Highest Estimate Yet: Fukushima about equal to Chernobyl, says US gov’t funded study

Published: April 3rd, 2012 at 2:41 am ET


Title: Fukushima-derived radionuclides in the ocean and biota off Japan
Source: www.pnas.org/cgi/content/short/1120794109
Authors: Buesseler et al.
Date: April 2, 2012
Emphasis Added

[…] our data are consistent with higher estimates of the magnitude of Fukushima fallout and direct releases [Stohl et al. (2011) Atmos Chem Phys Discuss 11:28319–28394; Bailly du Bois et al. (2011) J Environ Radioact, 10.1016/j.jenvrad.2011.11.015]. […]

There has been considerable debate about both the total radionuclide releases and the extent of atmospheric fallout vs. direct discharges from the Fukushima NPPs. […]

We measured a total inventory of Fukushima-derived 137Cs of 1.9–2.1 PBq in our study area (Methods), which is lower because most of the 137Cs delivered either as fallout in March or direct discharges in April would have been transported out of the study area by June.

[…] The model predicts an inventory of ∼0.4 PBq (using the lowest atmospheric and direct discharge source estimates) to ∼2.0 PBq (using the highest estimates) in our study area in June (SI Discussion). Thus, if we include realistic transport, our measured inventory in June agrees better with what is predicted using the largest release estimates; this is important, but needs to be supported by additional data over larger areas of the North Pacific. However, at present, such data are extremely limited and insufficient to make a basin-wide inventory calculation.

“Using the largest release estimates” for Fukushima amounts to:

Largest Estimate of Cs-137 Air Release — via Stohl, et al: 36 Petabecquerels (PBq)
Largest Estimate of Cs-137 Ocean Release — via du Bois, et al: 27 PBq
Fukushima Total: ~63 PBq
Chernobyl: ~70 PBq

“The total 137Cs release was estimated to be 70 petabecquerels (PBq) of which 31 PBq were deposited in the Soviet Union.” –Nuclear Energy Agency

“Buesseler received funding support for this work from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the National Science Foundation’s Chemical Oceanography program.” –Source

Published: April 3rd, 2012 at 2:41 am ET


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  1. Japan Gov’t-funded Study: Fukushima has released up to 120 Quadrillion becquerels of radioactive cesium into North Pacific Ocean — Does not include amounts that fell on land — Exceeds Chernobyl total, which accounts for releases deposited on land AND ocean (MAP) June 30, 2014
  2. Russian Study: Fukushima released 100 quadrillion becquerels of cesium into atmosphere… In just ONE day — About equal to Chernobyl’s total release August 29, 2013
  3. Report: Fukushima Daiichi equal to or greater than Chernobyl? “Some startling results” March 11, 2013
  4. Gov’t report reveals Fukushima radioactive release much larger than Chernobyl — Japan reactors could have emitted nearly four times as much cesium-137 October 20, 2014
  5. Scientists measured 2,000 trillion becquerels of Cs-137 in one study area — Would’ve been much higher, but radioactivity was transported away by time of sampling April 3, 2012

33 comments to Highest Estimate Yet: Fukushima about equal to Chernobyl, says US gov’t funded study

  • Grampybone Grampybone

    90% of Chernobyl? Maybe the amount detected in atmosphere or on the ground. There is no telling how much is still leaking into the ocean. There is another factor I would like to see and that is if radioactive particles car evaporate off seawater. If this an ongoing event then the radiation spike across the US would make a lot more sense. I'm guessing that with all the sulfur 35 found early in the disaster that other isotopes are going through similar changes. This includes alpha emitters which no one seems to have much data on.

  • the real question is: is all this iodine and cesium originating from the reactors or from released fuel already distributed in the "explosion phase"

    • well the iodine has a short half life, like 8 days, so it would all be gone. Cesium 30 years, same as Strontium

      Whatever water they pour in, comes out contaminated, they dont treat it all, much goes right into the ground then into the ocean.

      Ocean spray may take on a whole new meaning. Surfing with a gas mask.

  • datura17

    re: iodine, in about 80 days time any iodine 131 should be about gone, unless the amount is huge. every 8 days half of what was there is gone. so therefore since they are still finding it, it means it is being generated somewhere as a result of fission. which means there are unknown/non-disclosed processes going on in the area of fukushima. unfortunately, with cesium it is more difficult as its half life is about 30 years. so even if you did 'backward math' and said that there is 1 pound of iodine 131 that is still showing up from the original boom that would mean that every 8 days going back to march 11, 2011 the amount would double. so 2 pounds 8 days ago, 4 pounds 16 days ago, 8 pounds 24 days, 16 pounds 32 days, 32 pounds 40 days. it has been over a year and the levels have gone up and down and up and down and up…remember it is a FISSION product, not generally a product of radioactive decay. and i say that last part because there probably is something that will decay into i-131, perhaps i-133?

