Greenpeace: Japan nuclear plant radiation accumulating in marine life
A Greenpeace crew tests waters off Japan for radiation contamination earlier this month.
May 26th, 2011
08:31 AM ET

Greenpeace: Japan nuclear plant radiation accumulating in marine life

Radiation from Japan's damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is accumulating in marine life off Japan's coast above legal limits for food contamination, Greenpeace said Thursday.

The environmental group said its findings run counter to Japanese government reports that radiation from the Fukushima plant, damaged in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, is being diluted as time passes.

“Despite what the authorities are claiming, radioactive hazards are not decreasing through dilution or dispersion of materials, but the radioactivity is instead accumulating in marine life," Greenpeace radiation expert Jan Vande Putte said in a press release.

Greenpeace said its teams collected samples of marine life along the Fukushima coast and in international waters outside Japan's 12-mile territorial limit. The samples were tested by nuclear research laboratories in France and Belgium, and high levels of radioactive iodine and cesium were found, it said.

Fish, shellfish and seaweed all showed significant levels of radioactive contamination, according to Greenpeace. All are widely consumed in Japan.

Besides consumers, fishermen are at risk from the elevated radiation levels, Greenpeace said.

“Ongoing contamination from the Fukushima crisis means fishermen could be at additional risk from handling fishing nets that have come in contact with radioactive sediment, hemp materials such as rope, which absorb radioactive materials, and as our research shows, radioactivity in fish and seaweed collected along Fukushima’s coast,” Wakao Hanaoka, Greenpeace's Japan oceans campaigner, said in the statement.

The Japanese government has evacuated nearly 80,000 people from areas within 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) of the plant to reduce their radiation exposure. Tens of thousands more may be moved if an exclusion zone is widened to reduce long-term radiation exposure.

Officials from Tokyo Electric Power Co., which owns the Fukushima plant, said last week they expected an end to the nuclear crisis by January. But utility officials said this week that two of  the reactors at the Fukushima plant may be riddled with holes, which would hamper plans to cool the units and bring the crisis to an end.

While no deaths have been attributed to the Fukushima Daiichi accident, the earthquake and tsunami have killed nearly 15,000 and left 10,000 more missing, Japan's National Police Agency has reported.

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Filed under: 2011 tsunami • Energy • Japan • Nuclear
soundoff (99 Responses)
  1. Joey

    I don't trust Greenpeace to tell the absolute truth, and I don't trust governments to tell the absolute truth.
    With all sides of issues expressed speciously, we can think for ourselves–at least, some of us can.

    May 26, 2011 at 9:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Andrew Payne

      As long as the scientific data is substantiated by a neutral third party, this liberal doesn't care if it comes from the Heritage Foundation or Focus on the Family! Collecting marine life to measure radiation levels is beyond my skill set, and also probably beyond what most people are trained to do.

      May 26, 2011 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |
  2. John Tucker

    The Anti Nuke movement is partially responsible for POISONING the oceans with Mercury – that has NO half life and in toxic forever. Greenpeace has circulated unverifiable/false health information with respect to Chernobyl. Now they are irresponsibly hyping this Accident to the hilt when they KNOW it will lead to more coal use over the entire planet. Just as it has for 30 years now. Greenpeace has become a driver of extinction.

    May 26, 2011 at 9:20 am | Report abuse |
    • gill

      Whoa dude

      May 26, 2011 at 9:37 am | Report abuse |
    • CoqCheney

      The term "anti-nuke" does not mean "pro-coal." Greenpeace is a political organization, and I do not make any defense of their specific analyses, but you are generalizing like a patsy for the nuclear industry. Opposing nuclear power does not mean the assumption of fossil fuels being any better, those are your words. Environmentally-minded individuals seek to reduce ALL pollution... this article happens to be about a nuclear tragedy. Just because you are confused, that doesn't speak for everyone else.

      May 26, 2011 at 9:40 am | Report abuse |
    • NotLibyanIntelAtAll

      Greenpeace is an excellent tool for us to use against the crusaders. The liberals play right into our hands.

      May 26, 2011 at 9:59 am | Report abuse |
    • jorge washinsen

      If we did not have plenty of coal, the American business man of the last 30 years would be importing it from China and telling us how clean it is. I have been here close to 3/4 of a century and I will die from something to make way for another.People were dying when I was born and they still are.Most of what kills most of them early is voting Democrat.

