Xenon detected in Japan — Consistent with nuclear fission event — Could be from reactor or other atomic activity — N. Korea bomb test?

Published: April 24th, 2013 at 10:53 am ET


AFP-Jiji, April 24, 2013: Possible radioactive traces from a North Korean nuclear test in February have been detected for the first time […] “The ratio of the detected xenon isotopes (xenon-131m and xenon-133) is consistent with a nuclear fission event occurring more than 50 days before the detection,” the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) said. “This coincides very well” with the North Korea’s announced nuclear test on Feb. 12. […] It is also possible that the so-called radionuclides were from a nuclear reactor or other atomic activity […] It ruled out however that the source was the crippled Fukushima No.1 nuclear plant. The detection was made in Takasaki, Gunma Prefecture […]

ANI, April 24, 2013: […] the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) said that the ratio of the detected xenon isotopes (xenon-131m and xenon-133) is consistent with a nuclear fission event occurring more than 50 days before the detection. […] The detection at a monitoring station in Japan came 55 days after the explosion [in N. Korea]. […] It is also possible that the so-called radionuclides were from a nuclear reactor or other atomic activity […] It ruled out however that the source was the crippled Fukushima No.1 nuclear plant.

Published: April 24th, 2013 at 10:53 am ET


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35 comments to Xenon detected in Japan — Consistent with nuclear fission event — Could be from reactor or other atomic activity — N. Korea bomb test?

  • Sickputer

    Hmm…5.3 day half-life of X-133 and the little Korean nuke is difficult to id.

    No such problem in March-April 2011. Six major egghead institutes released this report in November 2011:

    Regarding 133Xe, we find a total release of 16.7 (uncertainty range 13.4–20.0) EBq, which is the largest radioactive noble gas release in history not associated with nuclear bomb testing. There is strong evidence that the first strong 133Xe release started very early, possibly immediately after the earthquake and the emergency shutdown on 11 March at 06:00 UTC. The entire noble gas inventory of reactor units 1–3 was set free into the atmosphere between 11 and 15 March 2011. For 137Cs, the inversion results give a total emission of 35.8 (23.3–50.1) PBq, or about 42% of the estimated Chernobyl emission. Our results indicate that 137Cs emissions peaked on 14–15 March but were generally high from 12 until 19 March, when they suddenly dropped by orders of magnitude exactly when spraying of water on the spent-fuel pool of unit 4 started. This indicates that emissions were not only coming from the damaged reactor cores, but also from the spent-fuel pool of unit 4 and confirms that the spraying was an effective countermeasure."

    Part 1

    • Sickputer

      "We also explore the main dispersion and deposition patterns of the radioactive cloud, both regionally for Japan as well as for the entire Northern Hemisphere. While at first sight it seemed fortunate that westerly winds prevailed most of the time during the accident, a different picture emerges from our detailed analysis. Exactly during and following the period of the strongest 137Cs emissions on 14 and 15 March as well as after another period with strong emissions on 19 March, the radioactive plume was advected over Eastern Honshu Island, where precipitation deposited a large fraction of 137Cs on land surfaces. The plume was also dispersed quickly over the entire Northern Hemisphere, first reaching North America on 15 March and Europe on 22 March. In general, simulated and observed concentrations of 133Xe and 137Cs both at Japanese as well as at remote sites were in good quantitative agreement with each other. Altogether, we estimate that 6.4 TBq of 137Cs, or 19% of the total fallout until 20 April, were deposited over Japanese land areas, while most of the rest fell over the North Pacific Ocean. Only 0.7 TBq, or 2% of the total fallout were deposited on land areas other than Japan."


      Part 2 of 2

  • Sickputer

    Notice the "real" nuclear scientists are not averse to using the word "plume". It is only nitpickers who try to make it sound like a dumb word choice. The only thing dumb is nuclear energy itself. Dumb and insane.

    • hbjon hbjon

      I'm a dump truck driver and my take is that the China Syndrome is still off-gassing Krypton, Radon, Xe and will continue to do so until the corium closes the back door. There are no stop signs. No speed limits. Nothing to slow it down. Nobody can mess with it. It is on the way to the promised land. Japan may be on the highway to Helen's sewer system. Evidence seems to suggest it. Here is a remarkable safety idea. Why can't they build a sewer that goes to Hell. When a major problem arises (a we know it will) they just flush the whole problem straight to hell. How long do the pipes need to be? All the anxiety and stress is caused from the corium finding obstacles preventing it from going back home. Why isn't there a funnel under the reactor to gather molten fuel and drain it straight down? Oh yeah, it tends to want to explode.