    • Radio VicFromOregon

      I still think that the ongoing open pit burning of radioactive debris, that Japan plans to continue on a daily basis through 2014, is a ready source for ionized, highly transportable radiation. But, would iodine 131 regenerate from this process?

      • datura17

        no burning radioactive thing does not effect the radioactive elements, only their temperature. hot enough and they vaporize, hotter still and they ionize (glow, like a xenon flash tube) burning does not increase the amount of a given radioactive substance nor does it make a radioactive element non-radioactive. iodine 131 is made by the fission process. that is a quantity of uranium with enough mass (enough to reach critical mass) and the right type (of element) it will begin fissioning on its own. if you get enough mass of the element together then you could have a prompt criticality, one that releases a lot of heat energy and radiation and blows the critical mass apart, but not in itself as powerful (the blast) as in a nuclear bomb as there is no explosive diving the mass together to make the critical mass event like in a bomb. this is just a big molten glob of uranium and plutonium and whatever else that melts at very high temperatures like tungsten, as anything else is volatilized away, like distilling alcohol(low vaporizing point) from water (higher vaporizing point). so as the blob goes into the ground it encounters varying hardness and thickness of rock layers that may slow the oozing blob down enough so that it can build its mass back up and become critical again, then burns through that layer and on through the next perhaps softer layer only to hit another harder layer where it repeats. but hey, what do i know? i am just a poisonous plant with a cool flower.

  • I put up a "geigers for dummies" table. Its for general rad level understanding too, not just geigers.

    Check it out please


  • dosdos dosdos

    Keep in mind that this comparison is only for cesium 137. The Xenon release for Fukushima in the first days alone tops the total for everything that Chernobyl released.

    Fukushima is the worst industrial accident in history. Period.

    • CB CB

      ~ The Daiichi complex had a total of 1760 metric tons of fresh and used nuclear fuel on site last year, according to a presentation by its owners, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco).
      ~ Not to mention the uber secret facility operating onsite, in close proximity to the plant.
      ~ The 3 known, admitted China syndromes are still, and will always be forever spewing large quantities of radiation into the environment.
      ~ Meaning you are on the receiving end of the biological consequences.
      ~ A continuous re – distribution of concentrated radiation by means of incineration are continuously redistributed throughout the atmosphere.
      ~ The Pacific Ocean is The largest sponge of the contamination, the never unprecedented slut of continues exposure, ever increasing Bio radioactive accumulation of new forms of radio nuclides. (the transformations not given account with salt water) Buckeyeballs.
      ~ Chernobyl is a .001uSV/H to a .1 mSV/h Fukushima. ~ Lowball.

      • CB CB

        Is the Pacific contamination even a factor in the resulting contamination sum? The biological present contamination, and the biological contamination factor in the equation to radiation dose will ever be increasing throughout time. An ever increase in radioactive Bio~accumulation. Does anyone understand me?

        • CB CB

          The affected accumulation, and known radioactive fallout isotopes in your area are obviously mapped. But withheld by the authorities. We were here a year ago, when this math comes to 0, We will no longer be alone.

        • MidwestDad

          AS far as I can tell they did not include totals for Pacific basin based on <em>this statement</em>:

          this is important, but needs to be supported by additional data over larger areas of the North Pacific. However, at present, such data are extremely limited and insufficient to make a basin-wide inventory calculation.

    • gottagetoffthegrid

      yep. this is only for Cs137. there are probably 10 to 20 other radionuclides that were ommitted, not to mention big chunks of fuel.

      this article is guilty of SCAM NUMBER EIGHT of 39 SCAMS:

      "In instances where environmental monitoring is undertaken, avoid measuring the full spectrum of radiation emitted from the radioisotopes involved."

      –from the book "A Primer in the Art of Deception: The Cult of Nuclearists, Uranium Weapons and Fraudulent Science" by Paul Zimmerman

  • many moons

    I find this Fuku just like Chernobyl thing extremely irritating……
    They are holding on to this comparison to kind say …well we made it past Chernobyl and Fuku is about the same…so somewhere down the line we will be safe…..
    The only thing that is similar in the two accidents is the authorities constant LYING!!!!!!

    • many moons,
      Exactly, There is no comparison ! This was a fact more then three times over, Adding MOX to the mix and 3 days in !

  • dear jones

    The only reason that Fuku's data show less serious than Chernobyl is that Japan is the dog of USA and the western world.

  • CB CB

    Not so sure, Could be the location of Fukushima, and the winds blowing westerly. The radioactive contamination is upwards of 90% less of what it might be if it were on the East coast. Because of Fukushimas location, the affected localities are at much less risk to fallout. Imagine what the result would be in N.Y. Radioactive Fallout ~ http://ggtms.com/

  • Heart of the Rose Heart of the Rose

    Limited time frame..limited sampling..in cooperation with Woods Hole..and friends.

