Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Earth United States Japan Medicine Science Technology

Radiation From Fukushima Disaster Reaches Oregon Coast (nypost.com) 139

An anonymous reader quotes a report from New York Post: Radiation from Japan's 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster has apparently traveled across the Pacific. Researchers reported that radioactive matter -- in the form of an isotope known as cesium-134 -- was collected in seawater samples from Tillamook Bay and Gold Beach in Oregon. The levels were extremely low, however, and don't pose a threat to humans or the environment. In 2011, a 9.0-magnitude earthquake triggered a wave of tsunamis that caused colossal damage to Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The disaster released several radioactive isotopes -- including the dangerous fission products of cesium-137 and iodine-131 -- that contaminated the air and water. The ocean was later contaminated by the radiation. But cesium-134 is the fingerprint of Fukushima due to its short half-life of two years, meaning the level is cut in half every two years. Cesium-137 has a 30-year half-life. Particles from Chernobyl, nuclear weapons tests, and discharge from other nuclear power plants are still detectable -- in small, harmless amounts. While this is the first time cesium-134 has been detected on US shores, Higley said "really tiny quantities" have previously been found in albacore tuna. The Oregon samples were collected by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in January and February. Each sample measured 0.3 becquerels, a unit of radioactivity, per cubic meter of cesium-134 -- significantly lower than the 50 million becquerels per cubic meter measured in Japan after the disaster.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Radiation From Fukushima Disaster Reaches Oregon Coast

Comments Filter:
  • it may have "reached" earlier.
    • Also, so I understand the implications of this... what is this radiation measured in equivalent bananas?

      • by delt0r ( 999393 )
        less than one banana!
        • by ChumpusRex2003 ( 726306 ) on Saturday December 10, 2016 @06:06AM (#53458311)
          Quite a lot less. 1 banana contains typically around 3-4 kBq of activity.

          The activity detected in this study is 300 mBq/m3; so in terms of activity per unit mass, bananas are contain approximately 8 orders of magnitude more naturally occuring radioactivity than the pollution detected in the sea water.

          While both K40 in bananas and Cs134 from nuclear fission are beta emitters, the energy per decay is lower in Cs134, so effective dose per decay is also lower.
          • Doh. Off by 2 orders of magnitude.

            30 Bq per banana and 6 orders of magnitude for the ratio.
          • by MercTech ( 46455 )

            And where Woods Hole was taking samples; you can find Cs-134, Cs-137, Pu-239, and Eu-152 in very low levels as legacy waste from the atomic weapons programs of yesteryear.

            Yep, bananas.... If I remember correctly, it is about 0.7% of all potassium on planet Earth is radioactive. If you look at a gamma spectroscopy scan of the human body, you normally see the cosmic background hump at low energy levels then a spike at the energy level corresponding to K-40 decay. Take a reading, go eat

            • If I remember correctly, it is about 0.7% of all potassium on planet Earth is radioactive.

              So to save yourself, you're planing on joining Elon Musk on Ark1 to Mars? Sorry to tell you, but I'm pretty sure you'll find that the radioactive potassium is already on Mars too. If it exists, Proxima Centauri B is very likely to have the same amount of radioactive potassium.

              Radiation is a natural part of our environment. Live with it. Or don't live. A simple choice.

      • by mysidia ( 191772 )

        Also, so I understand the implications of this... what is this radiation measured in equivalent bananas?

        A fraction of a bannana crumb so small that a human would not be able to see it with the naked eye.

        In fact, so small, that maybe the radiation they've detected was a coincidence due to some meteorite and actually has nothing to do with Fukushima.

        • by mlyle ( 148697 )

          > In fact, so small, that maybe the radiation they've detected was a coincidence due to some meteorite and actually has nothing to do with Fukushima.

          Things with short half lives only come from recent nuclear reactions. Stuff in space or from geologic processes would have gone through tens of thousands to billions of half lives.

          If a pure kilo of Cs-137 originally has about 4 * 10^24 atoms... After 82 half lives, there is probably not a single atom of Cs-137 left. This happens in less than a couple hundr

          • Things with short half lives only come from recent nuclear reactions.

            True.

            Stuff in space or from geologic processes would have gone through tens of thousands to billions of half lives.

            Not relevant.

            Nuclear reactions can - and do - happen in modern materials in natural conditions. For an example, 14-carbon has a half life of a mere 5730 years (limiting it's use for radiometric dating to about 25-30 kyr), so every nucleus of 14-carbon in (for example) Henri Becquerel's desk at the Muséum National

        • by MercTech ( 46455 )

          The limit of what is considered safe to handle by bare hand would be about a 200 banana equivalent.

