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Ocean radioactivity from Fukushima: largest release ever is ongoing, affecting seaweed and shellfish

October 8, 2011 at 12:42 pm By Roz Potter

From the NYT: Link

A private foundation funded this study, after governments refused.


Six months after the accident at Fukushima Daiichi, the news flow from the stricken nuclear power plant has slowed, but scientific studies of radioactive material in the ocean are just beginning to bear fruit.

The word from the land is bad enough. As my colleague Hiroko Tabuchi reported on Saturday, Japanese officials have detected elevated radiation levels in rice near the crippled reactors. Worrying radiation levels had already been detected in beef, milk, spinach and tea leaves, leading to recalls and bans on shipments.

Off the coast, the early results indicate that very large amounts of radioactive materials were released, and may still be leaking, and that rather than being spread through the whole ocean, currents are keeping a lot of the material concentrated.

Most of that contamination came from attempts to cool the reactors and spent fuel pools, which flushed material from the plant into the ocean, and from direct leaks from the damaged facilities.

The leakage very likely isn’t over, either. The Tokyo Electric Power Company, the operator of the plant, said Sept. 20 that it believed that something on the order of 200 to 500 tons a day of groundwater might still be pouring into the damaged reactor and turbine buildings.

Ken Buesseler, a scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, who in 1986 studied the effects of the Chernobyl disaster on the Black Sea, said the Fukushima disaster appeared to be by far the largest accidental release of radioactive material into the sea.

Chernobyl-induced radiation in the Black Sea peaked in 1986 at about 1,000 becquerels per cubic meter, he said in an interview at his office in Woods Hole, Mass. By contrast, the radiation level off the coast near the Fukushima Daiichi plant peaked at more than 100,000 becquerels per cubic meter in early April.

Before Fukushima, in 2010, the Japanese coast measured about 1.5 becquerel per cubic meter, he said.

Working with a team of scientists from other institutions, including the University of Tokyo and Columbia University, Mr. Buesseler’s Woods Hole group in June spent 15 days in the waters off northeast Japan, studying the levels and dispersion of radioactive substances there and the effect on marine life.

The project, financed primarily by the Moore Foundation after governments declined to participate, continued to receive samples from Japanese cruises into July.

While Mr. Buesseler declined to provide details of the findings before analysis is complete and published, he said the broad results were sobering.

“When we saw the numbers — hundreds of millions of becquerels — we knew this was the largest delivery of radiation into the ocean ever seen,’’ he said. ‘‘We still don’t know how much was released.’’


The international team also collected plankton samples and small fish for study. Mr. Buesseler said there were grounds for concern about bioaccumulation of radioactive isotopes in the food chain, particularly in seaweed and some shellfish close to the plants. A fuller understanding of the effect on fish that are commercially harvested will probably take several years of data following several feeding cycles, he said.

To read more… Link

Highly toxic plutonium and strontium detected in soil 45 and 79 km away from Fukushima nuclear complex

October 1, 2011 at 7:11 pm By Roz Potter

From The Mainichi Daily News:  Link


The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology announced on Sept. 30 that it had detected highly-toxic plutonium apparently from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power plant in soil at six locations including Iitate village in Fukushima Prefecture.

It is the first discovery of the highly-toxic radioactive substance outside the nuclear plant since the outbreak of the disaster in mid-March. The ministry also said radioactive strontium was detected in a wide swath of Fukushima Prefecture within a radius of 80 kilometers from the troubled nuclear power plant, underscoring the fact that the nuclear crisis has been affecting wide areas.

The ministry conducted inspections on soil at 100 locations within a radius of 80 kilometers from the crippled nuclear power plant in June and July. Plutonium-238, believed to have come from the crippled nuclear plant, was detected in six locations including Iitate, Futaba and Namie. Plutonium-239 and -240 were also detected in many locations, but the ministry said it was not clear whether they were directly linked to the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

According to the ministry, the levels of radiation in the plutonium detected fall below the levels of radiation in plutonium believed to have come from atmospheric nuclear tests conducted in the past. But because very little plutonium-238 had been detected before the outbreak of the nuclear crisis, the ministry concluded that it had come from the Fukushima nuclear power plant.