      May 26, 2011 at 10:00 am | Report abuse |
    • rrock

      The power company was clearly incompetent in designing the plants and has been incompetent in reporting the severity of this incident. We can only hope the rest of the world is paying attention and that all existing and future plants will be designed conservatively enough so that we will never have another disaster such as this. Lets deal with the truth not wishful thinking.

      May 26, 2011 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
    • John Tucker

      What green peace says and what actually happens are two completely different things. Unless they have a guarantee in hand when shutting down a nuclear plant or halting its construction – It goes to Coal. Period. It always has. They know that and they cant change what they did – but they can start being responsible.

      May 26, 2011 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
    • John Tucker

      CoqCheney im saying what actually happened. I dont care about the intent, politics or whatever. This is what happened and is happening.

      May 26, 2011 at 11:12 am | Report abuse |
    • man4earth

      The fact that coal is still being used is the fault of politicians not Greenpeace. Solar, Wind and other renewable forms of energy are much less expensive ways to produce power.

      May 26, 2011 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Dave

    John Tucker – please post proof for your statement, because right now, it seems completely inaccurate, unfounded, and honestly, it reads like a bold-faced lie.

    May 26, 2011 at 9:44 am | Report abuse |
    • John Tucker

      No dave I read their Chernobyl report and checked the primary sources. Greenpeace has contributed to a HUGE increase in Mercury and heavy metals INCLUDING radio active materials into the worlds oceans. Not to mention acidification and climate change by their anti nuclear stance. I wont even go into unnecessary deaths since the late 70ś.

      May 26, 2011 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
  4. Ex Navy Nuke

    I thought nuclear power was safe and 6 years as a nuclear operator taught me the truth. The "arm chair" nuclear experts are nothing but misinformed trolls spouting the nuclear energy industry propaganda. To reply to John Tucker post, "Greenpeace has become a driver of extinction." This type of comment only shows this person hate the planet and has a mental blockage to the truth. Driver of extinction? Anti nuke poising the oceans with mercury? Please explain this nonsense if you would. I put $20 he is will say is the CFL light-bulbs that irresponsible people throw into the trash rather than returning them to the place of purchase or to the local refuse facility, where they are recycled. More mercury is put into the atmosphere from coal power facilities than CFL bulbs. Nice to see Switzerland is not building any more nuclear power facilities! Some people are just stuck on stupid. Go hug a tree, it gives you Oxygen to live!

    May 26, 2011 at 9:48 am | Report abuse |
    • TforTexas

      It would help if you could write a coherent sentence...

      May 26, 2011 at 10:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Ex Navy Nuke

      I guess Texas is full of uneducated oil sucking morons. Still waiting for HOW Greenpeace is putting mercury into the oceans?

      May 26, 2011 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cranky

      I always wish I had the skill of using a lot of words without saying anything.

      On the other hand, it would help if you actually made a point. No, speculating what he "thinks" is not making a point.

      May 26, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
  5. jorge washinsen

    Anytime you see a crowd dressed head to toe, the economy is about to change for good for the one's in the suits and the companies who made them.

    May 26, 2011 at 9:50 am | Report abuse |
  6. jorge washinsen

    I will bet Al Gore is in one of the suits.

    May 26, 2011 at 9:52 am | Report abuse |
  7. Jake Rockwel

    In some states its required to say where a fish is cought when its sold.. Should be every state.

    May 26, 2011 at 10:16 am | Report abuse |
  8. Dennis1988

    I want to take a moment to give you an idea about the ratio of the combined radiation emissions from Chernobyl and Fukushima vs. the ‘natural’ levels of radiation found in the worlds oceans.

    The Chernobyl accident in 1986 released about 140.5 Million Curies of radionuclides. That was about 5.2e+18 Bq (5200 PBq). At this point, the Fukushima release is about 8.38 Million Curies. That is about 3.1e+17 Bq (310 PBq). If you add the releases from both of these accidents, you have a combined release of about 5.510e+18 Bq (5510 PBq).

    How does this level compare with the natural level of radiation in the earth’s oceans?