      • The choice of units is a bit odd, but in this case is necessary because of the minute amounts involved, at fractional becquerels it's amazing they can even detect it. Radiation at levels to worry about is typically measured in gigabecquerels, for example the lead pig I have on my desk, with its relatively low level of shielding, is rated to contain a 0.2GBq tracer source. In any case the dose measurement you want to worry about would be given in Sieverts or Grays. For 0.3Bq it'd be about zero.
        • How many bananas does it take to create a Gojira class radiation monster?

          Would a salamander or something have to eat all those bananas, or would external exposure suffice?

      • What this study proves is how good our measuring instrumentation is today. We can now detect levels of radiation that are only of interest to homeopaths.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You can measure very, very small amounts of radiation very easily. 0.3 becquerels means a single count every 3 seconds, which is only about 20 million cesium 134 atoms in a cubic meter of water, or about one part in 10^20 (one part in a ten billion trillion).

      If one wanted to, smaller amounts could be measured if it mattered, but at some point it doesn't. I remember shortly after the earthquake and problems at Fukushima, there was someone who did some atmospheric modeling and worked out how much radioactiv

  • Who's to say? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Friday December 09, 2016 @11:02PM (#53457257) Journal

    "How do we know this radiation isn't actually good for you? I mean, the Sun's heat is radiation, right?"

    - Trump's new director of the Department of Energy.

    [Note: If you think I'm somehow exaggerating, you might find tonight's story about Trump's new Department of Energy "enemies list" an interesting read:}

    https://www.washingtonpost.com... [washingtonpost.com]

    • Re:Who's to say? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Friday December 09, 2016 @11:18PM (#53457321)
      Since it's been a more than a couple of hundred years since the USA has had to deal with a King I suppose a reminder of how petty and spiteful autocrats can be was due :(
      From the link above:

      The questionnaire requests a list of those individuals who have taken part in international climate talks over the past five years

      How petty is that?

      • Didn't Shakespeare write about a King Lear, who made outrageous proclamations but handed governance of the kingdom over to his children and their spouses?

      • by quenda ( 644621 )

        Since it's been a more than a couple of hundred years since the USA has had to deal with a King I suppose a reminder of how petty and spiteful autocrats can be was due :(

        The first US states were founded more than 400 years after the Magna Carta. By the time of the revolution, Britain was ruled by parliament, and the king had very limited powers. The US presidential role was modelled on the monarch, but elected rather than hereditary.

        Since then the power of the President has increased dramatically, while the monarch's role has declined. I'd say the US has never had to deal with a king as remotely autocratic as the current president (how many executive orders?

        • Re:Who's to say? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Saturday December 10, 2016 @03:57AM (#53458025)
          Colonies.
          See also the Belgian Congo under King Leopold for an example only a hundred years old.

          If you think Obama was autocratic you are in for a massive shock.
          • by quenda ( 644621 )

            If you think Obama was autocratic you are in for a massive shock.

            Not really.
            Just saying the US has not had to deal with autocratic kings. The system where the monarch's powers are reserved for emergencies, and congress rules is starting to look like a better alternative. In the UK or Australia, the head of gov't is chosen by the majority party in the house of rep's. So the executive automatically has control (usually) of the lower house. And the ruling party can replace the leader at any time if they go off the rails. This keeps ultimate power with the Congress, less w

            • by dbIII ( 701233 )

              Just saying the US has not had to deal with autocratic kings

              Indeed, because it was autocratic Governors answering to nobody other than the King that resulted in a revolt and let to the United State in the first place! So America has had plenty of it.

              the colonial governors

              Which is exactly what I meant FFS!

        • by Alomex ( 148003 )

          I'd say the US has never had to deal with a king as remotely autocratic as the current president (how many executive orders?),

          Actually Obama has issued the lowest number of executive orders per year of office since William McKinley in 1901.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

          • No, instead he writes Executive Memorandums. The difference is, Executive Orders have to cite applicable laws, whereas an Executive Memorandum does not.

          • What does it matter how many?

            How many have other presidents had shot down by the supreme court?

        • The problem is that the US revolution happened about 20 or 30 years too early. If it had happened in the 1790s or early 1800s, the modern Westminster systen would have been their model, instead of the "elect a king" model.

