1. Rod, I hope this drives down the blue fin tuna prices, I am looking forward to more sushi! A side effect of this might be to actually prevent the collapse of the species due to over fishing because of irrational fear. It seems hard evidence of over fishing is not enough to reduce the consumption.

    Also on a side note. I love Fox News… Fair and balanced exaggeration and sensationalization of trivial things to sell air time. So much for journalistic integrity. The same can be said about most news outlets…

  2. There may be a small upside to this story. It’s beginning to look like radiation as a fear factor in news stories is beginning to reach the saturation point. The media has to dig deeper and tell more elaborate lies to keep the story going.

  3. Researchers are also noting how cesium in the oceans and the trace amounts showing up in various species is offering a unique opportunity to study their migration. It can also be used to verify computer models of ocean currents. Not related to research, but still on the topic of the fish, perhaps this is how we can prevent the overfishing of some species. Just find a way to contaminate the fish with harmless detectable levels of man-made radionuclides.

  4. Actually, the story by Fox News Latino was not all that bad. It certainly wasn’t any worse than the reporting by The Guardian, where I first encountered the story. The “10 times higher” statistic not only appeared in the original Guardian story, but also appeared in a follow-up story about Californians not eating sushi, which contained the following quote:

    “God no. I don’t even feed it to my cat,” shuddered Danielle Astrada, a student, tucking into chicken noodles.

    Most of the stories (including the one by Fox) followed the same general outline, indicating that they originated from the same AP source. A couple of articles were better than others, containing more information and more quotes from the researchers themselves.

    The worst that I’ve seen was on a blog on Forbes.com and an article by Pravda Today … er … Russia Today (now branded as “RT”).

  5. I’ve found that the coverage this story has received in the Canadian Media has been pretty fair (at least the articles that I’ve read). Every Article that I’ve read has stated that while the levels are 10% above normal, they are still WAY Below safe levels for consumption.

    One fantastic article also showed how they compared the Bluefin to the Yellowfin Tuna that does not migrate, showing how both had Cesium traceable to Bomb Testing, but only the Bluefin had the version traceable to Japan.

    1. Its linked in the story at the bottom. It is an outstanding read too. I know there were refinery fires and assume there were extensive gas incidents but cannot find ANY referenced in the press. Just a few days ago 4 were killed in japan by a geologically related explosion of natural gas.

      Natural gas has been selected as the replacement for nuclear power in the short term and extensive plans are being made for it now for the long haul. ( http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=6470 )

      1. sorry, so it is. I came across the paper and tweeted yesterday. Was so taken aback by it.

  6. “the cesium in the tuna was 30 times less than the radiation dose rate from potassium 40 that is a natural part of the tuna and 200 times less than the radiation dose rate that comes from polonium-210 in normal tuna.”

    Thanks for actually taking the time to do the (difficult for some of us) math rod! Thats VERY important and helpful.

  7. The potassium-40 is natural, but the Cesiums-134 and 137 do not naturally occur, correct?

    And since the Ever-Aftermath continues- isn’t it natural that questions about bioaccumulation in-and-up the food chain should occur?

    These detected amounts may be “below levels of concern” (for last year’s catch) – but what about now? 5 years from now?

    Thoughtfulness and curiosity brought me here for educational purposes- not looking to pick fights.

    1. Etwas: Not unreasonable questions, if you don’t understand how to arrive at the answers. So, let’s start by looking at a few facts:

      Blue Fin Tuna are near the top of the food chain. They would be one of the animals you would expect to see “bioaccumulation” in – and they are at minute levels of cesium, so the affect of bioaccumulation doesn’t seem to be making it very concentrated.

      That’s not actually that surprising when you consider that the total amount of cesium and strontium released by Fukushima is believed to be around 20 pounds. That 20 pounds has been spread across 1/4 of the face of the Earth, give or take, in trillions of gallons of ocean. As time passes, the cesium and strontium will likely spread out ever farther – rendering it more and more dilluted.

      So, I wouldn’t expect to see this problem get worse over time, at all.

