The biological effects of Fukushima contamination are likely to extend far beyond Japan. The use of seawater to cool the reactors produced spherical, uranium peroxide clusters called buckyballs, which are noted for their durability and transportability.
Radioactive Sulfur-35 (35S) was detected in Southern California from 20-28 March 2011. The researchers concluded that neutron leakage transformed salt water chlorine (35Cl) into radioactive 35S through a process of multistage decay.
During roughly that same time period, separate researchers from California State Long Beach sampling kelp offshore found Iodine-131, which has an approximate eight day half-life. The researchers concluded that the iodine-131 was likely deposited by precipitation contaminated with Fukushima fallout.
Contamination transported by wind and precipitation is supplemented by dispersion of radionuclides by ocean currents. Research conducted by Stan-Sion, Enachescu, and Pietre identified arrival of the ocean-borne plume of radionuclides from the initial days of the Fukushima disaster in La Jolla, California, evidenced by a 2.5 factor increase in Iodine-129 and Iodine-127 activity peaking June 18 2013 (date collection ended July 2013).
More plumes of contaminated water are no doubt forthcoming given (1) ongoing dumping of water contaminated with tritium and (2) relentless leakage of water contaminated by the entire range of fission isotopes, with Strontium-90 emerging as particularly salient given spiking levels in Fukushima’s port during the spring of 2015.
Although there is no way of proving causation, a vast number of adverse mortality events occurring in sea life up and down the North American Pacific Coast raises questions about whether Fukushima and tsunami contamination may have interfered with the food cycle or increased susceptibility to disease.
In 2011 and unusual mortality events were reported for Alaskan walruses, seals, and polar bears, all of which were found to be “suffering from hair loss, skin sores, and unusually lethargic behavior.” No cause was ever identified. Unusual mortality events for California sea lions were reported by the NOAA in 2013, escalating to catastrophic losses in 2015.
Dolphin populations in California also experienced significant mortality events in 2013 and were found to have significantly impaired immune systems. Sardines in the Pacific Northwest experienced also experienced a significant reduction in numbers in 2013, with the November population estimate of 378,000 tons constituting a steep drop from the 1.5 million tons estimated in 2000. 378,000 tons represented the lowest reported in over ten years. The King Salmon population in Alaska declined 73 percent from 2011 to 2012 (Jim Carlton, Wall Street Journal (August 4, 2012) p. A3).
In 2014, starfish were afflicted with a devastating and inexplicable wasting disease up and down the coast of North America.
An unusual mortality event was reported for Alaskan whales in 2015. North American Pacific coast sea birds have also been impacted. Adverse mortality events have afflicted murres and shearwater. Autopsies indicated the shearwaters had a high parasite count and were starving. Auklets living along entire north American pacific coast have also experienced a steep population declines that were described as “just massive, massive, unprecedented” by Julia Parish, a seabird ecologist at the University of Washington who oversees the Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team.
Land animals in Alaska and California also experienced significant and inexplicable population declines.
Western Arctic caribou experienced a decline of 27 percent between 2011 and 2013. Monarch butterfly populations that migrate to a specific area in Mexico experienced a record low in 2013, with their numbers contained by 2.9 acres in 2013, compared to 12 acres between 2003 and 2012. In 2013 California race horses were afflicted with a mysterious affliction that caused them to drop dead suddenly. Bees in California also experienced a significant population decline in 2013: “A mysterious malady that has been killing honeybees en masse for several years appears to have expanded drastically in the last year, commercial beekeepers say, wiping out 40 percent or even 50 percent of the hives needed to pollinate many of the nation’s fruits and vegetables.” The moose population, already in decline prior to Fukushima, fell still further between 2010 and 2014 with one population in Minnesota cut in half between 2010 and 2014.
These data points suggest a trend of accelerating population declines in sea and land life that became very apparent in 2013.
NOAA officials and scientists queried by the media have not provided definitive answers, often describing the events as perplexing and befuddling. In 2015, large numbers of dying sea lions on California beaches heightened media inquiry.
