Radioactive Iodine in Seaweed and Sludge, Summer 2013? (Hints of Recent Criticality Events…) + Data suggests radioactive fallout still blowing around the world?

Portland, OR – August 3, 2013 – { this blogpost’s Shortlink is http://wp.me/puwO9-242 }

There is something possibly ‘a little bit bizarre’, somehow missed by the journalist, in this (August 2, 2013) Korean Yonhap News Agency report in the Global Post (h/t ENEnews) on seafood test results off the South Korean coast: radioactive Iodine in seaweed, more than 2 years after Fukushima’s multiple meltdowns.  Excerpt from the article [my empasis]:

“[…] So far, South Korea has tested 165 samples of 15 species, including mackerel, cuttlefish and various species of seaweed that are popular delicacies here, according to the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries.  The results showed that 14 species tested were completely free of radiation with what the ministry called a “very small amount” of a radioactive material detected in tangleweed.   “A very small amount (3.65-5.25 becquerel/kilogram) of iodine was detected in six samples of tangleweed, but they, too, have been confirmed to be safe as the amount is far less than the standard level (300 bequerel/Kilogram),” it said in a press release. […]”

The amount is small, sure, and that’s good, but that’s not the most newsworthy about that finding, I’d say.  What’s perhaps slightly troubling about that is that Iodine-131’s half-life is only 8 days and it’s no longer radioactive within about 3-4 months.  Finding radioactive iodine suggests a release from a source that experienced criticality in the past 3 months.  In other words: if this ‘radioactive iodine’ originated from the leaking Fukushima-Daiichi NPP, which is likely, as no other such leaks have been reported recently elsewhere, then it’s likely that in one of the 3 melted-down reactor cores (reactor 1, 2 or 3), criticality events may not have ceased completely.   That would be a major news story.   I think.  I don’t know.  Just seems very odd.

It’s not the first time evidence of newer-than-admitted criticalities (new fissioning) has been reported.  See, for instance, After 5 Halflives, I-131 Higher than Cs-134/137 Suggests Ongoing Criticalities – April 19, 2011″ (link broken: http://www.glgroup.com/News/After-5-Halflives-I-131-Higher-than-Cs-134-137-Suggests-Ongoing-Criticalities-53599.html  ) 

When there’s a fission reaction in the corium, a whole bunch of radioactive isotopes are created (+heat), which each have different half-lives (the time for their radioactivity to be reduced by 50%), with 10-20 half life times before everything detectable has returned to its non-radioactive stable state.  For Iodine, less than 1% remains radioactive within 3 months.  If the 5 Bq of I-131 were a left-over from March 2011, then that seaweed would have originally had billions of trillions of becquerels of I-131, per kilogram tangleweed, utterly impossible.   It must be from a much more recent criticality event.

Example of how I-131 findings were previously used to show that criticality events occurred after reactors switched off following the strong earthquake on March 11, 2011.  Professor Emeritus Takafumi Matsui of ‘Institute of Physics’ at the University of Tokyo, in the pdf. ‘Deciphering the Measured Ratios of Iodine-131 to Cesium-137 at the Fukushima Reactors’ (Dec 2011) used the anomalies in the ratio of Cs-137 and I-131 to determine that criticality events were still happening for at least 2 weeks after the tsunami hit, as evidenced by radioactive iodine not disappearing from samples.

Click Image (Fig 1) for details in complete pdf. http://arxiv.org/pdf/1105.0242v3.pdf

Click Image (Fig 1) for details in complete pdf.
http://arxiv.org/pdf/1105.0242v3.pdf

With Cesium-137 having a half-life of just over 30 years, it is practically a constant for a short time span, making for an excelent reference point in comparison to the quickly diminishing Iodine-131.

So this recent ‘radioactive iodine’ found in Korean seaweed is a bit strange.  I mean, the amount isn’t troubling, but the fact itself is.  Where did this come from?

According to Tepco, no radioactive iodine has been found in seawater just off the Fukushima-Daiichi NPP in their most recent sampling:

Excerpt from TEPCO handout showing results of July 31 2013 sample of seawater, "Nuclides Analysis Result of the Radioactive Materials in the Seawater, on Coast,  3m from Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. Click for document in full:  http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/f1/smp/2013/images/seawater_130801-e.pdf

Excerpt from TEPCO handout showing results of July 31 2013 sample of seawater, “Nuclides Analysis Result of the Radioactive Materials in the Seawater, on Coast;
Click for document in full:
http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/f1/smp/2013/images/seawater_130801-e.pdf

This recent press handout also shows 2.1 Bq/L or Cs-137 right on the coast North of the troubled reactors more than 2 years after the accident…  That’s 2100 Bq/m^3 of Cs-137 right there in the open Pacific Ocean.  Further in that same pdf., dilution in strong ocean currents apparently brings that down to 36 Bq/m^3  three kilometers out to sea.

