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Monday, May 5, 2014
Alaska Radiation Increased from Fukushima the Same Amount as a Direct Nuclear Bomb Test on Alaska
–The Alaska nuclide test report Stock pointed out is very informative, and I urge people to read the whole thing, and to find out more about the monitoring that has been being done there since 1965. Amchitka was the site of several underground nuclear tests; the neighboring island of Adak is used as a “control” to which nuclide levels can be compared.
More info here:
Brief fact sheet:
The 2011 monitoring season came 3 months after the start of the Fukushima disaster. As the report notes (section 9.0):
“The results imply that Dolly Varden, rockweed, and to a lesser extent, Irish lord appear to contain a significant cesium isotope signature from Fukushima Dai-ichi. ……
… Observations of Fukushima-derived fallout impacting on this region are supported by findings of elevated levels of 134Cs (and 137Cs) in lichen and soil collected from both the Adak and Amchitka regions.”
So there’s no doubt that Fukushima nuclides made it to the Aleutians, and yes, they also made it to CA and elsewhere. The important question is “In what concentrations?” And, “How can we find out how much we got, and where it is?” The Amchitka tests focus on lichen because it’s one of the greatest biological concentrators of Cs. The levels in lichen are regularly hundreds or thousands of times higher than what’s found in the soil beneath them. Amazing creatures, and somewhat like mushrooms in this regard. In arctic regions, species like reindeer feed on the lichen, which contributes to high contamination levels in their flesh which persists for decades. It’s worth pointing out, however, that caribou in northern Canada, for instance, show eye-openingly high levels of internal contamination from natural radionuclides as well, particularly Po210, and people who have relied on them as a food source for centuries had high internal contamination themselves even before the nuclear era because of it.
They tested fish, seaweed, and other marine species caught off Amchitka and Adak for Cs137, Am241, U234, 235, and 238, and Pu239 and 240at the same time, and came up with less than 1 Bq/kg of Cs in the highest sample, which was mussels. Table 15 shows that samples from the Irish Sea are much higher, up to around 11 Bq/kg. All this is just for context
I agree that there are good reasons to do more monitoring right about now, and not wait until 2016. And no good reason not to do more testing in CA as well.
Anyway, we’ve established that Fukushima contamination was clearly detectable in Alaskan lichen in the sumer of 2011. But how did that compare to before the Fukushima disaster? A look at table 40 (it’s posted on the website Stock linked to) gives a very good idea:
In table 40: Cs137 in lichen
1970-71 Clam lake range 8000-27000 pCi/kg (300-1000 Bq/kg) (stock --after three massive atomic bombs were set off on the island)
1971-79 Clam lake range 1500-67000 pCi/kg (55-2479 Bq/kg) (stock --after the three atomic bombs were set off on this island, the radiation in lichens tripled after the first initial dosing, and then lasted for a decade)
1997 Amchitka range 64-74 pCi/kg (2.3-2.7 Bq/kg)
2011 Amchitka range 1890-7120 pCi/kg (70-263 Bq/kg) (stock--after Fukushima)
STOCK--So Fukushima, 2000 miles away caused a radiation level about 1/4 of what three direct atomic bombs would do at ground zero. Look at the blue highlights above. Think about that now.)
The point being that while Cs levels in 2011 had increased compared to 1997 due to Fukushima, they were still lower than anytime between 1970-79, due to nuclear testing. (Stock --due to direct bombing of the island the tests were conducted on, not at all a fair comparison!)
Stock Here-- This reviewer is kind of pretending that the high rates at Clam lake are due to overall world wide nuclear testing "fallout". Clam lake is in the Anchitka Island which was not receiving just worldwide nuclear fallout, but was the actual site of several direct nuclear bomb tests.
Here is some background
Amchitka Island sits at the midway point on the great arc of Alaska's Aleutian Islands, less than 900 miles across the Bering Sea from the coast of Russia. Amchitka, a spongy landscape of maritime tundra, is one of the most southerly of the Aleutians. The island's relatively temperate climate has made it one of the Arctic's most valuable bird sanctuaries, a critical staging ground for more than 100 migratory species, as well as home to walruses, sea otters and sea lions. Off the coast of Amchitka is a thriving fishery of salmon, pollock, haddock and halibut.
All of these values were recognized early on. In 1913, Amchitka was designated as a national wildlife refuge by President William Howard Taft. But these ecological wonders were swept aside in the early '60s when the Pentagon and the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) went on the lookout for a new place to blow up H-bombs. Thirty years ago, Amchitka was the site of three large underground nuclear tests, including the most powerful nuclear explosion ever detonated by the United States.
Back to the Review
And this is one of the points: outside of the most contaminated parts of Fukushima itself, the fallout from this disaster was much less than that from the nuclear testing period. (stock here---from the nuke testing of 3 bombs on one island, including the largest nuke bomb ever set off by the USA, and they are comparing that to contamination from the Fukushima over 2000 miles away--stock out) That doesn’t make it alright, and we’re not saying bomb test fallout was ok either. In fact as a society we’re still trying to understand what the health effects from testing were.
From our point of view, as a group of people very committed to characterizing and measuring the contamination in order to help people make well-informed decisions regarding their health and well-being, the more we understand about how this compares with past radioactive releases and their effects, the better our decisions and choices will be.
Posted by Stock at 10:42 PM