    The ocean contains about 3.34 mg of Uranium per cubic meter. This Uranium is in solution. When you consider that there are about 1.26e+18 cubic meters of seawater, this means that there are about 4.54 Billion Metric tons of Uranium-238 in the oceans. The natural decay rate of that U-238 will cause about 5.65e+19 Uranium-238 nuclei to decay to Thorium-234 every second. That also means that about 5.65e+19 Thorium-234 nuclei will decay to Pa-234 every second. In fact, the oceans (and the uranium in the oceans) have been around long enough to establish full secular equilibrium through the entire U-238 decay chain. That means that the total decay chain of U-238 provides about 7.34e+20 Bq (734,000 PBq) of radioactivity within the worlds oceans compared to the combined release of 5510 PBq because of the Chernobyl and Fukushima accidents. That ‘natural’ oceanic level is 133.2 times the combined level of radioactive nuclides released by the Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear accidents.

    The above decay chain does not include the fission products that result from ‘natural’ spontaneous fission of the U-238 in the oceans. I am not going to take the time to include all of the fission products from the U-238 that is contained within the oceans of the world, but I will list a few items here. The uranium has been in the oceans for billions of years, so the fission products are also in a state of secular equilibrium.

    This ‘natural’ fission process means that the oceans contain a natural level of 1.69 TBq of Strontium-90. The oceans also contain a natural level of 1.81 TBq Cesium-137. There will be those that will argue that there is no natural Cs-137 in the ocean because the ‘Cesium-137’ article in Wikipedia states that Cs-137 is ‘totally anthropogenic’ (man-made). This is not the first time an article in Wikipedia has been wrong, nor will it be the last time.

    The 7.34e+20 Bq that the oceans contain thanks to the Uranium in the oceans are only a small fraction of the total radionuclides contained in the oceans of the world. You have to remember that seawater is about 0.04% potassium by weight. That means that the oceans contain about 559 Trillion Metric tons of Potassium. Radioactive potassium-40 (K-40) represents about 0.0117% of that potassium. There are about 65.4 billion metric tons of radioactive K-40 in the oceans. That translates to about 1.71e+22 Bq (17.1 Million PBq) of radioactive K-40 in the ocean. Add that to the amount of radionuclides from the Uranium-238 decay-chain, and you have a ‘natural’ oceanic activity of 17.85 Million PBq.

    That ‘natural’ level means that the oceans naturally contain about 3,240 times the radionuclides than the 5510 PBq that were released by the combination of both the Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear accidents. The oceans contained that amount of radionuclides before humanity built a single nuclear reactor. The oceans contained that amount of radionuclides before Columbus sailed across the Atlantic in 1492. The oceans contained that level of ‘natural’ radiation before the Pyramids rose from the land in Egypt. That is the natural level of radiation contained in the oceans.

    Chernobyl and Fukushima are local tragedies. They are not global tragedies.

    On the other hand…the continued annual release of 33 BILLION metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels is leading us right into a GLOBAL tragedy. Just as it does not take a large difference in the CO2 levels inside the body to make the difference between a person living to the age of 100 or suffering death within hours…the overall environment is extremely sensitive to the amount of Carbon dioxide in the biosphere.

    The amount of CO2 that we now release into the atmosphere on an annual basis is orders of magnitude more dangerous to life on earth that a Chernobyl magnitude nuclear accident every 20 years for the next millennium.

    May 26, 2011 at 10:22 am | Report abuse |
    • davidt

      is this a joke?

      May 26, 2011 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Hades

      This is why having backround samples is nice Dennis. Due to natural variables, various locations can have varying levels of radiation. You look at the ocean as a whole. We are dealing with an extreamly small, in comparison, with a hightly spiked level of radiation.

      Using your logic, one could say that getting 200 times the normal level of radiation exposure to a finger is safe as the entire body recieves more than that in a year.

      May 26, 2011 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
  9. john

    This is exactly what I said would happen back in the beginning of the disaster. If you sample the seawater yes it does become diluted BUT as first plankton then small fish, then larger fish eat each other on up the food chain radiation becomes CONCENTRATED in the flesh if larger animals and humans at the top of the food chain get the highest doses. This is a well know scientific FACT.

    May 26, 2011 at 10:23 am | Report abuse |
  10. Ex Navy Nuke

    G W Bush = empty suit!

    May 26, 2011 at 10:23 am | Report abuse |
  11. Nuclear Company Shill

    Do not look behind the curtain at that man. I am the powerful OZ! Obey my command. Jorge washinsen please let us store spent nuclear fuel in your basement. You are a loyal stooge, thank you for not having a brain!

