19 November 2013, 16:16

Pacific Ocean attacked by radiation leakage from Fukushima - expert

Pacific Ocean attacked by radiation leakage from Fukushima - expert

The Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant has suffered a number of setbacks in recent months including a series of toxic water leaks and worker errors. The plant’s operator TEPCO was frequently criticized for its handling of the disaster. Kenji Kushida, a researcher for Stanford University, talked with the Voice of Russia about the fuel-rod removal work started recently by TEPCO and the effect of the radiation leakage on the enviroment.

How significant is this step with the rods in the clean-up effort of Fukushima?

This is an absolutely critical step, because as you’ve just mentioned these rods have been in a very vulnerable location, basically swimming pools at the top of the damaged building. And so removing them as soon as possible has been one of the key issues for dealing with aftermath of this crisis.

According to a recent Stanford study, all bluefin tuna, core of the west coastal areas of Americas, that’s including Canada, California, are radioactive. How dangerous is this situation? How true is this report, I should say?

What the report found was that the levels of radiation were very low and actually in the case with the bluefin tuna you have more concern of the mercury content. And you have to eat a very large amount to have radiation affect your health at the current levels. So that’s the situation with the bluefin tuna.

So it is safe to say that certain amounts of radiation are safe to eat, especially considering that this bluefin tuna in this case has been affected by the radiation from Fukushima?

Yes, in this case the amount of radiation that has leaked from the damaged nuclear plant into the ocean and then diffused and then made its way through the ecosystem to bluefin tuna seems to have been by the time that it got into the tuna very very low.

That’s good to know, because I’m from California. So I just wanted to double check on that one. What are the prospects for Fukushima after these measures with the rods are taken? How much of a more clean-up effort are we looking at?

We are looking at a very prolonged clean-up effort, because this is one of many significant issues, one of the biggest headaches has been this underground aqua flow below the plant that dumped about 400 tons of water per day into the damaged reactor buildings which then become radioactive and them flows out into the ocean. And they haven’t been able to stop and collect all of the water safely and effectively. So they’ve recently pledged that it would back building of underground ice wall to block this aqua flow about 300 million dollars of funding for that. So this is one of the major, their moving of the rods that we are talking about is one of the various issues.

As far as I know, if things like caesium, uranium, they take up from I believe 150 to 500 years to actually diffuse or disappear I should say?

Yeah. So it’s about how concentrated it is and where. And so far what you obviously want not to get to the ocean, something is getting there, but it’s diffusing quite rapidly. Ideally, it has not gone into the atmosphere. At the time of the accident a fair amount was released, but there has been no atmospheric releasing of that since the accident sort of was taken under control in the first couple of weeks. But pulp, soil and things like this and then decommissioning active plants like, reactive plants, this hasn’t really been done. They are talking about of 40 years to make the side of the reactor into non-contaminated flat ground basically. That’s what their aim is.

So, Mr Kushida, it is safe to say for most of Californians out there – it is safe to swim in Santa Monica Beach, let’s say?

Absolutely, yeah.

That was my sort of next question: how dangerous is this leakage of radiation that is going into the Pacific Ocean from those rods and etc, and then how is it actually able to diffuse? Because in essence if radiation does take up to 500 years, depending on its components-caesium or uranium, to actually diffuse and completely disappear, even small amounts that they leak into the ocean –wouldn’t they spread across the ocean and just, you know, sure they would become smaller in some areas but they would still be there? Would it be right to say that the Pacific Ocean right now is being sort of attacked by this radiation?

Yeah, that would be a safe characterization. But the amounts are very small. Because if you think about it historically, 1950s, 1960s –the number of nuclear warheads detonated directly in the ocean, maybe if you look on YouTube or something you will see these hydrogen experiments in Bikinaatols or Marshall islands in the South Pacific where you see these big massive wall of water rise and then a large cloud coming out of them. There are about 2,000 nuclear warheads were exploited in the world since 1945 and a lot of these were directly in the Pacific Ocean.

So, on the one hand the leakage of radiation from the Fukushima Power Plant is significant, it’s of most concern to the immediate surroundings. If you are an octopus farmer or a bottom-fish feeder or a fisherman in the area. There are concerns that they just recently have started fishing again and then they use instruments to measure the relative amount of radiation in those fish, but the Pacific Ocean has gone a lot through abuse. And the point is a lot of these radioactive materials do diffuse into tiny quantities by the time it makes itself across the Pacific.

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