      As for potassium-40 being “natural” and cesium not being “natural”, doesn’t make radiation from cesium any worse for you in *extremely low* doses as we see here. By what mechanism would you expect radiation from cesium to be “worse” than radiation from potassium-40?

      1. Oups. So I re read Nnadir articles with the same enjoyment as the first time around. Rod pointed him to us on this board many times.

        I erred and it is in fact Cesium 133 (non radioactive) that is abundant in the oldest rocks on earth contained in the Canadian Shield. The Cesium is trapped in minerals called pollucite.

        And it is in a form that is not soluble. So Rod may not be a 100% right when he states that Cesium is water soluble. Maybe only radioactives form of Cesium are water soluble ?

        1. @Daniel – Cs-134 and Cs-137 produced as fission products are water soluble, but that is not because of their radioactive nature. It is because of the chemistry inside a mass that is otherwise mainly UO2.

          The Cs-133 that is present in a chemical form called pollucite is not water soluble because it is not elemental cesium, but a chemical compound that contains cesium.

    2. @etwas seltsam

      Since you came to the site because you are curious and thoughtful, I hope you will return to find answers.

      Cesium does not tend to bioaccumulate. Like all other radioactive materials, it decays away to eventually become a stable element. In addition, cesium tends to be a part of biological processes so it does not build up; it gets exchanged as it moves through those processes. The physical half life of Cs-137 is 30 years while Cs-134 is a little more than 2 years. I do not know what the biological half life for Cesium is in tuna, but I do know that it is just 70 days in human beings.

      The other factor to consider is the effect of diluting a total release of just 11 kilograms of material in a body of water as large as the Pacific Ocean. The tuna that made the news were probably swimming near the coast of Japan soon after the release, based on the time that it takes to swim across the ocean. The water in which they swam has as high a concentration of cesium as it will ever have, as time goes on ocean currents will tend to dilute that concentration.

      I expect that the levels of cesium in tuna fish will be lower in a year and will be even lower than that in five years.

      With regard to wether or not the material is “natural” or the result of formation in a nuclear reactor, it does not matter at all to biological creatures. The only thing that matters is the type of radiation emission (alpha, beta or gamma) and the specific energy of that emission. The type of radiation emitted from Ka-40 is quite similar to that from Cs-134 or Cs-137. Thus the risk to the fish or anyone eating the fish is 30 times less for the Cs than for the naturally occurring radioactive material.

      Since the radiation-related risk is considered to be zero for naturally occurring tuna, what is 1/30th of zero?

      1. But if the tuna return to (seemingly endlessly contaminated?) Japanese waters, and back, for the whole of their 15-year life-span and swim through Cs-137 (half-life, 300 years?), how can this be good for them, or a good idea for us to continue to eat them- or anything of the Pacific marine variety?

        Also, what about the sick, lesioned seals and polar bears? And the kelp?

        Thanks to all for your civil answers to my earnest questions.

        1. @etwas seltsam

          Please remember that the reason that the tuna are caught and tested in the first place is to determine the levels of other industrial contaminants that they have accumulated – especially methyl mercury that is constantly being dumped into the air and thus into the ocean as the result of burning coal and other industrial activities.

          As I said before, the damaged reactors at Fukushima vented approximate 11 kilograms of cesium into the ocean in what was essentially a single event. There is no more being released. (Some articles will tell you that “releases are still occurring, but they never mention that the concentrations are so far down in the weeds that the total will never click to 12 kilograms.)

          Those tuna swim in a very large ocean. Just thinking about how much water is available in even a cubic kilometer or two makes me fail to imagine why anyone would worry about the effects of 11 kilograms of admittedly easy to detect contamination.

          I have no idea what you are talking about with regard to “sick, lesioned seals and polar bears.” If you are really worried about the health of polar bears, you should be a huge fan of nuclear energy since it provides abundant, reliable power without any greenhouse gases.