Would be interesting if they tested some seaweed from the Fukushima coastline again.  Seaweed bioaccumulates iodine, so it would show higher levels than the water, possibly revealing recent criticalities, or only deepening this mystery.

In the comment section at ENEnews, I came across post on Bobby1’s Blog:  July 30, 2013: “Upsurge of iodine-131 in Japan. Daiichi on fire?”, reportedly sourcing from Chiba prefectural government data @ http://www.pref.chiba.lg.jp/gesui/press/2011/odei29.html, showing that sample analysis of sludge spikes above 500 Bq/kg of I-131:

“[…] The latest analyses of sewage sludge in Gunma and Chiba prefectures shows that iodine-131 levels have sharply increased in the last two months. The presence of this short-lived radionuclide indicates criticalities have been occurring at Fukushima Daiichi. […]”

IMAGE SOURCE: http://optimalprediction.com/wp/upsurge-of-iodine-131-in-japan-daiichi-on-fire/

“The latest analyses of sewage sludge in Gunma and Chiba prefectures shows that iodine-131 levels have sharply increased in the last two months.”, Bobby1’s Blog reports on July 30, 2013 —
IMAGE SOURCE: http://optimalprediction.com/wp/upsurge-of-iodine-131-in-japan-daiichi-on-fire/

I didn’t check all the Japanese source documents myself, just one, from July 26, 2013 (the last one posted at the top of the above linked list, when I checked early morning Aug 3, 2013), from the top of this list: http://www.pref.chiba.lg.jp/gesui/h23touhoku/odei/, which showed 100 Bq/kg of I-131 measured in a sample taken on July 19, 2013 (screenshot taken in case this gets taken down):

To me this suggests a high likelihood that AEREAL releases of Iodine-131 may still be happening and raining out near and far.  The above findings are, as far as I understand this, an indication that fuel rods are indeed still fissioning every now and then, releasing radioactive iodine into the environment as recent as this year!

Next, I will have a peak at some radiation monitors in these locations, to see if there have been any above-normal spikes in the past month:

[Nuance-adding disclaimer: Added Jan 8, 2014 – Until lab tests are performed on rain samples at the time of radiation spikes, no statement about the cause of the observed elevated radiation measurements can be made scientifically: neither that it’s natural, nor that it’s from Fukushima.    It requires lab tests.] 

!!! –> See my handy page, Online Radiation Monitors, for many other countries as well (a sub-tab in the above tab, ‘Nuclear‘)

Well, my own Medcom Inspector Alert’s 24-hour average (till 10 am Aug 2, at table-height in well- ventilated indoor room) showed a background radiation of perfectly normal 38 CPM.

And on the Radiation Network, the Pacific Northwest shows these night time current measurements, from which you get hints of small radiation whiffs either, as that barely even gets detected by most Geiger Counters anyhow, so basically all this map can do is serve as a reference when things get much much worse.  Like, never.  ;-)

  • In my lovely country of origin, Belgium, during the last week of of July 2013, small gamma radiation peaks stand out.  Since I didn’t see the corresponding solar activity, this is likely small whiffs of radioactive air moving through the region, with brief spikes 50 to 70% above normal background radiation in the last week of July 2013.  For instance, in Lubbeek (right near where I grew up), normally measuring below 0.105 µSv/hr, saw a brief spike up to 0.172µSv/hr in late morning on July 27, 2013.  Similar spikes were seen across the country around similar times.  Here’s a screenshot showing 5 days prior to July 28, in Ghent, Belgium, with spikes up to 50% above normal background:
Data FANC, http://www.telerad.fgov.be/  (Dutch or French)

Data FANC, http://www.telerad.fgov.be/ (Dutch or French)

Added Jan 13, 2014: According to FANC, this is due to rainout events of naturally occurring isotopes, not fallout from Fukushima.  If that is so, then the same would likely apply also to similar spikes observed elsewhere.

  • Similarly in Germany, with it excellent monitoring system.  Here you can see that radiation peaks with rain, indicating fallout (or naturally occurring Radon/Berylliu-7/Potassium-40,… ) raining out.  If these are manmade radioactive particles, then they’re almost certainly from Fukushima, Japan.   Here’s a screenshot of the graph for Berlin showing a clear spike well above natural background, following rains on July 30, 2013:

For Japan data, my Japan page could be a start.  But with dust blowing around, stuff raining out erratically, it’s practically impossible to tell what’s going on from looking at these monitors.  Unless things get really bad, and I luckily haven’t seen evidence of that.

Well…

In any case, no way I keep going past 3am, so that’s it for tonite.  If there’s anything I can draw from looking at all this, is that the Fukushima nuclear disaster is alive and kicking, albeit in mysterious ways…  TEPCO clearly is still failing to tell the whole story, it appears.  Don’t they realize that they lose face not by revealing how bad things actually are, but by hiding the troubling facts?   … Or someone explain to me these I-131 measurements, please.

