NEW RADIATION DANGER IDENTIFIED FROM FUKUSHIMA NUCLEAR DISASTER

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11 march 2019

[4C Note: While the following artIcle does not deal directly with climate change, it does augment our concerns about viewing nuclear power as a solution to global warming.]

Radioactive Glass Beads May Tell the Terrible Tale of How the Fukushima Meltdown Unfolded

The microscopic particles unleashed by the plant’s explosions are also a potential environmental and health concern

By Andrea Thompson, Scientific American on March 11, 2019

On March 14 and 15, 2011, explosions unleashed invisible radioactive plumes from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, crippled three days earlier when the strongest recorded earthquake in Japan’s history triggered a massive tsunami. As the plumes drifted over the neighboring countryside, their contents—including radioactive cesium, a by-product of the plant’s fission reactions—fell to the ground and over the ocean.

What no one knew or expected was the fallout also contained bacteria-size glassy beads, with concentrations of radioactive cesium that were far higher than those in similar-size motes of tainted dust or dirt.

Since these particles were discovered in 2013, scientists have plucked them from soil samples and air filters throughout the contamination zone, including filters as far away as Tokyo. The beads could pose an under-recognized heath risk, researchers say, because they are tiny enough to be inhaled deep into the lungs—and their glassy makeup means they may not easily dissolve or erode. They also present an opportunity to conduct what one researcher called “nuclear forensics”: By analyzing the particles’ composition, scientists can piece together a clearer image of what happened during the white-hot violence inside the plant itself, and of the current condition of the debris in the three reactors that experienced meltdowns. This could help inform the strategy for cleaning up the ruins of the plant.

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