          Please avoid eating bluefin tuna – not because they contain detectable, but incredibly tiny amounts of Cs-137. Avoid eating them so that there is more for the rest of us who enjoy the flavor of such a delectable fish or so that there are more of them left over for future generations to enjoy.

  8. I’m not too suprised when studies have a political edge to them.
    The scientists seemed to have glossed over Sr-90 and other isotopes/isomers that show up as tags besides Cs-137 (1/2life 30 yrs), Cs-134 (1/2life 2yrs) after Fukushima. How do they explain Micronesia/Polynesia undersea A & H-bomb tests from 1950’s-1960’s-1970’s since it never mentions Sr-90 release from reactor or detonation device (half-life 28.9 yrs)?
    Tuna do migrate at Micronesia/Polynesia on the way east. The French conducted a total of 153 nuclear weapons tests, in addition to those conducted in 1995. It’s obvious media don’t understand radiation type, dose, equipment and detection devices. Sr-90 uptake happens in bone like in tuna bone.
    Equipment sensitivity as in Liquid Scintillation Counting technique for beta emit is more apt to include in detailed radiation investigative study. To throw around terms has no validity. Media treat the nuke issue by fear monger hype paid off by hydrocarbon industry. There has been low level radiation uptake levels of tuna consumption for years without noted human ill effects.
    This is a study is for political impact despite the very low levels approaching normal background radiation levels.

  9. From a congressional report in April:

    Effects of Radiation from Fukushima Dai-ichi on the U.S. Marine Environment

    Both ocean currents and atmospheric winds have the potential to transport radiation over and into marine waters under U.S. jurisdiction. It is unknown whether marine organisms that migrate through or near Japanese waters to locations where they might subsequently be harvested by U.S. fishermen (possibly some albacore tuna or salmon in the North Pacific) might have been exposed to radiation in or near Japanese waters, or might have consumed prey with accumulated radioactive contaminants.

    Scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution advised that radiation levels in seafood should continue to be monitored, but stated that radiation in the ocean very quickly becomes diluted and should not be a problem beyond the coast of Japan. The same is true of radiation carried by winds around the globe. ( http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R41751.pdf )

    So this basically this was predicted. Its not really a “surprise” at all.

    1. What is important to come out of this blog entry, and the extract from the congressional report above illustrates this even more, is that ‘radiation’ does not travel (in the context of the subject matter), it is radioactive material that is carried. The media is very preoccupied with the ‘activity’ (Bq) and activity concentrations etc. What is important to remember is that the bioavailability of the radioactive substances, and indeed its mode of entry into and around the body (systemic system) is subject to much more than simply activity. Physical size, particle size, density, chemical form and similar are all just as important when looking at exposure potential. The same can be said for Cs-134/137 contamination on land. Just because you can measure an activity of radioactive material in soil (e.g. Bq/g) says nothing what so ever about the exposure potential (from foods grown on land, from inhalation and so on). External radiation (from being in the locality of ground contamination) is much easier to measure / predict.

  10. Seals, walruses, bears with lesions similar to those described by the CDC of Cutaneous Radiation Injury:


    “Since mid-July, more than 60 dead and 75 diseased seals, most of them ringed seals, have been reported in Alaska, with reports continuing to come in. During their fall survey, scientists with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also identified diseased and dead walruses at the annual mass haul-out at Point Lay.

    Seals and walruses suffering from this disease have skin sores, usually on the hind flippers or face, and patchy hair loss. Some of the diseased mammals have exhibited labored breathing and appear lethargic. Scientists have not yet identified a single cause for this disease, though tests indicate a virus is not the cause.
    Necropsies and laboratory tests to date have found skin lesions in most cases, as well as fluid in the lungs, white spots on the liver, and abnormal growths in the brain. Some seals and walruses have undersized lymph nodes, which may indicate compromised immune systems.

    Walruses and ringed seals in Russia, and ringed seals in Canada, have reportedly suffered similar symptoms. While it is not clear if the disease events are related, the timing and location of the disease suggests the possibility of transmission between the populations, or shared exposure to an environmental cause.”