So,

In contrast with heavy recent news, to end on a borderline humorous note: 40 kilometers to the south of the radiation-spewing nuclear disaster, people are returning to the Iwaki’s beautiful sandy beaches already… (check it out!)   ;-)   Well… I don’t quite know what to think of that.  lol  In any case: It is my wish that the joy it brings them helps ‘m stay healthy!

+ Couple Additional Notes:  

  • The South Korean report of 5.25 Bq/kg I-131 (presumably I-131) is indeed very low, nothing I’d personally worry about.  I would have no hesitation eating such seaweed.  [Definitely read My Disclaimer, though.]   The Korean government claiming that that’s basically safe to eat is, as far as I’m concerned, not a lie.  The body can handle a lot.  Sure, “any amount is potentially harmful” is true theoretically, but freaking out over that kind of contamination level would be laughable, in my opinion. You’re likely to get more potentially harmful exposure from natural sources (such as various radon isotopes in basements and Potassium-40 in food), than from a couple becquerels of glowing iodine in your seaweed salad.
  • Compare to Greenpeace’s findings (survey at beginning of May 2011) of Seaweed of the coast of Fukushima measuring as much as 100,000 Bq/kg I-131.
  • My own lab results (June 5, 2013) for a small amount of seaweed from Trinidad, California (Humboldt County) this last spring (2013) measured nothing troubling at all (neither Cesium nor Iodine), while wild mushrooms from a bit more inland in the forested coastal range of Northern California measured 23 Bq/kg of Cs-137.
  • Flashback:  Right after the bulk of the radioactive fallout reached North America in March and April 2011, Kelp beds off the coast of Southern California measured as high as 1300 Bq/m^2 of seaweed canopy, or 2,500 Bq/kg, with one large kelp bed the size of 33 000 m^2 yielding a total of 40 million becquerrel of I-131.  This wasn’t reported until about a year later, as I reported on April 1, 2012.

ADDED LATER:

– looks like what I wondered was the case, is being suggested by experts quoted in the mainstream press now too.  ENEnews (August 14, 2013) shared these articles in relation to also short-lived Xenon (I assume that Xe-133, half-life 5 days, similar to I-131 half life 8 days), also detected by South Korea recently.  Note that some of the articles are older, included to “make the case” that fissioning must be what is STILL occuring.

Yonhap, Aug. 13, 2013: […] According to the sources, the Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety detected traces of the colorless, odorless noble gas on three occasions in June. Xenon is detected in trace amounts after nuclear bomb tests or other nuclear activities. […] The government could not determine the origin of the Xenon gas, one of the sources said, adding that the North may not be responsible because no signs of nuclear activities have been seen in the country at around that time. […]

Wall St. Journal, August 13, 2013: […] Lee Ho-ryung, a nuclear specialist at the Korea Institute of Defense Analyses in Seoul, told Korea Real Time that […] the xenon traces didn’t necessarily originate from North Korea. They may have come from Japan, which is still struggling to recover from radiation leaks at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant […]

Possible causes of Xenon releases

Wall St. Journal, Nov. 3, 2011: Nuclear fission by-products have been detected at one of the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the government said Wednesday, raising the possibility that some parts of the melted core may still be active. […] Xenon-133 has a short half-life of five days, and Xenon-135 just nine hours, an agency spokesman said. Any nuclear reaction would likely be taking place on a localized basis, the spokesman said. […]

Asahi Shimbun, Nov. 3, 2011: [Tepco] said Nov. 3 that naturally occurring “spontaneous nuclear fission”–not a state of criticality–created the xenon detected at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. […] Instead of being caused by self-sustaining nuclear fission, the xenon was likely generated by spontaneous fission of curium and other radioactive substances derived from the reactor fuel, TEPCO said. […]

From July 18, 2013Alarm as steam rises from Fukushima No. 3 reactor — Concern about uncontrolled chain reaction — Contains highly lethal MOX fuel — Tepco: “We don’t believe an emergency situation is breaking out” (VIDEO)

 In other words: TEPCO’s not even able to adequately cool all of the cores sufficiently for them to stop fissioning…

  • If this gets much worse, I may do another blogpost soon.  For news, see my Nuclear News Links in the ‘Nuclear’ tab above.

——– ——– ——- ——-

Last Updated: Jan 8, 2014: [Nuance-adding disclaimer added Jan 8, 2014:  Until lab tests are performed on rain samples at the time of radiation spikes, no statement about the cause of the observed elevated radiation measurements can be made scientifically: neither that it’s natural, nor that it’s from Fukushima.    It requires lab tests.] 

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4 Responses to Radioactive Iodine in Seaweed and Sludge, Summer 2013? (Hints of Recent Criticality Events…) + Data suggests radioactive fallout still blowing around the world?

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  3. Pingback: Additional Ponderings Re. Pacific Ocean Ecological Crisis. Wondering about Effects of a speculated Fukushima-induced Polonium-210 (Alpha-emitting) surge’s on Sea Life. Iodine-131, Cobalt-60, Cesium-134 & Neobium-95 detected in Europe (May 2015!)

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