  • weeman

    Off course it's not from Fukushima, as it is currently in cold shut down and there can not be fission occurring, right, but does that then indicate that other reactors in Japan are currently releasing fission products due to damage from earthquake, prove it and that would be the nail in the coffin anybody want to put there energy into this line of thinking, to bring the house of cards down.
    I would like to see people on this site to specialize in one field of expertise and become a authority in that particular field.
    Just a suggestion as nuclear engineering is a very complex and not one person knows the whole story, not even Arnie.
    Adapt or perish.

    • We Not They Finally

      Given the challenges of almost total news blackouts, and a VERY complex array of materials, this site does quite well! Very knowledgable people also blog, which helps greatly to educate. A little confused here — WHAT was your complaint?

  • Sickputer

    Continuing further (and I apologize for digressing from the 2013 Korean nuke speculation) if indeed it is possible as the scientists postulate that 19% of the airborne cesium in the first 6 weeks of Fukushima Daiichi aftermath landed on the ground in Japan…then the die is cast. Only a stoic with no options would stay within 200 miles of ground zero. Farther out is no picnic either because foodstuffs will invariably be sold from The heaviest contaminated prefectures.

    Great Sorrow in Japan… condolences from the country that gifted you your Pandora boxes.

  • Wreedles Wreedles

    "so-called radionuclides" So-called? WTF?

    • Sickputer

      Good catch Wreedles of their poor word choice. I guess radioactive xenon just isn't as marketable as the more well-known flavors of poison. But then even strontium-90 and plutonium has been whisked to the side by journalists like some kind of literary leprosy.

      As far as 90% of most naked apes with a newspaper know… nuclear accidents spill out something called iodine and cesium. No idea what the danger is though. Just shut up, do your job for the boss, eat your hamburgers or sushi, mochi ball ice cream or carrot cake and pray to Jesus or Buddha to spare your kids from cancer and heart disease.

  • TalonThorn

    Funny how they report that Fukushima has been ruled out, but don't explain why. So it comes down to this: does the reporter want a war with N. Korea or evacuation of Japan? Which one would you prefer? :p

    • moonshellblue moonshellblue

      I think it is from Fukushima of course my thoughts don't count as I'm not a nuclear engineer but as many people on Enenews I've been following this disaster since day one. Excuse my ignorance but how can they rule out Fukushima?

      • We Not They Finally

        They can't rule it out at all! — they just use the nearest scapegoat, which happens to be North Korea. (Not that the North Koreans are not dreadful in their own way.) Like look at the California sea lions — they were rushing to rule radioactivity OUT before they even tested. IF they've tested at all. If they have, they're not saying.

  • dodge

    No one gets a free pass. It is impossible to justify the military testing of nuclear weapons – North Korea – Iran – Russia – USA – China – Israel – India and the list goes on… The world has already to many weapons, we have inflicted to much needless suffering on generations yet unborn, but we dare not use political power plays, and posturing against perceived threats, as a smoke screen to hide the potential continuing damage caused by failure to adequately safeguard nuclear waste – clean up accidents – and make improvements to protect against additional runaway radioactive releases.

  • tallerjosemaria tallerjosemaria

    Dodge, Iran has not been testing nuclear weapons, they are trying to build a nuclear power plant, just like any other country. North Korea is not the problem, the problem is Fukushima, if they are having dangerous radiation readings blame it on the worst nuclear accident (known)in history: Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant triple meltdown, 2011. Still leaking.

    • Dr. Anne Lee Tomlinson Maziar anne

      All countries with nuclear power plants are quickly destroying the whole earth and rendering it completely uninhabitable.

    • Dr. Anne Lee Tomlinson Maziar anne

      Besides, Iran was already so polluted from radiation after Chernobyl and other nuclear accidents, the additional radiation from their idiotic nuclear program has rendered the country completely uninhabitable. Look at their drop in fertility and population drop.

