Two trillion becquerels of radioactive material may have escaped No. 1


Some 2 trillion becquerels of strontium-90 and cesium-137 may have flowed into the bay of Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s crippled Fukushima No. 1 plant during the 10 months to May this year, it was learned Sunday.

The amount exceeds by 10 times the limit of radioactive material releases Tepco set before the March 2011 meltdown accident at the power plant in Fukushima Prefecture.

At the plant, tainted groundwater may be flowing into the bay, and highly radioactive water may be leaking into the bay from reactor buildings through trenches.

According to Tepco documents, some 4.8 billion becquerels of strontium-90 and 2 billion becquerels of cesium-137 are estimated to have flowed into the plant’s bay per day, based on their average concentrations near a water intake for the Nos. 1-Nos. 4 reactors between August last year and May this year.

The total during the 10 months is thus estimated at 1.46 trillion becquerels for strontium-90 and 610 billion becquerels for cesium-137.

The combined total for the two radioactive substances tops 2 trillion becquerels. Since tainted water in the plant has other substances, the radioactive contamination of water in the plant’s bay is believed to be more serious.

In August last year, Tepco estimated that 10 trillion becquerels of strontium-90 and 20 trillion becquerels of cesium-137 had flowed into the bay since May 2011.

The estimated amounts in the following 10 months were smaller because average concentrations of radioactive substances were lower, Tepco officials explained.

However, radioactive materials in the plant’s bay spread out into the open sea as the tide ebbs and flows. Also, it is noted that part of contaminated groundwater may be flowing directly into the open sea.

  • yougotwhacked

    Becquerels is not a measure of an amount of radioactive substance. It is a measure of radioactivity; specifically radioactive decays per second in a material, which is related to the power by the substance. For example, if we are talking about 500 watt lighting, it can be achieved through 50 tiny dim 10 watt light bulbs or one very bright light bulb can be 500 watts. So are we talking about 500 gallons of water measuring 2 trillion bcq that leaked into the ocean, or 1 million gallons of water measuring 2 trillion bcq? This is a very crucial piece of information if we want to determine how bad the contamination is, yet it is not mentioned at all.

    • Mark Garrett

      Does it really matter if you have 2 trillion dollars in $1 bills or $100 bills?
      What I find disturbing is that these figures are from TEPCO. When you factor in the book cooking , rounding down, and other creative spin used to cloud the real truth, the actual numbers could be (and more than likely are) far worse.

      • Starviking

        Really? What with all the independent agencies and groups monitoring the situation?

      • Sam Gilman

        I’m afraid I don’t follow your argument. You talk about “the real truth”, but then immediately state that you have no idea (“could be”) what the “real truth” actually is.

        Other commenters here are raising genuine issues with the reporting based on knowledge of the meaning of the scientific terms used and the counter measures against wider dispersal that are in place. I don’t mean to be rude, but I’m not confident that you understand what they are saying.

        This is very important because there has been an awful lot of rubbish written by political campaigners that relies on exploiting people’s generally low level of scientific education (I say that as someone who had to read a hell of a lot to understand the threat Fukushima might (or, as it turns out did not) present to my family).

      • Mark Garrett

        I’m not sure what is so difficult to follow. TEPCO (and the Japanese government) has repeatedly either given wrong/skewed figures or withheld data altogether. This is irrefutable. Therefore, it is very difficult to know what the actual truth is, but any reasonable person can assume with near certainty that it’s worse than what we are being told.

        I’m certainly not one to defend the reporting on this site, however there doesn’t appear to be much in the way of commentary or opinion in this article. It’s just a regurgitation of documents released by TEPCO. I agree that it might be helpful to know more details but I really can’t see a scenario where 10 trillion becquerels of strontium-90 and 20 trillion becquerels of cesium-137 is good for us and the environment.

      • Starviking

        Well, the actual question should be, how bad are these releases for us and the environment.

        If you check Prof Ken O. Buessler’s article on radioisotopes in the ocean (linked below) you find 10 to 50 petabequerels from Fukushima – that’s 50,000,000 trillon bequerels. Puts 2 trillion bequerels in perspective.

        Now that total from Fukushima might sound terrible – but 950,000,000 trillion bequerels were deposited in the ocean from nuclear weapons testing.

        So, something on the magnitude of one-hundred millionth of the radioactivity which was deposited by atmospheric nuke testing has possibly gotten into the pacific…


      • Starviking

        “Fukushima and Ocean Radioactivity”, Ken O. Buessler, Oceanus Magazine.

      • Sam Gilman

        No one is saying it’s good. What you are trying to imply is that it’s highly dangerous.

        People generally don’t have a clue what numbers like these mean, including, it appears, the author of the article. As Starviking’s reply demonstrates, compared to what is already in the ocean that we don’t panic about, this is a pretty small amount.

        That doesn’t make it “good”, but it does make the significance or otherwise a whole lot clearer.

  • Ahojanen

    We better have a new unit replacing bcq for a better understanding (especially among lay people).

    In fact, I don’t see the latest leakage is so disastrous, as nuclear power plants in normal operation still have to produce and abandon much a larger amount of radioactive water into sea nearby. But they do so after diluting contaminated water to meet safety standards.

  • Bob Fearn

    This article is meaningless without some sort of explanation as to what this radiation compares to or means.

  • Starviking

    I’m having a hard time finding any documentation that supports the claims in this article, an article which is ambiguously written.

    “The amount exceeds by 10 times the limit of radioactive material releases Tepco set before the March 2011 meltdown accident at the power plant in Fukushima Prefecture.”

    So does this mean that these two trillion bequerels is ten-times the total amount of releases before the disaster, or ten-times the permitted releases per year?

    Vague reporting like this leaves me skeptical, especially as the reports I can get from TEPCO and the NRA point a different picture: radioactivity confined to the closed-off harbour (Possibly the bay in the article above?), and declining – minimal impact beyond the harbour.

    Thanks to Leslie Corrice’s ‘Fukushima Commentary’ on his blog for the links to the TEPCO documents.