Meanwhile, the ministry said it had detected radioactive strontium-89 in nearly half of the locations inspected, including Shirakawa, about 79 kilometers from the nuclear plant. Because the half life of strontium-89 is only about 50 days, the ministry concluded that all the findings of the radioactive substance were linked to the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

Namie registered the highest level of radiation, with 22,000 becquerels per one square meter of soil. Noting differences in distribution between the plutonium and radioactive cesium from the Fukushima nuclear power plant, the ministry plans to carry out more inspections because strontium can easily builds up in bones.

Experts concerned about massive radiation leaks from Fukushima

September 20, 2011 at 12:53 pm By Roz Potter

From the Washington Blog:  Link


[A] study [by University of Texas engineering professor Steven Biegalski  and researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory] reports that more radioxenon was released from the Fukushima facilities than in the 1979 meltdown at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station in Pennsylvania and in the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster in the Ukraine.

“As the measurements came in sooner and at higher concentrations than we initially expected, we quickly came to the conclusion that there were some major core melts at those facilities,” Biegalski said. “I remember being in the lab thinking, ‘Wow, if this is all true we have a far more bigger accident than what we’re hearing right now.’”

The thought was confirmed by data collected by he and PNNL researchers. Their study reports that more radioxenon was released from the Fukushima facilities than in the 1979 meltdown at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station in Pennsylvania and in the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster in the Ukraine.

Biegalski said the reason for the large release in Fukushima, when compared to the others, is that there were three nuclear reactors at the Japan facilities rather than just one.


Nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen notes:

New TEPCO data measured on August 19 & 20 shows severe damage to the spent fuel in Fukushima Daiichi Units 1, 2, and 3…. This TEPCO data clearly contradicts and refutes the July assertion by the NRC the Fukushima Daiichi spent fuel pools were not damaged in this tragic accident.


The following was reported in an earlier post by Defying Disaster, see Link :

As a radiation meteorology and nuclear safety expert at Kyoto University’s Research Reactor Institute, Hiroaki Koide [says]:

The nuclear disaster is ongoing.

At present, I believe that there is a possibility that massive amounts of radioactive materials will be released into the environment again.

At the No. 1 reactor, there’s a chance that melted fuel has burned through the bottom of the pressure vessel, the containment vessel and the floor of the reactor building, and has sunk into the ground. From there, radioactive materials may be seeping into the ocean and groundwater.

Japan radiation expert says possibility that new “massive amounts of radioactive materials will be released into the environment again”

September 14, 2011 at 8:32 pm By Roz Potter

From the Mainichi Daily News,  Link

As a radiation metrology and nuclear safety expert at Kyoto University’s Research Reactor Institute, Hiroaki Koide has been critical of how the government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) have handled the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. Below, he shares what he thinks may happen in the coming weeks, months and years.

The nuclear disaster is ongoing. Immediately after the crisis first began to unfold, I thought that we’d see a definitive outcome within a week. However, with radioactive materials yet to be contained, we’ve remained in the unsettling state of not knowing how things are going to turn out.

Without accurate information about what’s happening inside the reactors, there’s a need to consider various scenarios. At present, I believe that there is a possibility that massive amounts of radioactive materials will be released into the environment again.

At the No. 1 reactor, there’s a chance that melted fuel has burned through the bottom of the pressure vessel, the containment vessel and the floor of the reactor building, and has sunk into the ground. From there, radioactive materials may be seeping into the ocean and groundwater.

The use of water to cool down the reactors immediately after the crisis first began resulted in 110,000 cubic meters of radiation-tainted water. Some of that water is probably leaking through the cracks in the concrete reactor buildings produced by the March 11 quake. Contaminated water was found flowing through cracks near an intake canal, but I think that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

I believe that contaminated water is still leaking underground, where we can’t see it. Because of this, I believe immediate action must be taken to build underground water barriers that would close off the nuclear power plant to the outside world and prevent radioactive materials from spreading. The important thing is to stop any further diffusion of radioactive materials.

The government and plant operator TEPCO are trumpeting the operation of the circulation cooling system, as if it marks a successful resolution to the disaster. However, radiation continues to leak from the reactors. The longer the circulation cooling system keeps running, the more radioactive waste it will accumulate. It isn’t really leading us in the direction we need to go.