    • We Not They Finally

      On the other hand, regarding Iran: "Everybody knows" that nuclear power plants and atom bombs go hand in hand. One of just MANY reasons why there should be no nuclear power plants. And just learned the other day, that in 1998, Clinton authorized the OPEN use of nuclear plants in the U.S. for creating fuel for atom bombs. So much for non-proliferation. 1998??? We were actually horrified.

  • tallerjosemaria tallerjosemaria

    Still lying. The Soviets managed it far better.

    • Dr. Anne Lee Tomlinson Maziar anne

      The Soviets didn't manage it well. And they weren't by the ocean on porous sedimentary rock. And how about all the other uninhabitable land and oceans from Soviet nuclear testing and waste and meltdowns?

      • Johnny Blade Johnny Blade

        +311 anne; Why bother arguing with someone who obviously has a vested interest in defending rogue nations still pushing forward with their nuclear ambitions despite Fukushima(just one of MANY examples) being the best argument against continuing with their bogus ambitions?! Iran is swimming in oil and alternative energy resources and I don't believe for a minute that their intent is "peaceful", N. Korea already has been threatening to start a nuclear war even before they've completed building an arsenal capable of doing much more than "maybe" getting lucky with a "golden BB" strike against one or two targets before they'd be annihilated and IMHO the rogue nations STILL pursuing nuclear ambitions despite lessons from Fukushima have become our own leaderships "excuse" to continue with nuke programs to continue strengthening the "deterrent factor" that effectively diminishes any hopes we may have that they could ALL work things out & come to a sensible conclusion that would include phasing-out nuke technology instead of having to produce even more to deal with NEW target nations that would be "erased" along with all of the targeted nations previously deemed a threat(?)! In addition to anne's accurate description of Russian(Soviet)response to Chernobyl"if they did so well with their FUKUp then why are they working so hard to contain material "stirred-up" by (meteorite?)the collapse of 600 meters of the sarcophagus roof right NOW"?*NUKES SUCK*~period!!~ 😐 ~**

  • razzz razzz

    From all places, the Huffington Post April 24, 2013

    Did the Atom Bomb Test Fallout Cause Cancer?

    "…2. The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty of 1996, which proposes to end all atom bomb tests, has been ratified by 153 nations – but not the U.S. President Obama has pledged to convince the U.S. Senate to ratify the treaty, and information on health risk is an important aspect supporting the Treaty.

    3. The 104 nuclear power reactors in the U.S. produce the same mixture of chemicals as atom bomb tests. Most of this toxic mixture is stored as high level nuclear waste, but some is emitted into the air and water, and enters human bodies. The RPHP study of baby teeth showed that Sr-90 levels in children near reactors were 30-50 percent greater than children in distant areas, and that levels were rising sharply over time, as aging reactors corrode.

    Studying health risks of radioactive emissions from both weapons and reactors has been a highly politicized issue, as the military and industries producing these chemicals are not eager to present findings of harm. However, the only way to truly reduce cancer rates is to understand causes and take preventive actions. Baby teeth, even those from half a century ago, hold the clues to one such cause."


  • razzz razzz

    "…Nuclear reactor accident

    Fallout can also refer to nuclear accidents, although a nuclear reactor does not explode like a nuclear weapon. The isotopic signature of bomb fallout is very different from the fallout from a serious power reactor accident (such as Chernobyl or Fukushima). The Fukushima plants have tons of nuclear fuel, thousands of Fuel Assemblies, more than 6,000 fuel rods[17] in Spent fuel pools.

    The key differences are in volatility and half-life.

    The boiling point of an element (or its compounds) is able to control the percentage of that element a power reactor accident releases. The ability of an element to form a solid, controls the rate it is deposited on the ground after having been injected into the atmosphere by a nuclear detonation or accident.

    A half life is the time it takes half of the radiation of a specific substance to go away. A large amount of short-lived isotopes such as 97Zr are present in bomb fallout. This isotope and other short-lived isotopes are constantly generated in a power reactor, but because the criticality occurs over a long length of time, the majority of these short lived isotopes decay before they can be released.