      • by jez9999 ( 618189 )

        Since it's been a more than a couple of hundred years since the USA has had to deal with a King I suppose a reminder of how petty and spiteful autocrats can be was due :(

        You've had Obama, wasn't that enough of a lesson?

        • by dbIII ( 701233 )
          Here is a much better one that will hopefully never play out in the USA:
          http://www.nybooks.com/articles/1995/06/22/ur-fascism/
    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      How do we know this radiation isn't actually good for you?... - Trump's new director of the Department of Energy.

      Don't laugh, it might just happen. [youtube.com]

      As far as I can tell, her reasoning is something along the lines that if you hit yourself in the forehead with a hammer, your forehead swells with fluids such that the second blow is less severe. Therefore, hammers are good for your forehead.

    • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

      by Solandri ( 704621 )
      What he's saying (poorly but about typical for someone untrained in the effect of radiation on biology) is that there is no proof that long-term exposure to low levels of radiation is dangerous. That's a huge-ass assumption we've been living with for the last century. We know high doses of radiation are harmful. So we drew a straight line interpolating it down to zero, which leads to the unsubstantiated conclusion that low levels of radiation are also harmful. But we figured better safe than sorry, and
      • Re:Who's to say? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Sarten-X ( 1102295 ) on Saturday December 10, 2016 @03:30AM (#53457961) Homepage

        If it were true that long-term low level radiation were unquestionably harmful, you'd expect to find a clear negative trend.

        No, that's not what we'd expect to find at all.

        We'd expect to find at the high end a certain level of radiation that is absolutely lethal, and as the dose is reduced, the impact would drop down steadily, until a zone where life expectancy is reduced. However, that life expectancy is more or less on an absolute scale, and must be compared to the life expectancy of the species being exposed. An insect may survive high doses of radiation simply because it wouldn't normally live long enough to exhibit symptoms, while a longer-lived animal like a human will likely survive long enough to get cancer that ultimately causes death.

        At a very low dose, the chances of having any noticeable symptom from radiation is unlikely enough that it could equally likely be caused by millions of other factors, so usually nobody cares. There is still a negative trend in survivability, but it's dwarfed by all of the other fatal conditions.

        Too little radiation and the species dies due to inability to keep pace with changing environmental conditions.

        Radiation isn't the only mechanism for mutation, though. Rather, it's the fast and cheap way to make a lot of mutations really fast, usually in places that cannot possibly contribute to evolution.

        In order to change the species, an offspring's DNA must be mutated. That's dependent on a few thousand cells out of the trillions in a human body. Those particular cells are the ones involved in meiosis, splitting and reassembling the DNA that will become half of the offspring. During that reassembly process is where most mutations happen, usually by random chemical processes rather than any radiation. This enzyme doesn't successfully react with that protein, so a gene gets skipped or altered or inserted... It is extremely rare that a gene is altered by radiation during the process.

        Once an offspring's development begins, though, the effects of mutations become more pronounced. If radiation mutates a single cell during early stages of growth, that fetus will develop with a cluster of mutated cells. Unless those cells are destined to become a gonad, however, the mutation will die with that generation, and the species will not change.

        Similarly, radiation affecting a mature individual is is unlikely to have any positive effect, as the mutation is almost always either destructive or irrelevant. The proper functioning of a human body requires millions of interactions between tens of thousands of proteins, so randomly changing one protein is more likely to break something than to add new functionality. Of course, as before, even breaking something is only going to affect the species if it happens to occur in a cell involved in reproduction.

        It is important to remember that evolution is never towards anything. It is away from an inability to reproduce (usually due to death). As an illustration, you must realize that you are the result of an unbroken line of millions of ancestors dating back millions of years, and every single one of those millions of ancestors were fertile and successful in mating. There is no scorecard in evolution. Either you pass on your genes, or you don't. It doesn't matter if your changing environment caused you severe illness or discomfort. As long as you manage to find a mate and make a child, you've won the natural selection game.

        In short, radiation is a purely random occurrence with purely random effects, and the odds of any particular radiation-caused mutation being beneficial are so absurdly small that it is absolutely safe to say that overall, there is no safe dose.

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          The other thing to remember is that even if the amount detected is small, that's just what was detected on spot checks.

          Fishermen around Fukushima have found that they need to check every batch. Most will be fine, but occasionally a higher concentration is found.

      • by dbIII ( 701233 )

        That's a huge-ass assumption we've been living with for the last century

        The assumption that increased chances of cancer sucks? Not so huge an assumption IMHO.