34 points near Fukushima plant exceed radiation standard used for Chernobyl, map shows

August 30, 2011 at 8:42 am By Roz Potter

From the Mainichi News:  Link


A government map of soil radiation levels mainly within a 100-kilometer radius of the disaster-hit Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant shows 34 locations with levels of cesium-137 exceeding 1.48 million becquerels per square meter, the level that was used for determining bans on living near the Chernobyl plant.

The map was released on Aug. 29 by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT). Cesium-137 has a half-life of around 30 years. The greatest concentration was found in the town of Okuma, which holds part of the plant, at 15.45 million becquerels per square meter. The six municipalities with levels over the Chernobyl level are Okuma, Minamisoma, Tomioka, Futaba, Namie, and Iitate.

The distribution of cesium in the soil across the 100-kilometer radius zone was very close to that calculated from air samples taken in the same areas.

Radioactivity at Fukushima spikes to highest ever recorded!

August 1, 2011 at 9:31 pm By Roz Potter

From NHK World news:  Link


The operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant says it has detected 10,000 millisieverts of radioactivity per hour at the plant. The level is the highest detected there since the nuclear accident in March.

Workers of Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, on Monday measured the extremely high level of radioactivity near pipes at the bottom of a duct between the No.1 and neighboring No.2 reactor buildings.

According to the science ministry’s brochure, if a human received 10,000 millisieverts, they would likely die within a week or two.

TEPCO has restricted access to the site and the surrounding area.

Cancer from radiation develops at lower doses than government-stated safe exposure limit

July 28, 2011 at 10:12 pm By Roz Potter

From the Mainichi Daily News, Japan,  Link


Of 10 nuclear power plant workers who have developed cancer and received workers’ compensation in the past, nine had been exposed to less than 100 millisieverts of radiation, it has been learned.

The revelation comes amid reports that a number of workers battling the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant were found to have been exposed to more than the emergency limit of 250 millisieverts, which was raised from the previous limit of 100 millisieverts in March.

According to Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry statistics, of the 10 nuclear power plant workers, six had leukemia, two multiple myeloma and another two lymphatic malignancy. Only one had been exposed to 129.8 millisieverts but the remaining nine were less than 100 millisieverts, including one who had been exposed to about 5 millisieverts.

To read more,  Link.

More radioactive cesium contamination of Japan’s food supply

July 24, 2011 at 9:24 pm By Roz Potter

From Bloomberg News: Link


More than 2,600 cattle have been contaminated, Kyodo News reported July 23, after the Miyagi prefectural government said 1,183 cattle at 58 farms were fed the tainted hay before being shipped to meat markets.

Coming after the government banned cattle shipments from Fukushima on July 19, the latest discoveries signal efforts so far haven’t been sufficient to protect Japan’s food chain.


No Testing System

Japan has no centralized system to check for radiation contamination of food. Prefectural authorities in cooperation with local farmers conduct voluntary tests. Products including spinach, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, tea, milk, plums and fish have been found contaminated with cesium and iodine as far as 360 kilometers from Dai-Ichi.


Prolonged exposure to radiation in the air, ground and food can cause leukemia and other cancers, according to the London- based World Nuclear Association.

A growing concern is that the release of radiation into waters near the Fukushima plant may multiply through the seafood chain.

Levels of cesium-134 in seawater near the Fukushima plant’s No. 3 reactor rose to levels 30 times the allowed safety standards last week, according to tests performed by Tokyo Electric Power Co, national broadcaster NHK reported.

Union of Concerned Scientists: What happened at Fukushima – can it happen here?

July 18, 2011 at 6:41 pm By Roz Potter

A video presentation by David Lochbaum the Union of Concerned Scientists and Arnie Gunderson, of Fairwinds Association.  Both are nuclear scientists.  Link

They walk, step-by-step, through the events of the Japanese meltdowns and consider how the knowledge gained from Fukushima applies to the nuclear industry worldwide. They discuss “points of vulnerability” in American plants, some of which have been unaddressed by the NRC for three decades. Finally, they concluded that an accident with the consequences of Fukushima could happen in the US.