    Below is shown a comparison of the calculated gamma dose rates in open air from the fallout of a fission bomb and of the Chernobyl release. It is clear that average half-life of the Chernobyl release is longer than that for the bomb fallout…"


    • razzz razzz

      Complete Wiki link again to the last post quote…


      • The typical patterns of fallout do not necessarily apply because the use of salt water on the hot fuel created uranium buckyballs, whose high durability and structure facilitated transport

        C. Armstrong, M. Nyman, T. Shvareva, G. Sigmon, P. Burns, and A. Navrotsky (2012) ‘Uranyl Peroxide Enhanced Nuclear Fuel Corrosion in Seawater’, PNAS, 109.6, 1874-1877.

  • We Not They Finally

    Aren't the Japanese "lucky" to have a northern neighbor as despicable as North Korea to scapegoat? Just think of all the horrible things the U.S. could deflect onto Canada….

  • We Not They Finally

    Xenon is a so-called "noble gas." I think it is an interim gas (meaning CLOSE to the time of nuclear emissions), which then degenerates into some other deadly radionuclide. Anyone knowing the chemistry of this? A post would be interesting.

    • Sickputer

      The short-lived Xenon 133 (5 day half-life) besides being a nuclear power plant fission byproduct is also produced as a daughter isotope from the 20-hour half-life Iodine-133.

      It gets more confusing to non-scientists because Xe-133 particles degrade into Cesium-133 which is a stable isotope and non-radioactive, unlike its more dangerous sisters C-134 and C-137.

      A "stable" isotope means it essentially does not degrade again for millions of years (or lose a half-life) in human time spans.

      Because of that stability the isotope C-133 has become important in modern human statistics as the Measurement Momma of time instrumentation (in seconds). It is the isotope used in atomic cesium clocks. The isotope is also very important in GPS technology.

      I bet most people didn't know the Japanese are highly involved in the ISS (International Space Station) and have a regularly scheduled series of supply spacecraft that launch from southern Japan for missions at the International Space Station:

      Last September the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) launched their H-IIB F3 carrier rocket from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan.


      Their spacecraft (known as the White Stork) will possibly launch again August 4, 2013 and rumor has it the payload will include a new generation atomic clock for the ISS that will enhance GPS knowledge.

  • snowwy snowwy

    well, I am a little bit dubious about the nuclear testing in N Korea. Mostly because their track record of building stuff is not great. Should I seriously believe that a nation that has an 5 decade long history of threats will make this one come true?

    It is possible that there might have been an unreported nuclear event in China during the big earthquake in Sichuan?


  • My bet is that the xenon came from Fukushima. Why?

    1. Tepco has announced 3 power outages at spent fuel pools within last 5 weeks. It is highly unusual for them to acknowledge such a grave situation. These disclosures have accompanied others about the contaminated water 'problems.'

    2. The webcam watchers, of which I am one, have noticed some very strange phenomena recently, which have been documented with screen shots and videos. Strange light flares have occurred repeatedly. Strange light has emanated from unit 3:

    Moreover, On March 28 I witnessed a steam eruption from the ground http://majiasblog.blogspot.com/2013/03/the-event-at-daiichi.html

    3. The TBS webcam has recently been expanded to offer a more panoramic view. This was no accident and I think the goal is to reveal (new/previously unsuspected) problems with the dry cask facilities, which appear to be steaming.

    4. Fukushima remains the most pressing security problem facing humanity, Prof Koide told the Fukushima conference. I believe him.

    5. Japanese industry and money is fleeing Japan in earnest now (e.g., http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324763404578432400272290938.html)

    6. The country seems to be gripped with war mania, which I take to be a displacement and distraction from the unspeakable, unmentionable crisis destroying the nation http://online.wsj

  • razzz razzz

    They know where this radioactive fallout is coming from. 'They' the US government and many others. They were well prepare to observe NK's underground test and any escaping fallout combined with on going fallout from Fukushima.

    If I am not mistaken, every nuclear blast that has ever taken place has been cataloged and it's fallout tracked. The purity of the fuels used, the effect blast size, the duds, the minor details are all known factors so they can separate out the old blast fallout from any new or unannounced blasts. They have ground sensors everywhere around the globe for monitoring.

    With nuclear bomb tests in saltwater, I'm sure they knew all about fallout and saltwater interactions.

    They are just not going to inform the little people of the conclusions. Can't incite panic, more like can't expose the ineptness and dangers of nuclear anything going on every minute of the day.