Skip to main content

In response to public concerns about the Pacific plumes of contaminated water coming from Fukushima's destroyed Daiichi nuclear reservation, researchers from UC Berkeley, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Cal Tech have launched a project dubbed "Kelp Watch 2014". The project includes 19 academic and governmental institutions plus three "organizations/businesses" according to the LBL newscenter. The LBL newscenter press release, the Los Angeles Times article on the project, but searches on the LBL site proved fruitless for determining who those three "organizations/businesses" might be.

The project will monitor the kelp forests off the California coast for contamination, for the stated purpose of easing public concerns about the situation. For instance, the LA Times article starts out with the preconceived conclusion, as if it weren't obvious...

Experts have been trying to dispel worries stemming from a burst of online videos and blog posts in recent months that contend radiation from Fukushima is contaminating beaches and seafood and harming sea creatures across the Pacific.

Those assertions are false and the concerns largely unfounded, scientists and government officials said last week, because Fukushima radionuclides in ocean water and marine life are at trace levels and declining - so low that they are trivial compared with what already exists in nature.

[all bolded emphasis mine, throughout]

We are familiar with the campaign to ease public concerns about ongoing contamination of the Pacific launched this past year by oceanographers who took some samples in the Pacific in 2011 and again in 2012. This new phase of that campaign is specific to waters off the California coast and focuses on those important kelp beds rather than fish. The contaminated ocean currents from Fukushima are scheduled to reach the coast in the next couple of months.

In the months after the disaster, iodine-131 from atmospheric fallout in the plumes generated by the exploded reactor buildings at Daiichi contaminated California kelp to the level of 40 million Bq/m^3 just in tissues at the canopy level. The iodine is long decayed away now, but cesium levels have not 'gone away' even as the 134 isotope has undergone 1.5 half-lives. Ocean dumping of radionuclides from Fukushima has not diminished, but rather increased steadily since March of 2011. Beta contamination of groundwater from wells between the plants and ocean is rising rapidly since last summer, and TEPCO is now mentioning the subject of strontium in their data reports.

So far in the studies and data publicly reported, only iodine and/or cesium has been tested for. The lab claims this time it plans to produce "detailed radionuclide analysis" that will be made available to the public. Whether or not this includes the increasing strontium component is still an open question. We shall see. At any rate, the Berkeley Lab makes no bones about the purpose of this and all other sponsored research projects concerning Fukushima contamination by citing researchers over and over again delivering the already agreed-upon framing -

"Making our results available is a critical aspect of our work as it allows us to address concerns about Fukushima radiation levels and to explain the meaning and potential impact of these levels," he added, "particularly in the context of the natural radiation background we are exposed to in our daily lives."
What I bolded immediately above as to this "critical aspect" of the project coincides with the Fisher lab's focus in the contaminated tuna study - to compare dangerous radionuclides from Fukushima to 'natural' background, medical x-rays, and K40 in bananas. Which is deliberately deceptive. You can limit your exposure to medical x-rays, and the 0.012% ratio of radioactive K40 in natural potassium never changes no matter how many bananas or potatoes you eat. Any potassium-rich food contaminated with cesium - a potassium mimic - delivers that much EXTRA internal dose. Any gamma exposure absorbed from bomb/reactor sources is in addition to  gamma exposures from 'natural' or medical sources.

Radiation exposures are cumulative. Background plus nuke dumping is NOT the same as background alone, and cannot validly be written off by such comparison - it can only be compared. So when they tell you your dose from Fukushima cesium in, say, tuna is "less than" your dose of polonium-210 in that same tuna, what they're really saying is that your dose from eating that tuna has increased by your dose from Fukushima cesium. And they didn't bother to check for strontium, which bioaccumulates even more easily and permanently. Risks for health effects rise accordingly. And according to the EPA and NRC, there is no radiation dose level below which no biological damage is done. That's the Linear No Threshold [LNT] model.

We can hope the researchers involved in this testing will be more honest than TEPCO and the Japanese government and other 'authorities' have been about actual levels of contamination, and that they will include levels of all radionuclides from Fukushima that are of concern for ocean life and food chains. What we do not need to do is buy the banana bullshit designed to deceive us about what those levels mean. The levels are likely to be quite low - of no "immediate" health effects concern, but chronic low-level exposures add up over time - that's what "cumulative" means.

