Fukushima nuclear power plant meltdowns happened in nearly five years ago on the 11th of March 2011. Along with obvious mixing of radioactive waste with the water directly, the four chemical explosions also released radioactive material into the air, and allowed it to travel through the wreckage into the ground water. More about the incident here:
So what was the damage done?
Well trace amounts of radioactive particles have been found all around the world from the incident, including Caesium-134/137 and Iodine-131². The coast around Fukushima has some of the strongest currents which means that any radioactive material that entered the water was quickly circulated around the global, and it’s still moving now. But radiation levels are lower than what we believe is dangerous for marine organisms and humans³ so we shouldn’t worry should we?
Yes. We should. In some recent studies done around the Fukushima coast there were results showing persistent contamination of some marine species, most of which were fish.⁴ But it’s okay right it’s just some fish. Radioactive material can move up the food chain spreading the radioactive material higher and higher, spreading across the oceans. For example, there have been higher levels of Caesium-134 found off the coast of California, not seen there before the Fukushima disaster⁴.
The disaster might be over but the problem isn’t. Caesium-137 has a half-life of thirty years, which means it could still be polluting out water for decades to come, especially through a food chain. It’s been predicted that it would take one year for Caesium-137 to reach it’s theoretical maximum in small fish and invertebrates, and up to 10 years for larger fish and around 15 for organisms such as killer whales⁵. Some people do believe that the increase in tumours seen on marine organisms is linked to the Fukushima disaster, but it’s honestly too early to tell yet with research still going on and new finding being released everyday.
We are still safe to eat fish, do not panic and start throwing away your fish fingers! The levels of radioactive molecules are still under the safe to eat limit, just higher than previously.
Solutions! I know, I always have some form of solution for this, but this time, I don’t. There is no solution to the isotopes which have already been released. But fighting towards more regulations around nuclear power plants can help prevent another incident like this happening again.
For more information about nuclear waste, look at our previous post, here.
- Feature image
- Doughton, S. (2011) ‘Universities come through in monitoring for radiation’, Seattletimes.nwsource.com. (accessed 24th February 2016)
- Buesseler, KO. Jayne, SR. Fisher, NS. Rypina, II. Baumann, H. Baumann, Z. Breier, CF. Douglass, EM. George, J. MacDonald, AM. Miyamoto, H. Nishikawa, J. Pike, SM. Yoshida, S. (2012). ‘Fukushima-derived radionuclides in the ocean and biota off Japan’. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109 (16). pp. 5984–8.
- DJ, Baumann, Z. and Fisher. NS, (2012). ‘Pacific bluefin tuna transport Fukushima-derived radionuclides from Japan to California’. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 109 (24) pp. 9483–9486.
- JJ, and Gobas. FAPC, (2015) ‘Modeling 137Cs bioaccumulation in the salmon–resident killer whale food web of the Northeastern Pacific following the Fukushima Nuclear Accident’ Science of the total environment. 544. Pp. 56-67