Japanese Nuclear Fallout Drifting Around the World
Small amounts of radiation from the stricken Japanese nuclear reactors are being detected in various parts of the United States and Korea.
The drift of radioactive material is coming from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plants, damaged by the mammoth tsunami that followed a 9.0-magnitude earthquake that struck Japan on March 11.
The explosions at the plant on March 12 destroyed most of the power systems needed to run the cooling mechanism for the nuclear fuel rods at the plant, leading to a partial meltdown at three of its six nuclear reactors.
Radiation Arrives in Korea
Radioactive fallout in the form of Xenon 133, a radioactive isotope, was detected last week in Gangwon province in northeastern Korea, according to the Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety (KINS).
However, officials said the amount was “miniscule” and harmless to humans.
According to a report published in the Joongang Daily, radioactive fallout from the accident has also been detected in China and Germany, as well as in the United States.
A computer simulation projected the drift to reach Iceland, Switzerland and France, as well as Kamchatka Peninsula in Siberia and Alaska.
Radiation Detected in the U.S.
Low levels of radioactive iodine were detected on Saturday in a sample of rainwater in Massachusetts. State health officials said they believed the substance came from the nuclear accident in Japan.
John Auerbach, State Public Health Commissioner, told reporters the amounts of radioiodine were in very low concentrations and should have no impact on state drinking water supplies. He added that there did not appear to be any risk to public health.
The sample was taken last week in Boston as part of a regular environmental monitoring program by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. No detectable increases in radiation were discovered in the air, Auerbach said.
The same week, “extremely small amounts” of the radioactive isotopes iodine-131 and xenon-133 were picked up at a Las Vegas monitoring station.
Tel Hartwell of the Desert Research Institute's Community Environmental Monitoring Program said because the isotopes are generally not seen in Nevada, he was convinced that they came from Japan. He also told the Associated Press the readings were far below levels that could pose any health risk.
Radiation emanating from the Fukushima nuclear complex has been reported in other states as well, including California, Colorado, Hawaii and Washington.
Plutonium Detected Around Fukushima
While engineers are fighting to contain the leak, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) said in a statement Monday that plutonium was discovered in five locations around the ruptured Fukushima plant. Company official Jun Tsuruoka told reporters the amounts were very small and not a risk to public health.
The discovery was apparently not a surprise; plutonium is present in the nuclear fuel rods that were exposed after water drained from the storage pool in the damaged complex.
Fight to Bring Complex Under Control
Workers at Fukushima have been racing to pump out hundreds of tons of contaminated water as they battle the newest challenge in the fight to bring the plant back under control.
New pools of radioactive water were found to be leaking from the crippled nuclear complex, officials said, leading to further contamination of seawater and soil. TEPCO officials discovered Sunday that radiation in water leaking from Unit 2 was 100,000 times above normal.
Further complicating the situation are the numerous aftershocks that have continued to rock the island since that first massive earthquake two weeks ago. Early Monday, a 6.5-magnitude earthquake again shook up the northeastern coast, prompting a tsunami alert. However, no damage or injuries were reported.
Hundreds of thousands of people are still homeless, and officials estimate the final death toll will top 18,000.
An Israeli aid delegation has arrived at Minami Sanriku in the Miyagi Prefecture to set up a field clinic in a city that has attracted many displaced persons. Seven Japanese nationals who speak Hebrew joined the delegation in order to provide translation services and serve as liaisons with the local population. Radiation levels in the area where the IDF team is being deployed are being carefully monitored by experts from the Atomic Energy Commission and by IDF Medical Corps experts as well.
Contamination Continues to Spread
The latest readings have shown that ocean contamination has spread another mile (1.6 kilometers) farther north from the nuclear site than it was before, but still within the 12-mile (20 kilometer) evacuation zone.
Radioactive iodine-131 was discovered offshore at a level 1,150 times higher than normal according to Nishiyama, a spokesman for Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.