    “Nine polar bears from the Beaufort Sea region near Barrow were found with patchy hair loss and oozing sores on their skin, similar to conditions found in diseased seals and walruses, the agency said in a statement.”

    CRI- http://www.bt.cdc.gov/radiation/criphysicianfactsheet.asp

    “Unlike the skin lesions caused by chemical or thermal damage, the lesions caused by radiation exposures do not appear for hours to days following exposure, and burns and other skin effects tend to appear in cycles.

    Late effects (months to years postexposure; threshold dose ~10 Gy or 1000 rads)—Symptoms can vary from slight dermal atrophy (or thinning of dermis layer) to constant ulcer recurrence, dermal necrosis, and deformity. Possible effects include occlusion of small blood vessels with subsequent disturbances in the blood supply (telangiectasia); destruction of the lymphatic network; regional lymphostasis; and increasing invasive fibrosis, keratosis, vasculitis, and subcutaneous sclerosis of the connective tissue. Pigmentary changes and pain are often present. Skin cancer is possible in subsequent years.”

    As to “no harm or injury” from Fukushima (which I do not believe is contained, controlled, or by any means over):


    “Radiation has been linked to a wide range of maladies: intestinal problems, heart and circulation problems, respiratory problems, endocrine problems and impairment of the immune system, all of which can prove fatal.

    The LNT holds that all levels of radiation pose a risk to human health to a degree 
    that is directly proportional to dose, such that exposure cumulates over a lifetime, with many small doses being equivalent to fewer larger doses (NRC 2006).

    LNT implies a much broader area – with diminishing risks but an increasing number 
    of potential victims as the area widens.

    So let us simply conclude that  Fukushima’s dangers  are deeply  ambiguous,  and that accounts of  the  accident can  exploit this  ambiguity to  duck questions  about the credibility  of prior risk  assessments –
    pulling  favorable numbers  from  the  fact-figure  crossfire  as  evidence  that the  wider risks  of nuclear power are still within the bounds that regulators calculated.”

    The tuna is all yours. With all sincerity, may you (and future generations) enjoy it in good health.

    With all sincerity, I wish more than anything that no harm comes from Fukushima- or any other energy-industry accident, for that matter.

    All energy solutions at this point have pretty horrific consequences and risks, and I have no solutions to these problems; if the rival industries would collaborate (openly) rather than compete (myopically) … ideas with integrity might result.

    Yeah, yeah, slim fat chance, I know.

    1. You forgot the most important quote:

      Preliminary studies showed that radiation poisoning is not the cause, temporarily ruling out a theory that the animals were sickened by contamination from the tsunami-wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan.

      1. “Preliminary studies…temporarily ruling out…”

        I didn’t forget that part; I suspect that results from any further “studies” conducted by government-funded labs, if and when they are released to the public- will be vague and skewed. Those scientists aren’t going to be allowed to be definitive or truthful about what they find- if they want to keep their jobs.

  11. You guys are obviously all pro-nuclear, maybe you are work in the industry or make profit from it in one way or another. I didn’t actually try to read any bios as I really don’t care. Maybe the amount of radiation released from Fukushima into the air and water is exaggerated. But maybe the real amount of radiation released is hidden from the public. I don’t know. You don’t know. We have to rely on the data we receive from the govt of Japan and TEPCO as I’m sure you are not in Fukushima with instruments to measure the radiation, nor are monitoring the amount of contaminated water being released.

    There is no question that nuclear technology generates an enormous amount of energy with minimal greenhouse gas emissions. I guess we could even go so far as to say nuclear energy is safe, as long as there isn’t an accident. When there is an accident we do not have the technology to control that accident and clean up afterwards. The time will come where it will cause the end of human civilization if we do not start moving away from it. I know you will have a whole long winded rebuttal about how few accidents there have actually been, etc, etc, etc. But I would like to see you look into the eyes of one of many thousand mothers in Russia whose child is dying from cancer or who was deformed at birth and tell them nuclear power is safe!

