Radiation risk to Japan marine life?

By AAP with AG Staff 5 April 2011
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Eleven million litres of water from Japan’s tsunami-ravaged nuclear complex are being pumped into the Pacific Ocean.

RELEASES OF RADIOACTIVE water into the ocean near Japan’s
stricken nuclear complex shouldn’t pose a widespread danger to sea
animals or people who might eat them, experts say, as long as releases
are not prolonged.

That’s largely because of dilution. “It’s a very
large ocean,” says Dr William Burnett of Florida State University in the

Workers were pumping more than 11 million litres of contaminated water
from Japan’s tsunami-ravaged nuclear power complex into the Pacific
Ocean on Tuesday, freeing storage space for even more highly radioactive
water that has hampered efforts to stabilise the plant’s reactors.

Genetic mutations

The government has also asked Russia for a ship that is used to dispose
of liquid nuclear waste as it tries to decontaminate the Fukushima
Daiichi nuclear complex, whose cooling systems were knocked out by the
magnitude-9.0 earthquake and tsunami on 11 March. The plant also plans
to bring in a floating storage facility.

Very close to the nuclear plant – less than 800 m or so – sea creatures
might be in danger of genetic mutations if the dumping goes on a long
time. But there shouldn’t be any serious hazard farther away “unless
this escalates into something much, much larger than it has so far,”
William says.

Dr Ken Buesseler of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in
Massachusetts says readings for radioactive iodine and caesium show a
thousand-fold drop from the shore to monitors about 30 km offshore.

Detectable dose

Radioactive doses in seafood may turn out to be detectable, but probably
won’t be a significant health hazard and would likely be less of a
concern than land-based sources such as drinking water and farming
produce, he says. No fishing is allowed in the vicinity of the complex
in any case.

Radioactive water has been seeping into the Pacific Ocean from the
nuclear plant, and on Monday operators began deliberately releasing
tainted water to make room at a storage site for the water that’s even
more radioactive.

Igor Linkov, an adjunct professor of engineering and public policy at
Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, USA, adds that it’s not even
clear in what way marine life could be affected, because the level of
radiation isn’t yet well understood. Fish would probably
escape such an effect anyway, he says, because unlike static species such as oysters,
they move around and would avoid continuous exposure.