There are a number of conclusions that can be drawn from an analysis of the information available about Fukushima.
First, data about the scale of atmospheric and ocean emissions have not been revealed and most studies modeling releases may be based on false inputs.
Second, evidence exists that the Japanese government has not adequately evacuated citizens nor adequately identified and decontaminated hotspots outside of the evacuation zone.
Third, fallout in the ocean is being trivialized as non-relevant (even for ocean life) despite the high probability that people will consume contaminated sea life and the possibility that radiation will enter the water cycle and fall in precipitation .
Fourth, cesium is absorbed by plants and will enter the food cycle in bioaccumulate in insects, people and animals.
Fifth, evidence is starting to accumulate about bio-accumulation and mutations in animal life around the plant. I'm going to look at some of that literature here:
The first study was conducted by researchers from Nippon Veterinary and Life Science University (NVLU) on the bioaccumulation of cesium by Japanese macques:
The concentrations ranged between 10,000 and 25,000 becquerels per kilogram immediately after the nuclear crisis began to unfurl the month before. The readings fell to 500-1,500 becquerels per kg in June, but rose again to more than 2,000 becquerels per kg from last winter to spring. (Kimura and Hatano, 2012)
The researchers believe that consumption of leaf buds explain the seasonal variation because leaf buds will have high levels of bio-accumulation. Research on rodent populations in Belarus after the Chernobyl accident found that maximum levels of radiocesium from this disaster peaked one to two years after deposition while concentrations of strontium-90 increased up to the tenth year. Americium241, a transuranic element, was not detected for five years but then increased up to the tenth year with an expected increase in the future (Ryabokon, Smolich, Kudryashov, and Goncharova, 2005).
This research suggests that were the Fukushima disaster over, the macques would soon experience a decrease in the reported levels of radiocesium; however, Fukushima continues to emit radiation daily into the atmosphere and ocean. The NHK documentary Fukushima Daiichi Radiation: March to Recovery; Voices From 3/11 published August 12, 2012 According to Tepco’s estimates in June 2012, the reactors 1 through 3 continue to emit 10 million becquerels per hour of radioactive cesium (Sugimoto, 1012). No doubt this is an understatement given allegations that Tepco and the Japanese government have conspired to hide the extent of radioactive fallout. Former Minister for Internal Affairs Haraguchi Kazuhiro has alleged that radiation monitoring station data was actually three decimal places greater than the numbers released to the public. If this is true, it constitutes a “national crime”, in Nishio’s words (cited in Penney, 2011).
The second study examined Fukushima radiation’s biological impacts on the pale grass blue butterfly. The researchers collected 144 adult samples from ten different locations in May of 2011 and again in September of 2011 (Hiyama et al, 2012). A 12.4 percent abnormality rate was found in field caught butterflies from May 2011. Abnormalities in forewing size were detected in field caught butterflies from higher radiation areas. The researchers found that the male forewing size was negatively correlated with ground radiation levels at the collections sites. Results also included an increase in mutations in leg appendages and antennae correlated positively with collections sites with higher levels of radiation. The researchers bred the butterflies and found substantially increased mutation rates among offspring generations, an approximate tripling of the overall abnormality rate by generation two. The researchers compared mutations in their lab-bread butterflies with mutations in 238 butterflies collected from the field in September and early October 2011. The butterflies collected in the fall of 2011 exhibited 28.1 percent mutations, double the rate observed in the field-collected butterflies from May 2011 with a mutation rate of 60.2 percent for the first generation offspring of the fall field caught butterflies. The mutation rates across generations are alarming because, as the lead researcher Joji Otaki from the University of Ryukus, Okinawa told BBC on August 13, 2012: “It had been believed that insects are very resistant to radiation. . . In that sense, our results were unexpected” (Crompton, 2012).
The study was immediately criticized for focusing on a butterfly known to migrate but the critical finding remains uncontested, the rate of mutations across these generations after exposure to radiation compared to controls, even given uncertainty about the exact dose of exposure. The mutations and the genome instability found in the butterfly study echo findings of a study of voles published in 2006 by Ryabokon and Goncharova, “Transgenerational Accumulation of Radiation in Small Mammals Chronically Exposed to Chernobyl Fallout.” The researchers followed 22 generations of voles over ten years. A main finding of “long term development of biological damage under low dose rate irradiation” was “permanently elevated levels of chromosome aberrations and an increasing frequency of embryonic lethality” (p. 167). The researchers concluded that radiation exposure to parental generations led to an “accumulated pool of germline mutations and/or epigenetic changes, which resulted in the observed, persistently elevated levels of chromosome aberrations in somatic cells and an increase in embryonic losses in later generations” (p. 175). The researchers found that cesium moved through the biosphere from the soil and into plants that were consumed by animals. The time period varied by the level of deposition.
The Japanese government has announced that it plans to study genetic effects from the Fukushima disaster (“Government to Study, 2012). However, detection of genetic effects happens too late to prevent damage. It will merely convince future generations how toxic radiation is to human biology, presuming the findings are published. Research led by Toshikazu Suzuki of Japan’s National Institute of Radiological Sciences (NIRS) looked at data that modeled the hourly thyroid dose of over a thousand children under sixteen years old in Fukushima Prefecture from March 24 to March 30. The study estimated that the children’s thyroid dose at between 12 and 42 millisieverts from Iodine-131 alone (Oiwa, 2012). What genetic and epigenetic damage has occurred with these children and how much more will occur as they bio-accumulate radiation from their environment?
Crumpton, Nick Severe Abnormalities found in Fukushima Butterflies the BBC (2012, August 13).
Government to study genetic effects of radiation. NHK. (2012, August 31) http://www3.nhk.or.jp/daily/english/20120831_14.html
Hiyama et al (2012). The biological impacts of the Fukushima nuclear accident on the pale grass blue butterfly. Scientific Reports (2012, August 9), 1-10.
Kimura, Shunsuke and Akira Hatano. Scientists in groundbreaking study on effects of radiation in Fukushima. The Asahi Shimbun, 2012, October 4), http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201210040003
NHK documentary Fukushima Daiichi Radiation: March to Recovery; Voices From 3/11 published August 12, 2012, http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=MQG_KPV45J4#!
Penney, Mathew Jul. 01, 2011. Japanese Cancer Expert on the Fukushima Situation http://japanfocus.org/events/view/100
Oiwa, Yuri. Study finds lifetime thyroid doses of radiation in Fukushima children. Asahi Shimbun (2012, July 11) http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201207110058.
Ryabokon, N. I., Smolich, I. I., V. P., Kudryashov, and R. I. Goncharova. Long-term development of radionuclide exposure of murine rodent populations in Belarus after the Chernobyl accident. Radiat Environ Biophysics 44 (2005), 169-181.
Ryabokon, N. I. and R. I. Goncharova, “Transgenerational Accumulation of Radiation in Small Mammals Chronically Exposed to Chernobyl Fallout. Radiat. Environ Biohysics 45 (2006), 167-177.
Takashi Sugimoto. After 500 days Fukushima No 1 plant still not out of the words. The Asahi Shimbun (2012, July 24) http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311/disaster/fukushima/AJ20207240087).