Those concerned should also bear in mind that the waterborne releases of radionuclides from Fukushima are ongoing 24-7 and increasing in severity of radionuclide presence. TEPCO's figure of ~400 tons of contaminated water per day going out is likely falsely low, but it is a figure establishing that there's crap coming out in huge amounts and not diminishing. Hence we can also hope that researchers will continue to monitor the contamination regularly in the future, not just take a few isolated samples and declare it over and done with (as those oceanographers have done). The U.S. government response to the disaster was to raise the limit for radionuclide contaminates in food to 1200 Bq/kg and declare the problem non-existent, so don't look for any help there.

We're on our own in this, the best we can hope for is data that hasn't been deliberately falsified. If you are concerned, make your choices accordingly as to what precautions you are willing to take. It is very much possible to limit your dose, but it takes some effort and ability to parse the data you can get hold of. This diary is a heads-up that there will soon be more data available. How comprehensive and reliable it will be, given the pre-conceived conclusions, is anybody's guess. So keep your salt lick handy!

Update On USS Reagan Group Sailors

Navy Times: Lawmakers seek data on sailors' exposure to Fukushima radiation

House and Senate, they want details from the DoD. Pertinent quote from [apologist] Dr. Robert Peter Gale -

"...It's very unlikely that the Department of Defense would not have precise data on this."
Well, duh. That's precisely what they're demanding DoD turn loose of. With the FOIA documents from NRC publicly available, they'd have a very hard time claiming they didn't monitor the damned plume. From right in the thick of it. Next maybe he'll tell us why the officers and flight crews got potassium iodide pre-deployment but the crews did not...

Originally posted to Joieau on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 01:08 PM PST.

Also republished by California politics.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  In the first waves (31+ / 0-)

    of the ocean currents from Fukushima, cesium 134 and 137 will present the highest profile at this point in the forever timeline Fukushima represents. But strontium will be there too, and increase over time. I wonder if there's a way to encourage these researchers to include strontium in their monitored isotopes, and report levels regularly...

  •  Thanks for staying on this. It's mostly (15+ / 0-)

    a thankless task...

    I want to live in a world where George Zimmerman offered Trayvon Martin a ride home to get him out of the rain that night. -Bishop G. Brewer

    by the dogs sockpuppet on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 01:17:19 PM PST

  •  i'm just glad someone's monitoring it (12+ / 0-)

    i hope there's a meticulous study being done of pacific seafood as well, and another one done on flotsam and jetsam on the pacific coast of the pac NW, as the tohoku earthquake debris starts to show up. probably not a bad idea to check out the north pacific garbage gyre as well, i'll bet it'll end up with a fair amount of potentially radioactive debris as well.

    what we need, more than anything, is good scientific research on this stuff, monitoring in real time, without  censoring results. i hate being caught between nuclear industry PR and worried laymen passing rumors on the internet (a group i do not consider you to be, BTW).

  •  I think the limit for seaweed (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Joieau, randallt, WakeUpNeo, BusyinCA

    is not in the right units, the link you shared was in grams of dry weight.  the 2,500 Bq/Kg in the abstract of the paper you linked is 20% higher than the consumption limits for vegetables, though the study used dry weight, so its hard to tell just how much kelp that would be.  

    Certainly at least 50% of kelp by weight is water.

    You are right about the cumulative dose, but there are time limits associated with exposure to contamination since the body removes the contamination over time.  

    Still, that is a good link, I am very surprised at the results.  It would seem that land-based contamination in California or Oregon would be much higher than the kelp under water. . .

    •  Units get switched (4+ / 0-)

      seemingly at will per the various sources, so I hear you on that. I questioned the meters-cubed versus per kilogram, given how the samples are processed (as ash). Just gave what the source gave.