  • Heart of the Rose Heart of the Rose

    PS..See acknowledements..They are ganging up on Heart…lol.
    There was simply more nuclear material at Fukushima…the extent of destruction greater.
    4 to 6 reactors..X-vessel..(what a dumb term)…burning spent fuel pools.
    How does this compare to Chernobyl.?
    They get very poor marks in math.

  • mungo mungo

    dialysis patients beware?? Following the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant caused by the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, radioactive substances (131I, 134Cs, 137Cs) were detected in tap water throughout eastern Japan. There is now concern that internal exposure to radioactive substances in the dialysate could pose a danger to hemodialysis patients. Radioactive substances were measured in three hemodialysis facilities before and after purification of tap water for use in hemodialysis. Radioactive iodine was detected at levels between 13 and 15 Bq/kg in tap water from the three facilities, but was not detected by reverse osmosis membrane at any of the facilities. We confirmed that the amount of radioactive substances in dialysate fell below the limit of detection (7–8 Bq/kg) by reverse osmosis membrane. It is now necessary to clarify the maximum safe level of radiation in dialysate for chronic hemodialysis patients.



  • Fukushima vs. Chernobyl … yep…seems .gov fails math class …again

  • Heart of the Rose Heart of the Rose

    ..ya..I definitely wouldn't look to the government for real numbers.
    I wonder if Hillary is playing marm.

    • Sickputer

      Good observations HOTR about the feeble Woods Hole assessments:

      1. This document was "(received for review December 19, 2011)" This data is at least 3 to 4 months old, maybe most of the direct American data is 30 km offshore data nearly 10 months old. (pages 1 and 12)

      2. Once again we see hand of the "uber optimistic" prognostications of East coast scientist Nicky Fisher: "though Cs isotopes are elevated 10–1,000× over prior levels in waters off Japan, radiation risks due to these radionuclides are below those generally considered harmful to marine animals and human consumers, and even below those from naturally occurring radionuclides" (p. 1)

      3. In the very next paragraph words of reason temper this a bit: "There is also little information on radionuclide distributions offshore to help assess contamination and transport in the North Pacific and for independent confirmation of whether the levels are of human health concern."

      4. Besides the massive plume headed to Hawaii and points west in the Kuroshio Current…Japan proper's sea life and human swimmers are in danger also: "several drifters moved westward toward the coast, with one drifter transiting along the coast to the south of our study area" (p. 1)/

      Comment 1 of 2

      • Sickputer

        Comment 2 0f 2

        5. Page 4 discusses the huge minimum threshhold MEXT uses to detect radiation in the ocean 30 km offshore: [Japanese "Ministry of Education, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT)], because their methods had a higher detection limit of 10,000 Bq·m?3"

        SP: In other words, below that amount is not reported by MEXT.

        6. The hand of Nicky Fisher again on page 4 as the articles dismisses the danger of toxins to human swimmers and eating fish, but only IF the swimmers and fish are in the 30 km offshore and beyond area! No discussion of the dangers of nearshore swimming and eating.

        SP: The rest of this 12-page document is pretty much an appendice of the methodology of the various Japanese and also reflects the direct radiation data by the Americans was limited to the beyond 30 km offshore restriction supposedly imposed on them by Japanese authorities. The charts on page 12 show sampling data from the Woods Hole June voyages offshore and a continued rehashing of that 10-month old data.

      • Heart of the Rose Heart of the Rose

        Thanks Sickputer..If Woods Hole follows the course they took concerning the BP disaster..There will be no more sampling.
        All critical data summed up…in a week in June.

  • Much of the contaminated water washed directly into the Northwest Pacific or collected in the basement of the reactor buildings and seeped slowly out, carrying with it a number of different radionuclides. In addition, several explosions in the reactor buildings sent additional radioactive materials into the atmosphere, much of which eventually landed in the ocean.

    Human and natural sources of radioactive isotopes in the ocean. NOTE: colored ovals not drawn to scale. Click to enlarge. …


    • Radio VicFromOregon

      Yes, xdrfox, thanks for reminding us that most all of this has gone into the ocean, where the least amount of testing is being done. Just checking a few fish, some seaweed, rarely a sediment sample.

  • Heart of the Rose Heart of the Rose

    From your post Xdrfox…Woods Hole again.
    Here Ken Buesseler (WHOI) states that there is no problem with human consumption…

  • dosdos dosdos

    I think the article here shows the mentality of the pro-nukes pretty well. (Stupid)


  • pure water

    There is a political confirmation of our opinion, if we have such. (i believe we have a common focus of attention and searches and this is much more productive) The speaker of the Ukrainian(!) parliament has said that Japan still hides information not only from the people, but from the scientiests as well. The world will be facing clean food and water shortages.(!!!)
    You can tarnslate it with your favourite online translator. This was said in front of the representatives of local governments.

    • Radio VicFromOregon

      pure water, thanks for sharing that. He, you, and others make a very good point. Japanese authorities and TEPCO are hiding this information from everyone. That is significant. It leaves everyone guessing – the public, scientists, other governments.