    May 26, 2011 at 10:26 am | Report abuse |
  12. Dennis1988

    I have estimated the amount of radionuclides that the earth’s oceans contain in other posts. In this post, I will provide an estimate of the amount of radionuclides contained in the average cubic meter of the earth’s crust. Three primary naturally occurring radioactive isotopes are responsible for almost the entire amount of radionuclides in the earth’s crust. These three isotopes are Uranium-238 (U-238), Thorium-232 (Th-232) and Potassium-40 (K-40).

    The average amount of U-238 in the earth’s crust is about 2.4 g/metric ton. Th-232 comprises an average of about 7.4 g/metric ton of the earth’s crust. About 2.1% of the earth’s crust is composed of potassium, of which 0.0117% of that Potassium is K-40. That means that the average amount of K-40 in the earth’s crust is about 2.45g/metric ton.

    Each cubic meter of the earth’s crust weighs, on average, about 2.6 metric tons. That means that each cubic meter of the earth’s crust contains about 6.24g of U-238, 19.24 g of Thorium-232 and 6.38 g of Potassium-40.

    The specific activity of U-238 (which makes up more than 99% of the Uranium) is 1.2437e+4 Bq/g. The average activity for Uranium in the earth’s crust would be 77,607 Bq/m3. The decay chain for U-238 consists of major 14 isotopes. Because U-238 has an average-life that is orders of magnitude longer that the average life of its entire decay chain, there will be complete secular equilibrium for all of the isotopes in the decay chain. That means that that each of the fourteen isotopes in the U-238 decay chain will also have the same activity as U-238. Multiplying the U-238 activity by 14 yields a Uranium-related activity of 1.0865 MBq/m3 (Million Bq per cubic meter) in the earth’s crust.

    The specific activity of Thorium-232 is 4.0430E+03 Bq/g. The average activity for Thorium-232 in the earth’s crust would be 77,787 Bq/m3. The decay chain for Thorium-232 consists of 10 major isotopes. Just as with U-238, there will be complete secular equilibrium for all of the isotopes in the Thorium-232 decay chain. Multiplying the Th-232 activity by ten will yield a Thorium-related activity of 0.77787 MBq/m3.

    Potassium-40 has a specific activity of 2.6165E+05 Bq/g. The average activity for Potassium-40 in the earth’s crust is 1.66933 MBq/m3. Potasium-40 decays directly to either Argon-40 or Calcium-40, so there is no decay chain.

    Between those three major natural radioactive isotopes and their respective decay chains, the ‘natural’ average activity in the earth’s crust will be 3.5337 MBq/m3. In the following paragraphs, I will provide the average number of naturally occurring radionuclides contained within certain units of land area. I will include the amount of crust within 1 meter of the surface and 100 meters of the surface for each unit of land area.

    There are 644 acres of land in a square mile. An acre of land contains 43,560 sq ft. That would be equal to 4026.3925 square meters. On average, an acre of land, to a depth of one meter, will contain 14.228 GBq (Billion Bq {10^9 Bq}) of naturally occurring radionuclides. To a depth of 100 meters, the average acre of land will contain 1.4228 TBq (Terra Bq {10^12 Bq}) of naturally occurring radionuclides.

    An average square kilometer of land, to a depth of one meter, would contain 3.534 TBq of naturally occurring radionuclides. To a depth of 100 meters, that average square kilometer of land would contain about 353.4 TBq of naturally occurring radionuclides.

    The United States (including Alaska and Hawaii) contains 9,826,675 square kilometers of land. Within the top meter of the United States, there are about 34,725 PBq (Peta Bq {10^15 Bq}) of naturally occurring radionuclides. In the top 100 meters of the United States, there are 3,472,400 PBq of naturally occurring radionuclides.

    The earth has a total land mass of 148,940,000 square kilometers of land. Within the top meter of the earth’s land mass are about 526,000 PBq of naturally occurring radionuclides. In the top 100 meters of the earth’s land mass, there are about 52,600,000 PBq of naturally occurring radionuclides.

    The Chernobyl accident released about 5,200 PBq of radionuclides. The Fukushima accident has released about 310 PBq of radionuclides. The total release from Chernobyl and Fukushima is about 5,510 PBq of radionuclides.

    That 5,510 PBq compares to the 52,600,000 PBq of naturally occurring radionuclides in the top 100 meters of the earth’s land masses. It also compares to the 17,100,000 PBq of natural radionuclides contained in the earth’s oceans.