The most commonly forwarded explanation for their condition was an unprecedented toxic algae bloom of Pseudo-nitzschia, often described as red tide, which produces a neurotoxin named domoic acid. Unusually warm water was figured as responsible for this algae bloom off the coast of California, but no research has been released about potential radionuclide contamination of the bloom, nor were radionuclide results of sampled deceased animals made publicly available, although another species of red tide aglae has been shown to bioaccumulate radionuclides.
Climate change is being forwarded as the generalized and encompassing cause for all animal mortality events, but this explanation ignores the potential contribution of other factors, especially radiation bioaccumulation effects in the wake of the Fukushima crisis.
Moreover, tritium and noble gasses produced by Fukushima (among other radionuclides), particularly Krypton-85, may have played a role in altering climatic and ocean conditions.
Atmospheric levels of Krypton-85 have increased tremendously throughout the atomic age, raising scientific concerns about atmospheric effects. A 1997 study found significant increases in Krypton-85 in the atmosphere from nuclear explosions and reprocessing, noting that in the mid-1940s there existed less than 5 disintegrations per minute (dpm) per liter of krypton, but by the end of that decade levels had risen to 100 dpm per liter. Samples from the 1990s measured “tens of thousands” of disintegrations per minute per liter. Krypton-85 increases air ionization and electrical conductivity.
A study on Krypton-85 published by the IAEA notes: “There are unforeseeable effects for weather and climate if the krypton-85 content of the earth atmosphere continues to rise. There may be a krypton-specific greenhouse effect and a collapse of the natural atmospheric-electrical field.” Concerns about Krypton-85 levels caused the EPA to announce new regulatory efforts in 2014.
Fukushima reactors 1 through 3 were estimated to have lost their full inventory of Krypton-85, resulting in a release of 44.1 PetaBecquerels, whereas Chernobyl produced 33 PetaBecquerels.
This estimate for Fukushima does not include emissions from the fuel in reactor 4’s spent fuel pool, although that pool was known to have lost water for at least five days. Remember that research from Stohl et al. on Fukushima’s noble gas releases concluded that unit 4 must have also contributed to releases.
The estimate of 44.1 PetaBecquerels of Krypton-85 also does not include ongoing noble gas emissions reported by TEPCO in 2012 and 2015.
Increased ionization of the atmosphere by Krypton-85 may have impacted atmospheric conditions, contributing to the “record drought” in the western US reported in the summer of 2012. Moreover, ionization from the decay of Krypton-85 and other radionuclides could also be contributing to ocean acidification. Many radionuclides, such as tritium and cesium, are water soluble and noble gasses saturate the sea surface, although colder temperatures increase uptake. Radioactive decay can cause oxidation, which promotes acidification. Some algae are better adapted to acidification, including red algae ones that produce domoic acid. Acidification of the world’s oceans was an escalating problem before the Fukushima disaster. The impacts of the unprecedented release of radionuclides, including Krypton-85, Tritium, and Cesium, from Fukushima may be contributing to an array of factors that together present “tipping points” for already stressed ocean life.
As noted in previous chapters, marine defaunation is escalating, reaching critical proportions in some species. Mass animal mortality events can be triggered by complex inputs whose synergies produce “tipping points.” A mass mortality event is defined as a:
rapidly occurring catastrophic demographic events that punctuate background mortality levels. Individual MMEs are staggering in their observed magnitude: removing more than 90% of a population, resulting in the death of more than a billion individuals, or producing 700 million tons of dead biomass in a single event. (1)Although well documented, science lacks understanding of the major features and characterizations of MMEs, including causes and trends. Scientists studying MMEs have found they are increasing in number and seem connected to a rise in disease emergence, biotoxicity, and events resulting from multiple interacting stressors. MMEs with the largest magnitude resulted from multiple stressors, starvation and disease. Tipping points occur through the convergence of multiple stressors.
SCIENTIFIC ANALYSIS OF BIOACCUMULATION OF RADIONUCLIDES IN PACIFIC OCEAN LIFE NEEDED NOW!
[i] Samuel Fey, Adam Siepielski, Sébastien Nusslé, Kristina Cervantes-Yoshida, Jason Hwan, Eric Huber, Maxfield Fey, Alessandro Catenazzi, and Stephanie Carlson “Recent shifts in the occurrence, cause, and magnitude of animal mass mortality events,” PNAS (2014 early edition), www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1414894112., 1.