        So we drew a straight line interpolating it down to zero

        Now there is a "huge-ass assumption" that turns out to be totally wrong, especially with the "down to zero" bit. Below a certain level nobody really gives a shit other than people who want to start arguments. When dosage badges indicate something but a long way below a threshold nobody cares.

        • No. The assumption is that there is a higher risk of cancer associated with any radiation exposure, however small. And the "down to zero" part is really part of the current model, the so-called "no-threshold" part of Linear, no-threshold [wikipedia.org].

          • by dbIII ( 701233 )
            Look at paragraph two of your link to see why it is totally irrelevant and that almost nobody makes that assumption,
      • there is no proof that long-term exposure to low levels of radiation is dangerous.

        Unless you know differently (in which case, cite your sources), nobody lives any of their life in a zero radiation environment. The natural levels of radiation vary with, amongst other things, date (within the solar cycle), latitude (how close you are to the poles), altitude (how close you are to the top of the atmosphere), and ground geology. Lower-order influences include the food in your bely (see bananas up thread) and the

    • Solar, eh?

      Didn't Donald want to bring manufacturing home? Becoming the world's largest panel manufacturer to blanket *every* dwelling in the united states could be a job creation program.

    • "How do we know this radiation isn't actually good for you? I mean, the Sun's heat is radiation, right?"

      In the same way as we know that being extremely dumb does not harm you at all but it harms us, because idiots like you still may vote.

    • by ebvwfbw ( 864834 )

      Why the hell is this insightful? The man hasn't even taken office, and won't for over a month and here people are stuffing words into his mouth.

      Bad as CNN's fake news about Trump doing the apprentice.

    • by MercTech ( 46455 )

      If you don't go by regulatory requirements and go by studies in Health Physics, you find that an extra 300 milliRem of exposure a year is shown to have positive health benefits. The term to google is "radiation hormesis" if you want to get into the details.

      Please note: NONE of the regulatory limits on exposure to trained and informed workers nor the limits for exposure to the general public in any way consider hormesis in the design basis. The legal limits are based on the doctrine of Bergonie & Tribe

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Keep in mind that a banana has an activity of roughly 15 Bq...

  • Radation is deadly. Radiation reached Oregon. Therefor people in Oregon will die.

    Can't argue with that. Don't even try mentioning strange numbers, backgrounds etc. It is "Radiation". That is all we need to know. It only takes one unlucky photon to kill.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      did you forget the /s?

      Or are you serious and not know that a bannana is 50 times more radioactive than a cubic meter of that water?

    • It only takes one unlucky photon to kill.

      I thought that was true for cancer development. Of course, you need a lot of photons to get an unlucky one (normally)

  • by LynnwoodRooster ( 966895 ) on Friday December 09, 2016 @11:20PM (#53457335) Journal
    It's nothing. One cubic meter of seawater weighs about 1026 kg. The same mass of bananas would have about 133,400 bequerels of radiation. This is about 4.4 MILLION times higher than what is being discussed here. So - if you're worried about the Fukushima radiation in the water off Oregon's coast, you better steer clear of the banana pile at the local grocery because it will bathe you with orders of magnitude more radiation.
    • The scientific community has a problem with precise language here. The additional radiation is not 'harmless'; what is true is that the increase is insignificant compared with other risks. Unfortunately our society is deeply irrational about risks - with the result we spend silly amounts of money on preventing some risks, and far too little on others. In that context is it right to lie to people - by saying it's 'harmless' - or should be seek to be more precise? Remember that one of the reasons for Trump's

      • In that context is it right to lie to people - by saying it's 'harmless'

        Define harm. Then we can talk about whether people are being lied to.

        I'm willing to you bet you 3 fingers and my spare head that no one is being lied to at all. Now excuse me while I go eat a banana.

        • I get your point - but a lot of people who, for example, buy into anti-vax propaganda will miss the point. Admittedly compared with the crasser lies of the fake news surrounding the Trump fiasco, it's a minor detail. But we need to try and be totally clear of any criticism to avoid our credibility being challenged by such characters.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Waccoon ( 1186667 )

      Just playing devil's advocate here, but can the human body metastasize cesium as well as potassium?

      The real danger of radiation is not the dose you get from the environment, but the radioactive material getting inside you and staying there. You can hold an ingot of plutonium in your hand wearing little more than a nitrile glove, but don't dare breathe the dust.

      • by bidule ( 173941 )

        Just playing devil's advocate here, but can the human body metastasize cesium as well as potassium?