This is an illuminating and fascinating presentation that becomes more interesting as it progresses. Don’t miss the slow-motion video of the hydrogen explosion.

Beef contaminated with radioactive cesium enters Japan’s food supply

July 18, 2011 at 5:40 pm By Roz Potter

From the Daily Yomiuri, Japan Link


Officials of the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry have admitted they did not consider the possibility of cattle ingesting straw contaminated by radioactive substances emitted from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

“This is nothing less than a colossal blunder by our ministry. It was beyond our expectations that straw would become a source of radioactive contamination,” a ministry official said.

A total of 143 beef cattle suspected of being contaminated with radioactive cesium after ingesting straw that was stored outdoors have been shipped from Fukushima Prefecture and distributed to wholesalers, retailers and consumers in various prefectures.

Editor’s note: The importance of this contamination source should not be underestimated.  Beef is just one food source. The amount and variety of  foods and drinks potentially contaminated by radioactivity could add up to a large amount of internal radiation exposure over time, as an unsuspecting public ingests a variety of foods and drinks contaminated by radioactivity.

Food supply contamination from radiation: radioactive cesium found in green tea 355 km (220 miles) from Fukushima

June 12, 2011 at 4:43 pm By Roz Potter

From the Wall Street Journal:  Link , and a earlier related article in the UK Telegraph:  Link


TOKYO—Japan’s recent discovery of tea leaves contaminated with radioactive material far from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has cast a spotlight on how the country tests for fallout from the accident—and has sparked a backlash from local officials and tea growers who say too-rigid scrutiny could unnecessarily harm sales of the iconic product.

The controversy erupted last week when Shizuoka prefecture, which produces more than 40% of the green tea consumed in Japan, announced that a sample of dry tea leaves from a producer about 355 kilometers from the nuclear plant contained 679 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram. That level exceed the maximum allowable amount of 500 becquerels set just this month by the government.

The prefecture requested the leaves’ producer halt shipments and is now testing other samples from the same area.

The announcement follows concerns since the March 11 accident about contamination to other staples of the Japanese diet, from the prospect of fish poisoned by the heavy amounts of radioactive material dumped into the sea off the country’s northeastern coast, to produce laced with radioactive material in one of the nation’s historic farming areas.

The reports of tea contamination so far from the nuclear plant have sparked worries over the seemingly broadening scope of contamination three months after the accident. But it also fueled an argument from the tea-growing region and opposition lawmakers in the national parliament over whether Japan’s testing is giving consumers an unnecessarily escalated sense of danger.

To read more…  Link

Widespread radioactive strontium contamination around Fukushima

June 9, 2011 at 12:29 pm By Roz Potter

From a June 9, 2011 NHK World report, which includes a video,  Link

From Mainichi News, Link

Also see my April 12, 2011 post on radioactive Strontium that was found 90 km from Fukushima at that time, Link

Strontium-90 is generated during the fission of uranium in fuel rods in reactors.

With a comparatively long half-life of 29 years, the radioactive substance poses a risk of accumulating in the bones if inhaled, because its properties are similar to those of calcium. If this happens, it could cause cancer.

The ministry says the survey revealed that strontium was detected even in the city of Fukushima about 60 kilometers from the plant, suggesting wide-spread contamination.

It says higher doses of strontium were spread northwestward from the plant, along with other radioactive substances, because of the prevailing winds.

The Nuclear Safety Commission says the detected doses of strontium were minimal, compared with those of cesium found in the region. It says the substance does not pose any immediate health threat.

Doctor Osamu Saito is a radiation expert at a hospital in Fukushima City. He says even though only small quantities of strontium-90 were detected in the survey, it still poses a high health risk because it can accumulate in the bones.

He is urging the government to increase the number of observation points throughout the prefecture, so as to help ease public anxiety.

The ministry says it is considering taking samples from additional locations in the next survey.

Japanese authorities: 3 Fukushima reactors likely had melt-through – more serious than meltdown

June 8, 2011 at 10:06 am By Roz Potter

From the UK’s Guardian,  Link


Molten nuclear fuel in three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant is likely to have burned through pressure vessels, not just the cores, Japan has said in a report in which it also acknowledges it was unprepared for an accident of the severity of Fukushima.

