Earth News Journal 7: Fukushima Radioactive Plume

Fukushima’s critical 2011 radioactive leak, as the result of a severe earthquake and tsunami off the eastern shores of Japan, was widely feared across the globe for its potential nuclear-particle pollution consequences.

For the past two years, oceanographers have studied the many currents and swells across the Pacific Ocean, and according to a recent article from the Huffington Post LiveScience Contributor Jeremy Hsu, the radioactive plume of cesium-137 will not reach American coastlines until 2014, at the earliest.

Compared to the atmospheric radiation that appeared along the U.S. west coast mere days after the disaster, the toxic water particles may not even affect California until 2016 to late 2025. The United States public initially feared Fukushima’s radioactive material, cesium-137, would harm the west coast population, but experts now have oceanic-based studies to assuage the fretful American public.

Because the radioactive plume originated in Japan’s eastern waters, the intensive Kuroshio Current and Kuroshio Extension have diluted the hazardous particles enough so that “its concentration fell well below the World Health Organization’s safety levels within four months of the Fukushima incident.” Even before the particles left the wake of Japan’s coastline, the radioactive particles were well diluted and would pose minimal threat to humans.

Also, the radioactive plume, or a mass of material spreading from a source, will have to travel through the North Pacific gyre, another vortex of currents in the Northern Hemisphere, and potentially the Indian Ocean and South Pacific before heading to American coasts.

Reflection

I remember when the Fukushima power plant was under careful inspection just two years ago. I was concerned for the people of Japan, but I didn’t realize how the leak could affect my country, too. Obviously, the water on the face of the Earth is all inter-connected – I just didn’t see how a disaster halfway around the world could possibly concern me. And it wouldn’t have concerned me, personally, but perhaps the people on the west coast. Nonetheless, when I contemplated the constant circulation of oceanic currents upon reading this article, I realized just how concerned some of America’s population would be about possible radioactive contamination in their coastal waters. The currents circulate the ocean water, including particles of trash, sewage, and, in this case, radioactive material. Therefore, I would be concerned if I were a Californian, even though recent studies have confirmed the particles of cesium-137 have been heavily diluted across the shining sea. Just knowing that radioactive material could be lingering in the waves in which I’m lounging could make me extremely cautious and quite hesitant. Despite the World Health Organization’s assurances that the amount of cesium-137 still present in the water would have no affect on one’s body or health, I don’t believe experts could accurately predict the full long-term consequences of even small exposure to the radioactive particles. Radioactive power plants are a definite point of interest to the environmental community, and I argue that these plants have far fewer advocates now that there have been serious leakages floating around its controversial history.

Hsu, Jeremy. “Fukushima’s Radioactive Plume Could Reach U.S. Waters By 2014.” Huff Post Green. N.p., 1 Sept. 2013. Web. 4 Sept. 2013.

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