Fukushima Fallout

Cesium-137 deposition maps.Credit: <a href="http://www.pnas.org/content/108/49/19530.full">Teppei J. Yasunari, et al</a>, 'Cesium-137 deposition and contamination of Japanese soils due to the Fukushima nuclear accident,' PNAS. Click <a href="http://www.pnas.org/content/108/49/19530/F1.large.jpg">here</a> for larger image and detailed caption.

Fight disinformation. Get a daily recap of the facts that matter. Sign up for the free Mother Jones newsletter.


There’s been a flurry of troubling news from Fukushima’s crippled nuclear power plant. Here’s a recap:

  1. The Tokyo Electric Power Company estimates that of 45 tons of radioactive wastewater that leaked from the plant, some 40 gallons (150 liters)  leaked into the Pacific Ocean in recent days, reports the New Zealand Herald.

  2. The Japanese milk-powder company Meiji, whose factory lies within 200 miles (320 kilometers) of the Fukushima plant, recalled 400,000 cans of baby formula after discovering 30.8 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilo in the product, reports the BBC. This level is considered within the safety range, though infants and children are more susceptible than adults to lower levels of exposure, and eating radiation is worse than external exposure. Until now, Meiji had been checking waterborne but not airborne radioactivity levels near their factory, reports the New York Times—hence the “new” findings.

  3. A new paper (open access) in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) reports that two episodes of rain in the days following the disaster dispersed most of the radioactive iodine, tellurium, and cesium now found in Japan’s surface soils. The first rain on 15 March spread the contamination around Fukushima prefecture. The second rain on 21 March transported and deposited radiation on Ibaraki, Tochigi, Saitama, and Chiba prefectures, as well as in Tokyo.

  4. Another new paper (open access) in PNAS reports on the distribution of Cesium-137. With its half-life of 30.1 years—meaning it will lose only half its radioactivity in the next three decades—cesium-137 is the most dangerous of all fallout for livestock and hence human life in the area for decades to come. The researchers found Cesium-137 strongly contaminated soils in large areas of eastern and northeastern Japan, whereas western Japan was sheltered by its mountain ranges. Soils and ocean waters between 130–150 °E and 30–46 °N were estimated to contaminated by 5.6 and 1.0 petabecquerels, respectively.

  5. The Telegraph reports that Japan’s Environment Ministry has finally granted permission to animal welfare groups to enter the no-go zone around Fukushima and rescue abandoned cats, dogs, and other pets. Many are believed to have starved to death, though several hundred are thought to be alive and running wild. Only animals whose owners have requested rescue, and who can prove they can provide shelter, will be allowed a pick up. (Somehow I imagine the rescuers will find a kinder solution than that.)

 

HERE ARE THE FACTS:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

payment methods

ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate