Radiation Fallout Maps for the United States

The shortlink for this blogpost is http://wp.me/puwO9-1od

Sept. 2013 NOTICE:  Below data underestimates actual fallout deposition. The leaking of Fukushima-Daiichi NPP’s has yet to end.  Due to lack of monitoring by the US government, actual deposition may be higher in many locations. DISCLAIMER.

Note:  If you do independent testing with a Geiger Counter, make sure to see these NukeProfessional Videos, as well as review the findings of my Geiger Counter results compared to radioisotope lab analysis results for Northern California samples (Spring 2013) and for Japanese food samples (Japan visit at end of 2013).

Boulder, CO – May 1, 2012 — (Updated, see list of recent updates at end of blogpost)

 For those who’ve been searching for “US fallout map Fukushima”, etc.:  This blogpost aims to give a compilation of United States radioactive fallout maps with their sources, and compare them to the on-the-ground current situation in Japan now or Europe in the late 1980s where possible.

Released a year ago (May 6, 2011), and expanded upon since. One page from http://radioactivity.mext.go.jp/old/en/1280/2011/05/1304797_0506.pdf  
(CLICK IMAGE)

I have been wondering how it can be that an entire year goes by after detailed fallout maps for vast regions in Japan, such as this one from May 2011 (shown left – with data of Cesium-137 deposition in an 80 mile radius from the quake-ruined nuclear plants) are published, and no such maps are created (or made public if they exist) for vast areas of the United States yet.  (This is sadly still true three years after the March 11, 2011 nuclear disaster started)

On my search I found that, apparently, some of this information also exists for parts of the US.  Why not for everywhere in the US and just as detailed is rather unfortunate.

It took the Japanese MEXT together with the US Dept. of Energy (DOE) just 3 weeks to pull off a quick ‘Airborne Monitoring’ of at least 10,000 square kilometers (= 3,861 square miles).  The United States covers an area of 9,629,090 sq km (= 3,717,813 sq mi).  If instead of  just a couple helicopters and planes they used a 1000, they could have the entire United States mapped in the same detail within 3 weeks as well.  (Take a look at this Wikipedia list of active military aircraft if you think they don’t have the needed equipment… They got plenty);  and that’s not even including civilian assistance or possibilities with remote-controlled drones.  

My point: it could be done very quickly if so decided.  

A look at some fallout data which did receive at least some media attention:

CTBTO

  • As ENEnews reported on March 8, 2014, exceptionally significant levels of various radionuclides were detected by the CTBTO’s IMS Network in Canada and the United States in March 2011.  Image: The CTBTO [Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization] was likely the first to grasp the scope of the disaster.  Their affiliated IMS [International Monitoring Stations] and the International Data Centre (IDC) “performed exceptionally well in the aftermath of the Fukushima event, providing valuable data through which NDCs [National Data Centers] were able to give essential advice to their National Authorities which, in turn, assisted with emergency planning.” (Source: links on ENEnews_March_2014).   (I mentioned them under ‘Global‘ Resources on my Online Radiation Monitors page, but the problem with the (cold-war-mindset) CTBTO is that they keep most their data secret to the public when it matters most.)   Among the data shared were observations such as:
    • Some filter samples required special handling due to containing as much as 20,ooo,ooo Bq (“at particulate”), caused by an estimated 1,000 Bq/m^3 in air (of unspecified mixture of Fukushima radioisotopes)- See http://www.pnnl.gov/main/publications/external/technical_reports/PNNL-21052.pdf;  This hints at the possibility of relative hotspots, possibly even over 100,000 Bq/m^2, existing in North America.   In this same document:
    • Take a look at this scaled activity comparison of Xe-133, Cs-137 and I-131:The amount of Cesium 137 detected in air was, to look at March 22-23, about x times lower than that of I-131.

–> The way this is presented is a bit confusing, but to be able to visually see the correlation, the I-131 and Cs-137 levels (in mBq/m^3) we multiplied by 10,000 (aka ” * 1e4 “), while Xe-133 levels were in Bq/m^3.  As such, the differences in orders of magnitude show that, in the first four Cs-137 data points for instance, that 1 mBq/m^3 of Cs-137, which is 0.0001 Bq/m^3 Cs-137 corresponded with 10 times the I-131 and 100,000 times the Xe-133.    Now look at a specific piece of data with that in mind:

  • –> Iodine-131 levels in Sacramento (CA), Melbourne (FL) and Charlottesville (VA) reached around 1.0E-02 Bq/m^3, or:  0.01 Bq/m^3 I-131, meaning that the radioactive cloud passing over the US also contained on average easily more than 1,000 Bq/m^3 Xe-133 and 0.001 Bq/m^3 Cs-137.   So if a column a mile high (1609 meters) would rain out all the Cs-137 in such air, and do so for 1000 meters (as the air moves through), then the deposition in such a rainout area could easily add accumulate to 0.001 x 1609 x 1000 = 1,609 Bq/m^2.  Longer rainouts could lead to higher fallout concentrations.  While 0.1 Bq/m^3 Cs-137 may seem low, it is enough for sustained rainouts in specific locations to likely have caused relative hotspots well over the 240 Bq/m^2 Cs-137 admitted to by the USGS (see next point).

But what specific measured actual fallout deposition that actually translated into the CTBTO remains silent about.  It would have heavily depended on the specific dispersions and local weather, particularly during the months after March 11, 2011.  Areas where fallout settled due to precipitation are likely were relative hotspots could be found.  That brings me to…

USGS (and related data)

  • With a ridiculously tiny amount of sample points spread over an enormous area,  the result can barely be called a fallout map, but it’s something:  the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) collaborated with the National Atmospheric Deposition Program in an effort to

“monitor North American precipitation samples for the presence of nuclear fallout in response to the Japan Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Station incident that occurred on March 11, 2011.”  Read the full report at http://nadp.sws.uiuc.edu/fukushima, or see it described in the USGS report at http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2011/1277/, where you can see how hard they tried:  Only 167 samples were taken, and of those 35 showed Fukushima fallout (about 21%).  

The gist of the study was published in Environmental Science and Technology (Environ. Sci. Technol., 2012, 46 (5), pp 2574–2582): http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es203217u

The resulting map shared in the media shows where samples contained radioactive Cesium-137 (half-life time about 30 years), and leaves you to guess if any samples were even taken in the blank areas (which is most of the country…):

Dot size represents relative deposition amounts. Fallout amounts measured in precipitation by USGS provide a clearer picture of fission-product wet deposition across the USA. Map from USGS site:
http://bqs.usgs.gov/fukushima/
CLICK to SEE at Source.

! –> The details, however, including ALL SAMPLING DATA can all be found in this informative USGS pdf:Fission Products in National Atmospheric Deposition Program—Wet Deposition Samples Prior to and Following the Fukushima Dai-Ichi Nuclear Power Plant Incident, March 8–April 5, 2011“, (=..http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2011/1277/report/OF11-1277.pdf)

Note that most of the country wasn’t sampled at all and ‘hotspots’ far worse than was detected in the samples remains possible (even likely).

For Iodine-131

The result from the samples are shown here in Bq/m^2 (becquerel per square meter); For the picocurie/Liter map, see the source pdf.).

To compare measurements to Japan, the sample WA98, with its (calculated) whopping deposition of 5100 Bq/m^2 of I-131 in Washington, very near Portland, Oregon, but some 4700 miles (or about 7600 km) away from Fukushima, Japan, lies in the second color range (1000 to 10,000 Bq/m^2) on the Iodine fallout map for Japan.

Annotated Japan SPEEDI map for I-131, to show how one sample from Washington compares.   Click for the blogpost with my basic “IODINE-131 a basic map comparison: Fukushima versus Chernobyl” from May 26, 2011.

This shows clearly that areas in North America, more than 7,000 km away, received more radioactive fallout than parts of Honshu, Japan, less than 200 km from the stricken nuclear plant.

One sample from California, CA99 tested 1,610 Bq/m^2 for I-131, which would also put it in that same range on a similar fallout map.  In addition, two more samples would fall in the dark blue range of over 100 but under 1000Bq/m^2:  One in California, CA66 with 211 Bq/m^2; and one in Colorado, CO90 with 833 Bq/m^2.

What that suggests for a similar Fukushima fallout map for the United States, for the radioactive Iodine-131 (with a half-life of just 8 days) is that the plume of 10,000 to 100,000 Bq/m^2 (the bright turquoise blue in the above Japan map) would likely extent to close to the US, maybe even with some isolated spots in the US or Canada, and then erratic patterns of fallout dispersion with areas in dark blue with medium blue hotter cores here and there.  Or visually:

!–> ADDED:  On Feb 14, 2014  ENEnews reported, “Study: Fukushima airborne plumes “caused significant deposition of radioactivity over North America” — Especially for West Coast and eastern U.S. — Around 13% of all radioactive iodine released into atmosphere was deposited over USA and Canada (MAP)

Studies referenced in article:  European Commission, Science for Environment Policy News Alert (pdf)  and Modelling the global atmospheric transport and deposition of radionuclides from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear accident (pdf); the latter states, “Our model results suggest that the plumes that traversed the Pacific Ocean caused significant deposition of radioactivity over continental North America, in particular western USA, western Canada and eastern USA (>100 Bqm−2),” which is in accord with the above estimates as well.

For Cesium-134:

From the same USGS document at,   http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2011/1277/report/OF11-1277.pdf:

And for Cesium-137:

Highest Cs-137 contamination found was from a sampled spot in Southern California: 240 Bq/m^2.   By itself not that alarming (I mean, it’s never good to have manmade nuclear fallout in our environment, but…  if those relatively tiny levels alarm you, then you wouldn’t even be able to live almost anywhere in Europe, where worse contamination happened in vast regions due to the Chernobyl accident (see map further below).  But given the distance, this is an extremely high level for being that far away from the accident.  I’d like to point out that values “under 10,000 Bq/m^2″ even exist within the 80 km radius around Fukushima-Daiichi NPP, which makes 240 Bq/m^2 near Los Angeles all the more striking.   I circled (in red) a couple of these luckier Japan spots on this map (from the “December 16, 2011 – Results of the Fourth Airborne Monitoring Survey by MEXT“):

Lowest deposition of Cs-137 in 80 km radius circled. Map Source: http://radioactivity.mext.go.jp/old/en/1270/2011/12/1270_1216.pdf

Or compare to this European UNEP fallout map (1986 post-Chernobyl accident), with values below 2000 Bq/m^2 in green:

Now, to drive my point home: take the UK, for instance.  If you sampled only in a couple spots in the south, you’d miss the highly contaminated hotspots in its northwest, where hundreds of farms remain subject to radiation restrictions: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chernobyl_disaster_effects.  Look closely across the map and you’ll notice that the distance between a barely contaminated and a very badly affected area can be less than 50 miles.  Then consider that only one sample was taken in all of Nevada, only 2 in Utah, none even in New Mexico, just 5 in all of Colorado, about a dozen in California, where much of the US’s food is produced, and you get the picture.  In that light, the fallout deposition simulation (not measurement!) by the French CEREA remains interesting:

Click to see the animated version at
http://cerea.enpc.fr/en/fukushima.html

The contaminated areas in North America are shown here as “around 1 Bq/m^2″, but that isn’t even an approximation: “The magnitude of the deposition field is uncertain and the simulated values of deposited radionuclides could be significantly different from the actual deposition.”  Read more about it on the CEREA site, http://cerea.enpc.fr/en/fukushima.html.

  • Added-!!!–>  PROOF (solid data) that it’s worse than the US government has admitted so far:  To quench my curiosity, when I lived in Northern California in spring 2013, I pointed out why that region (like most regions along the west coast) absolutely ought to do more monitoring and sample testing; and then I sent a sample of seaweed, mushrooms and 2 soil samples to a professional lab myself:  local wild mushrooms tested 23 Bq/kg (albeit not from Fukushima, but likely as a leftover from Chernobyl and bomb test), but soil samples did contain small fukushima fallout levels, as well as suggesting cesium depositions much higher than reported so far.  See and click through at http://wp.me/puwO9-22Y

!–> To return to US fallout maps:

(More data added in 2013 & 2014, see further down) Please COMMENT when you know about reports from other areas in the world (with links please).  Thank you.  