      There's quite a lot of confusion being tossed by mixing weights and measures. I read a sci-fi short story in Asimov's mag mucho years ago, about someone who had launched a steady alteration of 'standard' weights and measures on purpose, that after a couple of centuries ended up causing great havoc as buildings and bridges and stuff collapsed for no apparent reason... §;o)

  •  USS Reagan to relocate to Japan (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Joieau, Jim P, WakeUpNeo

    I'm a Vietnam Era vet. I'm also an Erma Bombeck Era vet. When cussing me out and calling me names please indicate which vet you would like to respond to your world changing thoughts.

    by Just Bob on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 01:44:54 PM PST

  •  Well (8+ / 0-)

    BP ruined Gulf seafood for me, and Fukushima ruined the Pacific.  Pretty much only the Atlantic left.

  •  A note on averages, & projecting from samples (12+ / 0-)

    Japan's Fisheries Research Agency reported a few days ago having caught A fish with 124 times the safety standards for foodstuffs. Another two were caught at 4x and twice that level.

    But these 3 were from a group of 37 fish, the other 34 being found below that 'safe' level. That's 1 of 12, about 8%.

    Any sports fan knows that averages can't tell you what will happen in any particular case. A baseball player who gets 3 hits in every 10 chances to hit ('at-bats'), a '.300 average hitter' can play a season where they don't get a hit in 30 or 40 consecutive at-bats, or get 10 hits in 15 chances.

    It's good to keep averages in perspective.

    Moreover: There are people here who remember that DDT, Asbestos, Tobacco, Vioxx, Agent Orange, were all claimed to not have a likelihood of damaging health. There were charts and graphs and studies (with biases) proving the case. But, as we know, the 'proof' was nonsense. One has to remember that there's Science and then there's $cience, and the latter is very malleable.

    While reading reports, it is also worthwhile to keep in mind that cancer is not the sole health threat from radiation, it being just one of many.

    Actual Democrats: the surest, quickest, route to More Democrats. And actually addressing our various emergencies.

    by Jim P on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 02:32:20 PM PST

    •  You are so right, Jim. (8+ / 0-)

      When I was a kid we used to run behind the DDT sprayer-Jeep slowly going through the neighborhood. Such lovely thick fog! Some of us survived. I remember when some sleezy toxic waste outfit sprayed dioxin in some kind of trash oil on dirt roads in/around Times Beach, MO. And I remember TMI2.

      There's a mindset here, and across a bunch of other industries that produce deadly products (real or waste). We used to joke at TMI2 about the notorious "lost waste tanker" and the 'Joisey Pine Barrens gangs... Nukes are just one of 'em, but their waste is among the most hazardous over time.

  •  A wall needs to be built around the plant. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    For the sake of argument, let us assume that a complete wall is not feasible.  

    Wouldn't a partial wall reduce contaminants leaving the stricken plants?

    •  It's in the ground water table now. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      No containment is feasible.

      Two reactor cores went China syndrome, and no one reports it. The corium will remain hot for how long? And continue to release radio-nucleotides for how long? How much is too much?

      And where does the ground water table exit to? The Pacific ocean. It doesn't just disappear. And WTF is Tepco and the government of Japan doing about it? Not enough from what I read in the corporate controlled press.

      Fukushima is the gift that will keep on giving, long after we are all dead. I apologize to my descendants, if any survive.

      And, bonus round, for those of you at home keeping score. Fukushima has more dangerous radioactive material in its 3 story high containment pools than 20 Chernobyls, that has yet to be removed from harms way. Yippee! Light up a stogie and watch this fail safe dance. If they manage to screw that up, the entire northern hemisphere will be lit up for eons.

      Welcome to the machine.

      I feel so much safer, now that we have a kelp watch.

      •  Only two cores? I'd think (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        3rock, Creosote

        all three are in the groundwater and have been since March of 2011. Well, some of unit-3's MOX [plutonium] core is scattered about the region and planet, but most is underground. Given that no water reached the RPVs until September of 2011, as TEPCO 'revealed' a few weeks ago. Whether that's in the basements or under the base mats in the mudrock is irrelevant, a groundwater 'river' runs through both and exits to the sea.

        This diary is just about what 'our' university wigs are planning to do about the fact that their recent campaign to dismiss contamination of the Pacific food chains was less of a hit than they'd hoped. Maybe Buesseler and Company finally figured out that if they assure everybody there's nothing to keep track of, they won't get any grant money to keep on keeping track. Now everybody wants in on the act, all very carefully assuring the public before they start that they will find there's...

