[ 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 never ended. Due to lack of monitoring by the US government, actual deposition may be higher in many locations. ]
Boulder, CO – May 1, 2012 — 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.
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.
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.
First a look at some fallout data which did receive at least some media attention:
- 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…):
! –> 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).
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.
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.
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“):
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:
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:
- “An Aerial Radiological Survey of the King and Pierce Counties, Washington Summary Report Prepared for: State of Washington Department of Health” from this source:
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:
‘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:
- The following study, Global and local cancer risks after the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant accident as seen from Chernobyl: A modeling study for radiocaesium (134Cs & 137Cs), shared at ENEnews on Nov. 29, 2013, doesn’t add anything to the above. It clearly used the USGS data and extrapolated those very few sample points into maps for the entire US. Amazing this passes for science…
“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:
- A study, “Measurements of Fission Products from the Fukushima Daiichi Incident in San Francisco Bay Area Air Filters, Automobile Filters, Rainwater, and Food” (with data through late 2012; published Dec. 2013), funded by the highly pro-nuclear-biased ‘Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration‘, concluded that “fission products measured in this work in the San Francisco Bay Area of California were not found at any time to be of concern to public or environmental health.” The data indeed suggests that. One day of soil analyses right by Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, however, contained 58.6 Bq/kg of Cs-134 + 73.8 Bq/kg of Cs-137
= 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.
- August 6, 2013: hyperlink to Northern California spring post added;
- January 8, 2014: severity of Fukushima fallout nuanced a little.
- January 30, 2014: ENEnews Jan 29, 2014 "Map shows Fukushima fallout in U.S. — Radiation dose in Northeast and Great Lakes equal to West Coast (GRAPHIC)" info added.
- February 14, 2014, additional Iodine deposition simulation map added: ENEnews Feb 14, 2014 "http://enenews.com/study-fukushima-airborne-plumes-caused-significant-deposition-radioactivity-north-america-especially-around-west-coast-eastern-around-13-all-radioactive-iodine-released-atmosphere-deposited-usa"
- February 22, 2014, defunct image taken down; data suggesting California hotspot added: http://arxiv.org/pdf/1312.7314v1.pdf ]