        You don't drink seawater.

      • Aye, this is a valid point that people here have overlooked or are blissfully unaware of. Perhaps drinking a bit of seawater tainted with ingredients from Fukushima may be orders of magnitude less harmful radiation-wise than eating a banana (when measured across, say, one day), but if the human body cannot excrete the ingredients, then the human body is up the creek without a paddle. Check out Section 1.4 in this write-up about the body's ability to process and excrete cesium: https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/p [cdc.gov]
        • There are about 15 becquerels per banana [wikipedia.org] - typically around 120 grams each. This study had 0.3 becquerels per cubic meter of seawater (about 1026 kg). So it would take 51,250 kg of seawater to get you to your banana dosage. A banana is 427,000 times more radioactive, by mass, than this seawater.

          Assume your sushi is dosed at the same density as this seawater. And assume the density of fish is about that of seawater (it's actually pretty close). To reach the dosage equivalent to a banana a day, you'd need

  • Stories like this always remind be about how good we are at detecting radioactivity then any real threat from the radiation itself. This detection represents something on the order of 1 billionth a gram of cesium per cubic meter of water.
  • by cirby ( 2599 ) on Saturday December 10, 2016 @01:00AM (#53457645)

    We've had warnings about "radiation reaching the west coast of the US" a few times already. We've seen similar stories in 2015 and 2014 (a couple of times in each year).

    In those, it was Cesium-137. Now, this group is all about Cesium-134, apparently because people didn't get upset enough about the Cesium-137.

    "Possible false positives" may be their excuse, but no, it's not the first time someone made the claim of radiation reaching the west coast.

    By the way: they weren't kidding about the amount being very small. It's 0.3 decays per cubic meter per second - which is a really, REALLY small number. The most amazing thing about the story is that we can manage to detect something that's so close to zero in real world terms. Three-tenths of a disintegration per second times (approximately) 30,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 molecules of water in a cubic meter of seawater...

    (Someone check my math on this: it's late, and I'm sleepy...)

  • For comparison (Score:5, Informative)

    by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Saturday December 10, 2016 @02:06AM (#53457773)
    1 Bq = 1 radioactive decay per second. It's a tiny, tiny amount. For further reference [lbl.gov]:
    • The amount of K40 and Rb87 in your body gives off about 4600 Bq.
    • The K40 (same radioactivity source as in bananas) dissolved in seawater gives off about 12 Bq/L, or about 12,000 Bq per cubic meter. (Cue the alarmists crying that the amount of K40 in your body is static and so we should subtract it. No, you don't subtract it, you divide by it. 0.3 Bq / 4600 = 0.006%. So it's increased the radiation your body normally withstands while staying hale and hearty by 0.006%)
    • The Rb87 dissolved in seawater gives off about 0.11 Bq/L, or about 110 Bq per cubic meter.
    • The U238 dissolved in seawater gives off about 0.04 Bq/L, or about 40 Bq per cubic meter.
    • Heck, the amount of Tritium in seawater gives off about 0.0006 Bq/L, or about 0.6 Bq per cubic meter.
    • A granite countertop gives off about 1000 Bq per kg.

    If 0.3 Bq / m^3 were dangerous, you'd be dead ten thousand times over just from the natural radioactivity in your own body, a hundred thousand times over from natural radiation from other sources. These measurements of residual radiation from Fukushima are a testament to how good our instruments are at detecting minute quantities of radiation. Not a sign that our oceans are dangerous.

  • What about all the cheese... Is the cheese okay?

    Please tell me the cheese is okay!

  • Just look at how nobody has died at the accident. Completely safe!

    • Yeah, nobody dies from radiation.

      But there's been an estimated 1600 deaths from the practical problems due to the evacuation, things like the hospital having to be shutdown.

  • Nuclear power is for sure very efficient if it is managed with wisdom and good planning. However, I still think that wind and solar energy are better for our environment. We should never forget the disasters that happened in Ukraine and Japan and how this affected our ecology. If the effect of Fukushima has reached US shores, there are no doubts that governments all around the world should pay more attention to alternative energy sources. I was once to Ukraine and had a trip to Chernobyl. I was very curio
    • by MercTech ( 46455 )

      Ecotest overcharges for their equipment. If you want a silicon dioxide gamma meter, FTLabs makes one that works as a smartphone attachment that is much much cheaper.

  • We have these giant lizards to fight off. Don't bother us with your silly radiation.

The wages of sin are high but you get your money's worth.

Working...