    Meanwhile, there are those who go ballistic when they see that monitoring stations on the west coast of the US are detecting atmospheric radionuclide levels from Fukushima of less than 1 Bq/m3.

    I have news for those people…the earth ‘naturally’ glows in the dark in gamma, alpha and beta emissions. The earth has been glowing in the dark since long before a human ever stood upright. The earth glowed in the dark in those emissions before the dinosaurs appeared a couple of hundred million years ago.

    The 69,700,000 PBq of radionuclides contained in the upper 100 meters of the earth’s landmasses and in the oceans is 12,649 times the amount of radionuclides released by Chernobyl and Fukushima combined.

    The earth and its oceans could swallow a thousand Chernobyls whole and it would barely have an effect the natural global background radiation.

    May 26, 2011 at 10:26 am | Report abuse |
    • davidt

      wow you think people believe that? you are a shill and a fool

      May 26, 2011 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Dennis1988


      Everything in that post is accurate...

      Do you realize that on average, every square meter of land on the earth contains about 350,000 Bq of naturally occurring radionuclides within four inches of the surface. Keep that in mind when you sit down on the ground to watch fireworks every fourth of July. Imagine all of those radionuclides decaying within inches of you.

      By the way, of those 350,000 Bq of radionuclides within four inches of the surface, about 166,933 Bq of naturally occurring Potassium-40 are showering you with gamma when you sit down.

      You may want to check the facts...and not just listen to people who have axes to grind.

      May 26, 2011 at 10:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Hades

      Lets all forget the workers who were expoused to contaminated water and got radiation burns. Spread out over an entire ocean the radiation wouldnt be so bad.. but when its concentrated in a small area.. bad things DO happen.

      May 26, 2011 at 10:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Dennis1988


      I never tried to say it was not a local problem...

      Does the problem rise to a global catastrophe?

      May 26, 2011 at 10:56 am | Report abuse |
    • man4earth

      Dennis, you forgot to mention that much of this radioactivity is highly concentrated and locked-up in rock underground in certain areas around globe. Some of these areas are unsafe for human habitation and mined for the raw materials of nuclear fuel. Your presentation of radionuclide concentration levels create a very inaccurate picture. Releases from Fukushima are still occurring and the numbers we have are questionable. Why are you presenting this information in this manner? Folks, the truth is very little radiation exists in most soils at the surface.

      May 26, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • davidt

      Here is a link for you David, see how this radiation leak is not dispersing as neatly as you implied. What you learned and what you assume is inaccurate and misleading.

      May 26, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • davidt


      May 26, 2011 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
  13. JAdams1776

    AlternativeToNuclear . org

    May 26, 2011 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
  14. Mike C.

    When Godzilla shows up and destroys Tokyo... they will know why.

    May 26, 2011 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
  15. Elephant In The Room

    Dennis that $h!+ was way too long and I`m a scientist by training.

    I`ll give you the benefit of the doubt on some of the figures and SOME detail is good but to reach attention-deficit-disorder afflicted Americans, you`d better boil that dissertation down to a bumpersticker.

    You must be a Democrat : well intentioned, – often wel informed on the facts, but ALWAYS verbose!

    May 26, 2011 at 10:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Dennis1988

      I spent 20 years doing R&D work and you have to supply more than just the results. If you are a scientist by training, then you should know that.

      You can go through and check my facts, and my results. everything is there that you need in order to determine whether that information is valid.

      By the way, slogans don't educate people. All that slogans and sound bites do do is provide the slant that the author wishes to convey. They people who rely on slogans know that most people are too stupid to check the facts anyway.

      May 26, 2011 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Cranky

      Notice he doesn't say what *kind* of scientist he is.

      But he is right on one thing, you do need to make it a slogan. No one says you can't have a slant coveying the truth. Keep in mind that no matter what you say, no matter what you do, you are always creating a slant that you wish to convey.

      I work with a lot of scientists and other technically minded people, so I'm going to go out on a limb and say that your defense to that is that there is no slant to facts. This is true, but in order to convey facts, you need to wrap it up in other language...this is the part that creates the slant.

      Most of what you had in your original post was facts, true. But then at the end, you made analysis of those facts. Analysis, by its very nature, creates bias.

      But whatever, I don't even know why I posted this. I never win with very smart people such as yourself because *they* are always SOOO different and always SOOO truthful and they always do every EXACTLY correct.

      May 26, 2011 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
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