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redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online
The typhoons that pound Japan every year are damaging enough on their own, but new research indicates they are also carrying radioactive material from the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster into the country’s waterways.
Researchers from France’s Climate and Environmental Science laboratory (LSCE) and Tsukuba University in Japan have found that high winds and rain wash away soil contaminated following the earthquake and tsunami two years ago, David Kashi of the International Business Times explained.
That soil, which was tainted by cesium particles and other radioactive materials following the accident, becomes deposited in streams and rivers, the AFP news agency added. As a result, people living in communities that escaped the initial fallout in 2011 could now find their food and water contaminated by the cesium particles, LSCE researcher Olivier Evrard and his colleagues warned.
“The typhoons ‘strongly contribute’ to soil dispersal, said Evrard, though it can be months later, after the winter snow melts, that contamination actually passes into rivers,” AFP noted, adding research has demonstrated that “soil erosion can move the radioactive varieties of cesium-134 and 137 from the northern mountains near Fukushima into rivers, and then out into the Pacific Ocean.”
“In October a fierce typhoon headed toward Japan’s northeast coast, sounding alarms that Fukushima was in its wake. The storm was described as the ‘strongest in 10 years,’ with winds reaching nearly 125 miles per hour near its center,” Kashi reported. “Japanese officials say there is no environmental threat as the radiation will be diluted by the sea water. The operators of the Fukushima plant… said it was preparing for this week’s typhoon.”
In August, researchers reported the radioactive ocean plume created following the Fukushima disaster was expected to reach North America by 2014. However, study author Dr. Erik van Sebille of the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of New South Wales and his colleagues reported that the plume would most likely be harmless by the time it arrived.
“Observers on the west coast of the United States will be able to see a measurable increase in radioactive material three years after the event,” said van Sebille. “However, people on those coastlines should not be concerned as the concentration of radioactive material quickly drops below World Health Organization safety levels as soon as it leaves Japanese waters.”