It is the first time Japanese authorities have admitted the possibility that the fuel suffered “melt-through” – a more serious scenario than a core meltdown.

The report, which is to be submitted to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said fuel rods in reactors No 1, 2 and 3 had probably not only melted, but also breached their inner containment vessels and accumulated in the outer steel containment vessels.


The report comes a day after Japan’s nuclear safety agency said the amount of radiation that leaked from Fukushima Daiichi in the first week of the accident may have been more than double that initially estimated by Tepco.

Fukushima dai-ichi reactors, containment vessels and radioactive water storage tanks all leaking radioactivity into the Pacific

May 26, 2011 at 6:41 pm By Roz Potter

From the blog of the online version of the esteemed journal Nature:  Link

Fukushima nuclear plant is leaking like a sieve - May 26, 2011

As more details leak out about the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, it’s become clear that something else is leaking—radioactive water from the cores of three damaged reactors.

Leaks have been a persistent problem at the plant since it was struck by an earthquake and tsunami on 11 March. Three reactors operating at the time of the quake went into meltdown after the tsunami wiped out emergency generators designed to circulate water through the cores. TEPCO recently admitted that all three units probably suffered complete meltdowns before workers could flood them with seawater.

Since then, reactor operators have kept water flowing to the cores and several fuel storage pools above the reactors. That same water appears to be flowing out into the basements of buildings and eventually the Pacific Ocean, where environmentalists and scientists have raised concerns about possible contamination.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), which runs the plant, hoped to rectify the problem by pumping water into storage tanks until it can be reprocessed, but today Reuters reports that the storage tanks appear to be leaking.

And that’s just the start of the bad news because the reactors themselves appear to be leaking as well. TEPCO initially hoped that the leaks were largely coming from pipes that could be repaired, but they now concede that both the reactors’ pressure vessels and primary containment vessels, which are designed to contain an accident, are probably leaking water.

The leaks will probably force TEPCO to abandon its plans to set up a recirculation system that can cool the reactor cores. That’s a serious blow to efforts to bring the reactors to a safe temperature within months.

To read on,  Link

Meltdowns at Fukushima Units 1,2 & 3 add significantly to total radiation released

May 24, 2011 at 10:48 am By Roz Potter

From the Union of Concerned Scientists, Link


The melting fuel was released into the primary containment vessel. The molten fuel reacts with the concrete floor of the containment, creating additional radioactive gases. These are released into the atmosphere through a leak in the containments (editor: leaks have been admitted by TEPCO, the plant owners). This adds significantly to the total radiation released by the accident. (emphasis added)

Nuclear meltdown confirmed at Fukushima reactor #1 – also now presumed at #2 and #3

May 17, 2011 at 8:31 pm By Roz Potter

Fukushima reactor #1 meltdown, Excerpt from a UK Telegraph article:

Engineers from the Tokyo Electric Power company (Tepco) entered the No.1 reactor at the end of last week for the first time and saw the top five feet or so of the core’s 13ft-long fuel rods had been exposed to the air and melted down.

To read on, Link

Fukushima reactors #2 and #3 meltdowns, Excerpts from Asahi in Japan:

Data shows meltdowns occurred at the No. 2 and No. 3 reactors of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, creating huge problems for the plant operator that had presented a more optimistic scenario.

And like the No. 1 reactor, the melted fuel appears to have created holes in the pressure vessel of the No. 3 reactor, according to the data of Tokyo Electric Power Co. released May 16.

Goshi Hosono, special adviser to Prime Minister Naoto Kan, acknowledged the likelihood of meltdowns at the No. 2 and No. 3 reactors.

“We have to assume that meltdowns have taken place,” Hosono said at a news conference May 16.

To read on, Link

From a Bloomberg article:

Holes have been found in the base of the pressure vessel, and most of the fuel has likely melted, Kyodo News reported yesterday, citing the utility. It’s possible the fuel has leaked into the containment vessel, which was damaged in the explosion, according to the report.

To read on, Link

NRC: Serious disaster plan problems at US Nuclear plants

May 17, 2011 at 6:47 pm By Roz Potter

From the NYT. Excerpt:

Despite repeated assurances that American nuclear plants are better equipped to deal with natural disasters than their counterparts in Japan, regulators said Thursday that recent inspections had found serious problems with some emergency equipment that would have made it unusable in an accident.

