Sunday, September 10, 2017

South Korea Detects Xenon, Not Sure Source: Coud it be Fukushima (Again)?

South Korea announces it detected Xenon gas - linked with nuclear criticalities - but is not sure if North Korea is the source:
South Korea finds traces of radioactive gas, 'can't yet link it' to nuclear test. (September 8, 2017). Reuters,
SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korean nuclear experts, checking for contamination after North Korea’s sixth and largest nuclear test, said on Friday they have found minute traces of radioactive xenon gas but that it was too early to specify its source.  

This is not the first time that South Korea has detected xenon with no clear source attributable. In 2013, South Korea announced it had detected xenon not believed to have originated from North Korea.

At that time, I believed the xenon may have originated from Fukushima, which implicated ongoing nuclear criticalities at the plant. The circumstantial evidence supporting my hypothesis was the spike in ground water radioactivity that followed the xenon detection and webcam conditions:

Radioactivity levels in Fukushima groundwater increase 47-fold over 5 days THE ASAHI SHIMBUN August 06, 2013
[excerpt] Radioactivity levels soared 47-fold over just five days in groundwater from a monitoring well on the ocean side of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, the plant operator said Aug. 5…. TEPCO has been struggling to deal with the enormous amounts of water used to cool the damaged reactors and block the flow of contaminated water into the ocean. [end] 

Traces of nuclear activity-related gas detected in June: sources 2013/08/13 13:38
SEOUL, Aug. 13 (Yonhap) -- South Korea detected traces of Xenon, a chemical element usually found near recent nuclear activities, in the country's atmosphere in June, but it does not seem to have originated from North Korea, government sources said Tuesday. According to the sources, the Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety detected traces of the colorless, odorless noble gas on three occasions in June. Xenon is detected in trace amounts after nuclear bomb tests or other nuclear activities.

Radioactive Isotope Detected in South Korea By Kwanwoo Jun. The Wall Street Journal August 13, 2013, 7:32 PM
News on Tuesday of the detection in South Korea of traces of a rare radioactive isotope often found soon after atomic bomb tests has prompted questions, but provided little in the way of answers.

Officials said it would be premature to conclude that the xenon isotope is connected to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, pouring cold water on initial speculation of this sort.  North Korea’s atomic program jumped to the top of headlines this year following its February bomb test and an announcement that it would restart its mothballed nuclear facility in Yongbyon, north of the capital, Pyongyang.

Lee Ho-ryung, a nuclear specialist at the Korea Institute of Defense Analyses in Seoul, told Korea Real Time that traces of xenon are detectable only for one to two weeks after “abnormal” nuclear activities–such as atomic bomb tests or radiation leaks from a nuclear reactor…. Ms. Lee said that the xenon traces didn’t necessarily originate from North Korea. They may have come from Japan, which is still struggling to recover from radiation leaks at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, she added.
At the time, I discussed the possibility of the xenon originating from Fukushima at my blog:

Of course, the source will probably never be publicly verified, but I suspect the equivocation means that South Korea doesn't think the most recent detection is necessarily from North Korea....


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