[Coral-List] Disturbing news for the Pacific

David Evans davidjevans1818 at yahoo.com
Sat Aug 31 17:33:20 EDT 2013

Regarding the news of the radioactive releases from Fukushima power plant, Japan.

This latest may help a little (apologies if this repeats information already presented):
From Livescience (popular web based science news): 

Fukushima's Radioactive Ocean Plume to Reach US Waters by 2014
By Jeremy Hsu, LiveScience Contributor   |   August 30, 2013 04:20pm ET

"A radioactive plume of water in the Pacific Ocean from Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant, which was crippled in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, will likely reach U.S. coastal waters starting in 2014, according to a new study." ...

"The release of cesium-137 from Fukushima in Japan’s more turbulent eastern currents means the radioactive material is diluted to the point of posing little threat to humans by the time it leaves Japan’s coastal waters." ... "...a study detailed in the October issue of the journal Deep-Sea Research Part 1."

I don't know what exactly "before leaving Japan's coastal waters entails," and what impact may be experienced by non-human organisms at different depths... but the models certainly seem to indicate ambient radiation levels connected with Fukushima for the greater Pacific to have dropped below human safety concerns. 

[again from livescience.com: "Luckily, two ocean currents off the eastern coast of Japan — the Kuroshio Current and the Kuroshio Extension — would have diluted the radioactive material so that its concentration fell well below the World Health Organization’s safety levels within four months of the Fukushima incident.]

But the concern on this forum I think is for the ecosystem of the Pacific and its various habitats (coral reefs I'd think here) and their denizens. 

In that vein, the topic of Bio-accumulation seems appropriate to consider. But certainly not in the sense of immediate panic, eco-disaster, and catastrophe. Maybe for the sake of increasing our knowledge of what we are doing to the world's ocean habitats.

There are already natural radiation sources in the oceans. What does adding more do to the system? There's already a basis of study from the cold war efforts of nuclear bomb tests both atmospheric and sub-surface, and mostly around coral islands too. - also from studying the marine effects of the Chernobyl release.

Polonium is a naturally occurring radiation source at lower depths. It's a breakdown product of naturally occurring Uranium or something like that. And it bio-accumulates in some invertebrates, especially crustaceans apparently. 

Koslow has great write up on the subject in his book, The Silent Deep [T Koslow. 2007. The Silent Deep. Univ. of Chic. Press. 270pp]..

That said, I think the visceral reaction people have to anything nuclear or radioactive comes quite naturally, and much of it comes by way of the manner governments handled the topic with the general public over the years (and much of that owing to the nature of nuclear weapon secrecy and honest lack of knowledge). The stuff is definitely dangerous, but where are the limits? It's the grey unknown parts that freak people out. With intangible danger, there is usually an over abundance of caution if the alarm of threat is raised. And sometimes it's well deserved. Sometimes not. Invisible danger often roots at something deeper and primitive, like the fear of ghosts... But sorry for the rambling...

I think it's fair to ask questions, where radiation is involved. If only to increase our knowledge and allay primitive fears, or shed light on true dangers.

What was a nuclear target ship doing in the Caribbean, at Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands just 10, 20, 30 years after being exposed to nuclear blasts in the Pacific? It was too "hot" to handle so to speak following the blasts, but it tooled around the waters of Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico and the populated Island of Vieques up until the '70s until it was scuttled on a shallow coral reef there at the bombing range. I don't think any of us would have felt comfortable with the irradiated hulk mounted in the Duck Pond of Central Park New York. I think it'd be fair to ask questions. Well, anyway, the ship (USS Killen) has been measured to have "background" commensurate levels of radioactivity as of post 2000 surveys. But where did all of the ship's surface materials go (all the superstructures, guns, decks)? Where did the steam turbine that sucked in irradiated seawater go? How long have they been missing? What were the radiation levels of the ship and
 its contents in the 1960's, 70's, 80's? Why was it sent to the Caribbean in the first place? Answers: all unknown...

The level of cancers and disease among the population on Vieques have been high. But they have had many sources to be concerned about, some of them possibly natural... 

With radiation, I think it's ok to ask questions, even the hard ones... If only for peace of mind. And we might increase our knowledge along the way.

If you read all this, thank you for humoring me...

David J. Evans

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