    1. @Jason

      I am a proud nuclear professional, but I am not pronuclear because I am a nuclear professional. Just the opposite. I am a nuclear professional because I had the opportunity to learn about the advantages of nuclear fission over fossil fuel combustion at a very young age. My father was an electrical engineer who worked for a utility company that was able to idle oil burning power plants with great big, belching smokestacks by replacing their power output with nuclear reactors that did not burn anything and did not produce any air pollution at all. He showed me how that worked sometime in the late 1960s, when I was about 8 years old.

      Like many nuclear professionals, I have had plenty of opportunities to work outside the industry. Though I first received intensive nuclear training in the early 1980s, I did not actually enter commercial nuclear power until 2010 after I retired from the US Navy. You will find that nearly everyone in the industry could be gainfully employed somewhere else, we are generally a pretty well trained, well educated bunch of bright people with plenty of salable skills.

      Yes – you sometimes have to trust the information that you get from us because you do not have the ability to do the measurements yourself due to lack of equipment or not being in the right location. That is true of any industry. One of the many neat things about nuclear energy, however, is that the material of interest that might be released from our facilities is some of the most difficult to hide emissions known to man. Radioactive materials send out beacons that very simple equipment can find at levels way below those known to harm people. That is why doctors use radioactive materials as tracers to detect biological functions and why it is possible to determine that tuna were swimming off of the coast of Japan even though the radiation from cesium inside their bodies is 30 times lower than the natural radiation from potassium 40.

      I can proudly look into the eyes of anyone and tell them that my knowledge of nuclear fission is what makes me optimistic for the future of human civilization. If all we had was fossil fuel and unreliables, I would be really depressed by the dim prospects for any future development or prosperity. Instead, I know we have a clean power source that is virtually inexhaustible.

      I can also honestly tell anyone that any deformities that their children might have are NOT from the use of nuclear energy to produce power or heat.

  12. @Jason

    I would add that doctors looking into the eyes of medical patients who have cancer and tell them it’s not all hopeless. They still have tools to treat diseases nuclear medicine and therapeutic radiation has shrunk CA growth like treatment of bone metastasis from cancer. Some of the same isotopes that enviro types complain about are used in radiation therapies. Fortunately members of my family and neighbors have beaten cancer and it happens worldwide where radiation therapy is applied to combat cancer. Nuclear science has many applications fortunately it can be used as a tool for pro-human progress.

  13. It seems natural and artificial isotopes with the same radiation dose do not have the same effect on the human body


    I was just reading a paper from the Committee Examining Radiation Risks of Internal Emitters

    “In this short paper for CERRIE I will argue that there are significant differences in the health consequences of internal exposure to natural radioisotopes and artificial radioisotopes. I will focus on the isotopes of main radiological significance and will examine mechanistic, biochemical and physical differences between natural and man-made isotopes and will review some of the evidence that suggests that it is unsafe to employ natural exposures as a yardstick for estimating effects from man-made internal exposures. ”

    “The views of the Committee were divided on many interpretational aspects of the
    biological data considered in Chapter 3. On induced genomic instability, bystander effects,
    minisatellite mutation induction and specific issues of microdosimetry, there was general
    agreement that many of the phenomena were real and some may well be an integral part
    of cellular and tissue response. There was, however, substantial disagreement as to
    whether the available data were sufficient to draw firm conclusions on the implications for
    3.11 Conclusions
    radiation-induced health effects. A minority of the Committee held the view that the data
    clearly provided a major challenge to current estimates of low dose health effects and
    these members emphasised the implications for internal emitters. Other members were
    less persuaded on the scientific strength of the case. Many of these members believed
    that considerably more knowledge was needed and some considered that current
    epidemiological measures of risk were likely to incorporate contributions from these novel
    cellular responses, albeit with some low dose/low dose rate uncertainties.”

    1. Yes, that’s the minority opinion by a bunch of crackpots.

      I think that you’ll find, if you take a hard look at the legitimate scientific literature in this field, that nobody takes these clowns seriously.

      CERRIE is a joke.