…inspectors checked a sample of equipment at all 104 reactors and found problems at less than a third of them. The problems included pumps that would not start or, if they did, did not put out the required amount of water; equipment that was supposed to be set aside for emergencies but was being used in other parts of the plants; emergency equipment that would be needed in case of flood stored in places that could be flooded; and insufficient diesel on hand to run backup systems.

Editor’s note:  Serious problems were found at “less than a third of the inspected plants”?  Thirty three percent is a very high proportion of deficiencies that in an emergency, could  lead to a meltdown of nuclear fuel with serious exposure to high levels of radiation to those in the fallout’s path.

Read on,  Link

There is no safe exposure to radiation: Bulletin of Atomic Scientists

May 2, 2011 at 7:11 pm By Roz Potter

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists was established in 1945 by scientists, engineers, and other experts who had created the atomic bomb as part of the Manhattan Project. They knew about the horrible effects of these new weapons and devoted themselves to warning the public about the consequences of using them.

An article written 4/26/11 by Dr. Jeffrey Patterson provides a novel viewpoint from which to evaluate the ongoing debate about the effects of Fukushima.  That “radiation released by the mining and processing of nuclear fuel, the testing and use of nuclear weapons, and the “controlled and catastrophic releases of long-lived radionuclides by the nuclear power industry”"  is quite a different issue than exposures from background sources from the universe, the sun, the earth, and radio, television, small appliances and other background sources.

This is “because the effects of these releases will continue for many years but will likely remain hidden or unknown”.

Meanwhile, “an unsuspecting and unknowing public is being randomly exposed to radiation without any opportunity for informed consent. People can choose whether or not to have x-rays, to reduce the radon exposure in their homes, or to fly. However, the public has no choice, and certainly inadequate knowledge, about radiation exposure from nuclear power and nuclear weapons.

The real issue is that the use of nuclear power and nuclear weapons is forcing humankind, and indeed the whole ecosystem, to participate in a particularly cruel and totally uncontrolled experiment. Given the scientific evidence that there is no safe dose of radiation, this is an experiment that has already gone awry. Indeed, if this were a true scientific experiment, it would have been halted a long time ago.”

Link. More excerpts follow:

There are some basic principles to consider when the impacts of radiation exposure are evaluated. First, there is no “safe” or non–harmful level of radiation.

Second, we are all exposed to radiation: background radiation emitted by natural sources, with which we evolved; and medical radiation, which may be necessary and life-saving as decided and controlled by the patient and physician.

Finally, there is another form of exposure that has been thrust upon the world since the advent of the nuclear age: radiation released by the mining and processing of nuclear fuel, the testing and use of nuclear weapons, and the “controlled” and catastrophic releases of long-lived radionuclides by the nuclear power industry.

This is quite a different issue, because the effects of these releases will continue for many years but will likely remain hidden or unknown.

Fish anyone? Farallon Islands (and other) oceanic radioactive waste dumps

April 21, 2011 at 2:23 pm By Roz Potter

Farallon Islands Radioactive Waste Dump. Source: USGS

Long before Fukushima dumped millions of gallons of highly radioactive water into the sea, the oceans have been designated repositories for radioactive waste and fallout according to reports from the USGS and articles in the SF Weekly and Mother Jones.

Radioactive pollution sources include fallout from nuclear bomb tests, sunken nuclear-powered submarines,  radioactive waste from the Naval Radiological Defense Laboratory at Hunters Point Shipyard, sea burials for the USS Independence and other ships contaminated by radiological tests or fallout, fallen navigation satellites with radioactive generators aboard, and accidents and chronic emissions from nuclear reprocessing and power plants.

These as yet untallied radiation emitters should be added, along with oil leaks from uncapped wells and other sources, to the long official list of “background” radiation sources, so that the true, consequential total can be calculated. The following is from the USGSSF Weekly, and Mother Jones Magazine.


First, the USGS:

Between 1946 and 1970, approximately 47,800 large barrels and other containers of radioactive waste were dumped in the ocean west of San Francisco. The containers were to be dumped at three designated sites, but they a litter sea floor area of at least 1,400 km2 known as the Farallon Island Radioactive Waste Dump.

