Radiation From The Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Has Spread Across The Entire North Pacific Ocean
On March 11 2011 an undersea megathrust earthquake occurred off of the coast of Japan, registering a 9.0-9.1 on the moment magnitude scale. This is the strongest earthquake in Japan’s history, and the 4th strongest in recorded history. Aside from the extreme damage from the earthquake itself, a devastating tsunami swept across the Japanese coastline killing nearly 16,000 people. Simultaneously, a 14 meter high tsunami swept over the seawall at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, inundating the emergency diesel generators. Once the emergency generators shutdown the nuclear cores no longer received any coolant, resulting in multiple runaway nuclear chain reactions that led to three nuclear meltdowns and three hydrogen explosions, releasing enormous amounts of radiation into the environment.
A future article on The Cancer Herald will explore the local effects of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, where there is a radioactive exclusion zone to this day, aside from the untold numbers of Japanese citizens that have been exposed to radiation across the country. This current article will explore how the Fukushima nuclear disaster caused radiation to spread across the entire North Pacific Ocean.
A scientific study modeled ocean currents to determine how far radioactive isotopes from Fukushima would spread, specifically Cesium-137. It was estimated that 10 petabecquerel were released into the ocean in the weeks following the disaster, with a becquerel defined as a quantity of radioactive material in which one nucleus decays per second.
The model simulation showed that after 4 years the radiation spread across the entire North Pacific Ocean, with peak concentrations of radiation reaching the United States West Coast after 5-6 years. It was estimated that by the time radiation reached the United States West Coast that radioactivity would only be 1-2 becquerel per meter cubed of seawater.
The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute went out and actually measured the radioactivity of water across the Northeastern Pacific Ocean between California and Alaska. Notably, even before the contaminated water from Fukushima arrived, radioactivity was already at 1-2 becquerel per meter cubed due to contamination from the nuclear weapons tests that occurred between the 1940s and the 1990s.
The data shows that radiation along the United States West Coast has been steadily increasing, and is averaging 4 becquerel per meter cubed as of March 2019, with some coastal sites measuring as much as 7 becquerel per meter cubed. Essentially, the radiation is higher than the model simulation projected, and it is continuing to increase to this day.
It seems the model simulation did not account for the fact that Fukushima has been continuing to release radiation into the Pacific Ocean. Back in 2013 the New York Times reported that there were accidental releases of radiation into the ocean, including radioactive water from the Fukushima area overflowing dikes during flooding events, and ten tons of radioactive water accidentally dumped by workers. Further, data showed that more radioactive water than anticipated was being carried into the Pacific Ocean on a daily basis, leading to radioactive hotspots on the ocean floor off the coast of Japan.
The culprit was apparently groundwater in the Fukushima area being contaminated, and this groundwater naturally flows into the Pacific Ocean. A plan was put into place to build an icewall to stop further leaking of radioactive groundwater, and this was completed in 2015.
As of 2018 the icewall had stopped most of the radioactive seepage, but now there are 900 tanks filled with radioactive water on the Fukushima site, and more water is being contaminated every day. Apparently, the only way to get rid of this radioactive water is to dump it into the ocean eventually. There have been attempts to clean up this water before releasing it, but these attempts have failed thus far, and it is unclear what will ultimately happen.
Thus, so much radiation was released into the ocean by Fukushima that radiation levels along the United States West Coast increased by hundreds of percent. Even before Fukushima the Pacific Ocean was contaminated with radiation due to thousands of nuclear bomb tests, and now the ocean is more contaminated with radiation than ever before.
This means that everyone who swims at the beaches along the United States West Coast, and anywhere in the North Pacific, is being slightly irradiated. Radiation is like tiny but very fast moving bullets, and when they encounter cells they can cause mutations to DNA and RNA that lead to cancer.
Aside from that, radiation is accumulating in the fish across the Pacific Ocean due to the way the food chain works, with radiation becoming concentrated as you move up the food chain. One particularly vicious radioactive isotope released by Fukushima is strontium-90, and this accumulates in the bones of fish, and then the people who eat fish, and it has a half life of 28.8 years.
The government says that the radiation levels off the West Coast, and in the radioactive fish which have been captured and tested there, are below public safety limits. However, this is the same government that conducted thousands of nuclear tests which contaminated the ocean in the first place, and it could be speculated that they set radioactive safety limits very high to delude the public into thinking that the nuclear tests did not cause any public health problems.
Indeed, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set a safety level of 7,400 becquerel per meter cubed for Cesium-137 in drinking water, and for all radioactive elements combined the safety level is 1 million becquerel per meter cubed, which probably could not even be achieved if the entire planet was killed off by a nuclear war. Basically, the radiation safety limits are set so high that the government will never admit that Fukushima is a public health crisis across the North Pacific, nor any other nuclear disaster.
We will leave it up to our readers to decide if radiation levels increasing by hundreds of percent across the North Pacific Ocean following the Fukushima nuclear disaster is safe like the government says it is. However, for eons before the nuclear bomb testing of the 1940s-1990s the oceans were pristine and contained zero artificially produced radioactive isotopes. Now the North Pacific Ocean contains more artificially produced radioactive isotopes than ever before due to the Fukushima disaster, and the long term impacts of having measurable concentrations of artificial radioactive isotopes in the ocean remains to be seen.