      1. @Brian – I had never heard of CERRIE until this morning, but a quick search led me to their home page. I did not read a word before recognizing that you are dead on – the home page includes a small photo of members and Secretariat. The man on the far left is instantly recognizable as Chris Busby, purveyor of nostrums designed to save people from imaginary doses of radiation. George Monbiot exposed him in the Guardian for marketing his products by stirring up fear, uncertainty and doubt. http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/nov/21/christopher-busby-radiation-pills-fukushima

        1. To be clear, before CERRIE is slammed, Busby effectively walked out of the group. CERRIE as a whole did not agree one little bit with 99% of what Busby was writing.

          1. @Mark – I would be interested in your opinion on the remainder of the CERRIE quotes provided here. This is an interest area for me, but radiation protection is your specialty.

    2. OMG!! Someone would actually link to a ‘study’ from Chris Busby? I suggest a search of journalist George Monbiot reports on Dr. Chris Busby the bret wearing anti-nuke campaigner.

  14. In this short paper for CERRIE I will argue that there are significant differences in the health consequences of internal exposure to natural radioisotopes and artificial radioisotopes.

    For example, Strontium has a particular affinity for the DNA phosphate backbone [see e.g. ref. 27]: indeed, Strontium Phosphate co-precipitation is a method of choice in genetic research for removing DNA from solution. In 1966 Aberg and Gilner were able to show that the mean concentration of Sr-89 required to kill a ram spermatozoon on the 50th day after administration was a single atom per spermatozoon [28].

    “The reason that internal exposures from different isotopes and sources are not comparable is that the mean ionisation density per cell nucleus, cell DNA or specific target for the ultimate effect is not the same from different isotopic or particulate sources even though the absorbed dose, or energy per unit mass, is the same. In addition, the mean ionisation density per cell nucleus or other target from internal decays is not necessarily the same as it is from the same calculated absorbed dose from external exposure. There are a number of theoretical reasons why this is so, and these are listed in Table 1 together with examples of isotopes or exposure regimes.

  15. A few questions…

    Where was the figure of 11 kilograms of cesium determined? how many becquerels or curries does 11 kilograms of pure cesium 137 equal?

    Just wondering where such a concrete figure has been stated as fact when no one really knows what was leaked, not even TEPCO who have been constantly wrong about almost everything, all along.

    And of course Cesium is only one of many of isotopes leaked. How many kilos of strontium? how many kilos of Iodine? how many of all the rest combined? Do you have figures for those as well?

    How much pure cesium does a spent fuel pool containing 460 tonnes of total fuel contain?

    It would be very useful to know how much of each isotope is present in each ton of spent fuel, and if radioactive isotopes dont make up the total weight then what is the remaining “substrate”?


    1. Thank you for challenging my numbers. It made me go back to the raw data and check. I was wrong. The number should not be 11 kilograms, but 100 kilograms. Here is the work:

      According to the most pessimistic estimate I could find (http://blog.alexanderhiggins.com/2012/05/23/tepco-fukushima-cesium-release-4-times-chernobyl-137321/) the total Cs release was approximately 360,000 terabecquerels. One gram of Cs-137 contains approximately 3.7 terabecquerels. (I used an FAS paper that gave me the mass of a curie of Cs-137 as .01 grams.


      Therefore the mass of Cs-137 released was 360,000/3.7 or about 100,000 grams – 100 kilograms.

      I must have dropped a zero somewhere in my original calculation. I apologize.

      Tepco has provided accurate information that has occasionally required updating as more information becomes available and more measurements become possible as a result of improving access to various parts of the facilities.

      The fossil fuel funded press (watch the ads) has frequently worked to discredit Tepco. So have Japanese politicians who failed miserably in their assigned responsibilities. Antinuclear groups have also worked to discredit Tepco. The most disappointing contributors to the dissing of the large group of credible people who form Tepco are others in the nuclear industry who brought up ancient and isolated incidents that happened at a very large company.

      That behavior was akin to tossing a good person “under the bus” to prevent being associated with them at a time when they are not terribly popular.

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