it generates about 2000 tons of raw high-level waste each year. 2000 tons would (if consolidated) fit into two tractor trailers. When I did the same calc for coal, it came out to something ridiculous like 15,000 oil tankers. And that's ignoring that a significant fraction of the mass is converted into high-volume gases (primarily CO2, with the O2 taken from the air) and released into the atmosphere. That's why the U.S. been able to run nuclear plants for ~60 years without a waste storage site. There's so little waste generated that the nuclear plants have just been storing decades worth of it on-site in pools of water.

    As for what to do with the nuclear waste, it's only called waste because of politics. Our current fission reactors only extract a few percent of the fissile energy contained in the uranium. That's why the waste is radioactive for so long - it still contains almost all of the energy of the radionuclide decay chain. You can extract most of the remaining energy by using the "waste" as fuel in a breeder reactor, which in turn converts it into a form which can be used as fuel in regular reactors. This in turn results in waste which only needs to be stored for a bit over a hundred years. This is why a repository like Yucca Mountain was a good idea. Until fusion reactors become viable and widescale, future generations would probably view Yucca Mountain as a fuel source, not a long-term waste storage site. Unfortunately, one of the fissile products of breeder reactors is weapons-grade plutonium. So politically, reprocessing (as it's called) is unappealing.

  • by AtomicJake (795218) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @01:20PM (#39562075)

    Risk is damage * incidence. A high damage event with low incidence can be lower risk than a low damage event with high incidence. This is in fact the case when we compare nuclear with coal power.

    This is correct. The problem is that apparently we cannot give concrete figures (in dollars) for "damage" nor for the likelihood "incidence" - otherwise it should be possible to get an insurance policy for nuclear power plants, or did I miss something obvious?

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