Ocean Science

The Flow from Fukushima

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Science  25 Nov 2011:
Vol. 334, Issue 6059, pp. 1035
DOI: 10.1126/science.334.6059.1035-c

As engineers continue their efforts to stabilize the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, marine scientists are studying the amount and distribution of radioactive material released into the ocean. Sources include atmospheric fallout, release of contaminated freshwater and seawater used to cool the reactors, and contaminated groundwater discharges, but the overall magnitude of the contamination is not well documented. Buesseler et al. have analyzed ocean data from TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) and the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) in comparison to data acquired before the accident. Ocean discharges peaked in early April, 1 month after the accident, but levels of cesium-137 remained more than 10,000 times higher than normal through the end of July, indicating continued release from the reactors or other sources. The impact on marine biota and humans through direct exposure is likely to be minimal, but further study is required to understand the full effects of bioaccumulation and associated implications for seafood and seaweed consumption by humans.

Environ. Sci. Technol. 45, 10.1021/es202816c (2011).

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