  • King and Pierce Counties, Washington

At least an area around Seattle in Washington state has been mapped since the multiple Fukushima meltdowns.  Data was collected in July 2011, and the comprehensive reports were released in December 2011.  They’re quite interesting:

http://www.doh.wa.gov/ehp/rp/rep/aerial.htm,

where it links to the pdf documents:  [April 4, 2013 note:  the government of Washington State has since taken down these documents, at least from those locations.  I do not know why or where they moved them.  I'm leaving this blogpost as-was.]

!–> Full Technical Report:   http://www.doh.wa.gov/ehp/rp/rep/4100_p_aerialsurvtech.pdf
!–> Summary:   http://www.doh.wa.gov/ehp/rp/rep/4100_p_aerialsurvsum.pdf.  (Aerial Measuring Systems Remote Sensing Laboratory, National Security Technologies, LLC  – This document is UNCLASSIFIED)

The technical report includes a detailed overview all that’s involved in the process, from which this image (figure 19), to which I added the words ‘Seatte’ and ‘Vashon Island’ for those unfamiliar with where this is.  (I passed through the area on my ‘driveabout’ towards Vancouver Island last summer, see here):

From that they arrived at the following radiation map of King County, WA, in microRoentgen per hour:

The measured total count rate data has been correlated to a terrestrial exposure rate at ground level (in microroentgen per hour) that does not include any correction for cosmic rays nor air-borne radon. The conversion factor applied is accurate for natural isotopes uniformly distributed in the soil; therefore, it does somewhat under-estimate (!) the contributions from most distributions of man-made isotopes.  From Page 7 in
http://www.doh.wa.gov/ehp/rp/rep/4100_p_aerialsurvsum.pdf

The very highest radiation on the map for in King County, WA is 0.04 µSv/hr, which is still far below the lowest of affected areas in Japan.  The highest of the Washington legend barely ends where the lowest of the Japan map begins. In both cases natural isotopes are included in the measurements.

‘microRoentgen per hour’… On my Radiation Units page, I am reminded that “The roentgen measures the energy produced by gamma radiation in a cubic centimeter of air.” and that the easy conversion boils down to:  1 microsievert (µSv) = 100 microroentgens (µR).   Thus 1 µR/hr = 0.01 µSv/hr”, which makes the legend of this map match as shown here on the left (my creation).

Here’s the map from Japan (see below), from where I took the map legend (albeit turned upside down to connect with the other legend), so it can be compared with the above map from Washington, using this “legend color translation key”. (For my fallout map comparison of Fukushima versus Chernobyl, see HERE.)

This comparison seems to suggest that contamination in that part of North America was very limited, but since such detailed maps hadn’t been created before, it isn’t known what the pre-Fukushima values would have been, and if the yellow areas of around 4µR/Hr (about 2 µR/HR more than much of nearby areas) are areas of heightened manmade contamination or a result of natural variation (due to soil type, etc.).  According to the report the manmade (artificial isotopes) component is “up to 1500 CPS” (grey area) throughout the mapped area, see next figure, but what precisely that would mean in terms of activity in the soil isn’t clarified (or in any case I can figure out from the reports).

See the Technical Report for more information.  Here’s the map of the manmade component in some mysterious CPS unit I do not know how to convert into something more commonly used to inform the public:

In Addition…

For the South-west USA, Wetherbee et al. (2012) reported that the deposition of 137Cs was 30–240 Bq m²“, just because 240 Bq/m^2 was found near LA, that deposition level became the top deposition level for the entire region? Without any further sample analysis?    So, this (bullshit, if you’d ask me) “cancer risk study” comes with highly questionable “fallout map,” and even an more questionable effective biological dose calculation, which ignores long-term cumulative effects:

The images of  Global cumulative deposition of radiocaesium (134Cs and 137Cs) after the Fukushima NPP accident at the end of 2011, and the Annual effective dose from radiocaesium exposure due to inhalation, surface deposition and fallout transport, were taken down on ENEnews;  You have to pay to see the details.  Click image for study portal: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412013002808

The images of Global cumulative deposition of radiocaesium (134Cs and 137Cs) after the Fukushima NPP accident at the end of 2011, and the Annual effective dose from radiocaesium exposure due to inhalation, surface deposition and fallout transport, were taken down on ENEnews; You have to pay to see the details. Click image for study portal:
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412013002808

A Screenshot taken from Enenews (Jan

Selected SCreenshot of "fallout map", based on only a few hundred (at most) points of data, extrapolated (totally unscientific if you'd ask me) to an entire continent:  See more at (click image) VIA http://enenews.com/map-shows-fukushima-fallout-radiation-dose-northeast-great-lakes-equal-west-coast-graphic

Selected SCreenshot of “fallout map”, based on only a few hundred (at most) points of data, extrapolated (totally unscientific if you’d ask me) to an entire continent: See more at (click image)
VIA http://enenews.com/map-shows-fukushima-fallout-radiation-dose-northeast-great-lakes-equal-west-coast-graphic

= 132.4 Bq/kg combined RadioCesiums on June 6, 2011.

The question is: how deep did they scoop for this 132.4 Bq/kg soil sample?   If you get your kilogram of soil from 1% of a square meter (like 10 cm x 10 cm on the surface and then as deep as it takes to get a kilogram, likely less than 4 inches), then the surface deposition in this drainage could be 13,240 Bq/m^2.  If it’s in the 10,000 to 15,000 Bq/m^2 range; and that would put it at the beginning of relative hotspot range.  Again, the little bit of data they bothered to gather suggests a high likelihood radioactive “hotspots” exist in North America.  To make sure food grown in such areas, and cattle grazing there, these areas need to be identified first.

Three years after the meltdowns, the US & Canadian governments have yet to undertake the task of maping the fallout in detail, as was done for much of Japan within 3 weeks.  

…More may be added as I come across it…

!–> For additional information and tools, I wrote ‘Some Pointers to See Through Nuclear Deceptions‘.

If I find better maps, I might add ‘m here, but for now that’s all I know of.

————————————

[Latest updates: 

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24 Responses to Radiation Fallout Maps for the United States

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  24. raddog says:

    “Three years after the meltdowns, the US & Canadian governments have yet to undertake the task of maping (sic) the fallout in detail, as was done for much of Japan within 3 weeks.

    No. And it never will. This is a huge country, 26 times the size of japan. It would be hugely expensive to do so, and there is no reason that would make it worth the cost.

    Further, more recent surveys in No. California have shown no detectable Cs 134. Basically, no fallout detectable from the air. Even on the ground, you’re fairly hard pressed to find any fallout today.

    On the “mysterious CPS unit”. Counts per second, obviously. But that really doesn’t tell the story, You might note that it is in CPS and not CPM, the units that most detectors read out in. In this case, size does matter. Most detectors have a collection area that is relatively small. The little detector on my shelf has an area about 1.5 in across, or Pi X r X r =~ 1.7in^2. The readings from this helo are taken with HUGE xtals in comparison (and very efficient ones too). They also collect data over a very larger area of ground, so they have a very high signal rate, which is why their output in in CPS and not CPM…

    The Seattle survey IS still online, BTW. You just have to google it. It gives pretty good details of the detection equipment.

    The 1500 CPS is pretty much the limits of detectability for the algorithm used to distinguish between man made and natural. The fact that it covers the whole area pretty much means that there’s little other than natural background there. (but, you can see a couple of areas higher – but they may just be artifacts of processing. It shows lack of contamination, not contamination (fallout).

    Here’s a basic table from another online report that will allow you to determine approximate conversion factors for that system:
    uR/hr cps
    2.5 – 3.0 4500 – 5500
    3.0 – 4.3 5500 – 7700
    4.3 – 6.6 7700 – 12000

    Normal backgound may go as high as 22,000 CPS, or higher depending on the rocks.

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