        "No Danger To The General Public."

        Because that's required in All Things Nuclear.

        So. Good on them, keep watching the heck outta those tricksy kelps. We'll check back in a few years if we ever want the data for some compilation or something. Or not. We already know the results, as we've already been told clearly what they are...

        "No Danger To The General Public."

  •  Additive (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Election Diary Rescue, Joieau, chmood

    thanks for pointing out that radioactive pollution affects people in addition to natural radioactivity. That's obvious, but industry spin tries to frame it almost as if natural radiation cancelled out man-made contamination. It is wrong to exaggerate the risk, frightening people and losing credibility in the long run.
    But all the big money is on minimizing nuclear risk, and none but independent citizen scientists are willing to really look at the crisis.

  •  Interestingly encouraging (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Joieau, Creosote

      Coastal and Marine Institute, San Diego State University has signed on, others to follow.
       Scripps Institution of Oceanography, is affiliated, SDSU, not singed on as yet I could tell. Not known for fireworks, smoke & mirrors, just basic stellar reality. Berkeley, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, seem to be doing unbiased, here's what we know.
       Combined with some younger gens who seem to have a thirst for knowledge and truth to arrive at a solution.
       TY, Joieau

    March AGAINST monsatanOHagentorange 3/25/13 a time warp

    by 3rock on Thu Jan 16, 2014 at 09:41:51 AM PST

    •  I logged a late comment to (0+ / 0-)

      Jay Cullen's diary today expressing my opinion - and hope - that they'd consider strontium-90 as the benchmark radionuclide in all new studies (fish and seaweed), because we're now past 1,000 days and the cesium levels have pretty much reached equillibrium. Because its biological half-life is 70 days, at this point there shouldn't be any meaningful difference in food chain concentration in migratory predators despite even though there are considerable concentration differences between waters off Japan and those off California.

      Strontium, on the other hand, is a calcium substitute, and once incorporated into tissues stays there until it either decays or the organism dies. Thus steady and increasing levels from ocean releases at Fukushima will continue to bioaccumulate to higher and higher levels.

      Of the "big three" dangerous radioisotopes released by nuclear bombs/accidents in the most concentration, strontium is the most dangerous for deadly cancers (leukemias, bone cancers, organ cancers). With the presumption that thyroid cancers from iodine-131 are mostly "curable" these days (though debilitating). And at this point strontium concentration in the ongoing releases is essentially 1:1 with cesium.

      I also mentioned the problem with only giving a fraction of the contamination levels when reporting - cesium 134/137 only - and then writing it off to "less than K40 or Po210." There's a lot more contamination in the water and in the organisms than just the cesium sisters, so cesium reports do NOT reflect radiation dose from eating Pacific seafood. Nor does it reflect the fact that exposure from any and all Fukushima nuclides is in addition to the 'normal' levels of 'natural' background sources in that same seafood. Those never change.

      •  Hi Joieau (0+ / 0-)

        Please see my reply to your comment.  The amount of Sr-90 an organism will incorporate depends on the concentration of Ca2+, Sr2+ and Sr-90 in seawater.  The first two are not changing and the 3rds concentration despite continued release will not unless release rates increase dramatically.

        Cs isotopes bioaccumulate to a greater degree than does Sr-90 in marine organisms by a factor of 5-30 (link). That means at the same concentration there will 5-50 times more Cs in organisms than Sr.  But the concentration of Cs-137 is much, much higher in the plume given that initial releases of Sr-90 were about 3% of Cs.  Now after the initial releases Japanese marine fish were showing ~10's of Bq/kg Cs isotopes averaging around 18 Bq/kg excluding the immediate vicinity near to the reactors.  Sr-90 would be much lower given the lower concentrations.  A fish with 18 Bq/kg Cs-137 if ingested by a person imparts a dose of about 60 nanoSv per kg consumed.  If you increase the exposure by a factor of 10 from other radionuclides you get to roughly half a microSv. How much do you think looking at Cs alone underestimates dose? An order of magnitude? Two or three? The dose from 210-Po alone is over 23,000 nSv kg consumed.

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site