Excerpts from ‘Live Chat’ one month after 3/11 with William C. Burnett, director of FSU’s Environmental Radioactivity Measurement Facility; chair of working group on submarine groundwater discharge for the International Geophysical and Biophysical Program
Q: Do you believe this is worse than Chernobyl?
Dr. Burnett, expert on radioactivity in groundwater: I don’t think this crisis is anywhere close to being as bad as Chernobyl which was a global contamination event of an extremely serious nature. Many experts in the nuclear field are putting it at about the same level as Three Mile Island [For the most recent data, see: Chemist: Latest I’ve seen is Fukushima released 80 Quadrillion becquerels of cesium-137 (Chernobyl = 70 Quadrillion)]
Q: It took about a week for the radioactive materials released into the atmosphere to reach the US, how long will it take the material released into the ocean to reach the US coastline? Secondly, will it collect on the beaches, like an oil spill?
Burnett: it will take a long time for the radionuclides in the water to reach our west coast — perhaps months to years. [...] These nuclides are in solution so they would not wash up on beaches.
Q: So a followup on your last answer, about nuclides washing up on the beach. Can’t they leak into freshwater supplies from there? And could they accumulate in the soil?
Burnett: You are correct — if there are soluble radionuclides in the water rushing up on the beach, some of that water could seep into the sand and into fresh groundwater supplies. In addition, some water left behind (as during high tide) would evaporate leaving a residue of the radioactive material behind. Again, I don’t feel that this is a likely scenario for North American beaches but that process could be important for closer areas to the plant in Japan.
See also: Nuclear Expert: Fukushima melted fuel is drifting in ocean and onto land, lacking any containment -- It ends up on coastline and blows into communities -- People get an exceptional dose -- Health harm will go on for thousands, if not tens of thousands of years (AUDIO)
And: Post-Fukushima Report: Concern over Plutonium and Uranium being deposited and re-concentrating far away -- Isotopes transfer to land via sea spray, aerosols, flooding -- Human exposure by inhalation, food, contact
Published: February 10th, 2014 at 4:48 pm ET