The exact location of the containers and the potential hazard the containers pose to the environment are unknown.

From a SF Weekly article, May 9, 2001

Newly released documents indicate the Navy dumped far more nuclear waste than it’s ever acknowledged in a major commercial fishery just 30 miles west of San Francisco. Why won’t the government even study the Farallon Islands Nuclear Waste Site?

The routine was always the same: Barrels were collected on the barge until it was full, and then it sailed out the Golden Gate and dropped its load into the sea. On a few occasions, Gessleman remembers, a representative from the Atomic Energy Commission came on board the ship and told the captain that measurements showed the radiation levels were too high, and the ship should be cleaned up before the next load.

Another part of Gessleman’s job was to shoot holes in the barrels that didn’t immediately sink, so that they would.


The Navy’s own documents, declassified at the request of SF Weekly, show that significant amounts of the nuclear bomb component plutonium, which has a half-life of 24,000 years, and similarly long-lived “mixed fission” products were used at the nuclear laboratory at Hunters Point. The Navy has asserted that all nuclear materials used at the NRDL were subsequently disposed of at the Farallon waste site.

From Mother Jones

5) Ocean dumps:
  • Dump sites for radioactive waste were created in the northeast Atlantic (1 site), off Europe (3), off the US eastern seaboard (1), and off the US Pacific coast (1).
  • Between 1946 and 1970, the US dumped ~107,000 drums of radioactive wastes at its two sites, including some 47,800 in the ocean west of San Francisco, supposedly at three designated sites. However drums actually litter an area of at least 1,400 square kilometers/540 square miles, known as the Farallon Island Radioactive Waste Dump, which now falls almost entirely within the boundaries of the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. The exact location of most drums is unknown. At least some are corroding.

A drum of radioactive waste dumped off San Francisco. Credit: USGS.A drum of radioactive waste dumped off San Francisco. Credit: USGS.

A 1996 paper in Health Physics described some of the radionuclides found in the tissues of deep-sea bottom-feeding fishes—Dover sole, sablefish, and thornyheads—plus intertidal mussels in the waters around the Farallon Islands:
Concentrations of both [plutonium-238] and [Americium-241] in fish tissues were notably higher than those reported in literature from any other sites world-wide, including potentially contaminated sites. These results show approximately 10 times higher concentrations of [plutonium-238+240] and approximately 40-50 times higher concentrations of [plutonium-238] than those values reported for identical fish species from 1977 collections at the [Farallon Islands Nuclear Waste Dump Site].

FDA refuses to test fish for radioactivity

April 19, 2011 at 10:38 pm By Roz Potter

From Washington’s blog  Link

Hmmmmm. Can the FDA say there is no radioactivity in fish, if  fish are not being tested for radioactivity? Apparently so. Read on.


The FDA says it won’t monitor radiation in fish on the West Coast of the U.S. As the Anchorage Daily News notes:

North Pacific fish are so unlikely to be contaminated by radioactive material from the crippled nuclear plant in Japan that there’s no reason to test them, state and federal officials said this week.


DeLancey, the FDA spokeswoman, said “We have not been doing any testing. We’ve been working with NOAA to keep an eye on U.S. waters, to see if there is any cause for alarm, and we do have the capability to begin testing if that does occur.”


As the Wall Street Journal notes:

U.S. public-health officials sought Tuesday to reassure consumers about the safety of food in the U.S., including seafood, amid news that fish contaminated with unusually high levels of radioactive materials had been caught in waters 50 miles from the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan.

No contaminated fish have turned up in the U.S., or in U.S. waters, according to experts from the Food and Drug Administration [which isn't testing].


They also dismissed concerns that eating fish contaminated at the levels seen so far in Japan would pose such a risk. [Alexander Higgins points out that Japanese fish exceed federal radiation limits by 2400%]

Thomas Frieden, head of the CDC in Atlanta, said he expected continued detection of low levels of radioactive elements in the water, air and food in the U.S. in coming days, but that readings at those levels “do not indicate any level of public health concern.”

Is this yet another example of the government responding to the nuclear accident by trying to raise acceptable radiation levels and pretending that radiation is good for us?

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