A new report out of a geochemistry conference in Japan gives new insight into previous research on the meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi. Researchers collected samples from around Tokyo for analysis. These samples consisted of air filters collected on March 15, 2011.
One of the significant findings is that these microparticles were produced during the reaction when the melted fuel came in contact with the concrete in the reactor containment structure. This stage is well after the meltdown took place and the reactor vessel had failed. The report also indicates that these microparticles came from units 1 or 3. These are the two units that suffered large hydrogen explosions. Unit 3 is also assumed to have had a secondary steam explosion. Unit 3’s explosion ejected a column of black debris high up into the atmosphere. This may have given the materials enough loft to send it all the way to Tokyo.
The report describes the materials they found on filters as a “glassy soot”. Fukushima worker “Happy” described being covered in black soot after being caught outside during the explosion of unit 3. He also mentioned that those caught outside when unit 1 exploded were not covered in this soot. This all provides some hints that the glassy soot found in Tokyo may be from unit 3.
The new report also confirms reports that had circulated twitter and various blogs where people were finding black fine sand type substances around Tokyo, usually collected in gutters or low areas, that were highly radioactive.
Previous research papers found clumped fused microparticles of reactor materials and fuel in Namie, Fukushima closer to the disaster site. Another found glass spheres containing high levels of radioactivity from cesium near Nihonmatsu in Fukushima. Now we have confirmation they were also found in Tokyo.
A previous study by Japanese researchers confirmed some of these materials also included uranium and plutonium that could be tied back to the reactor meltdowns.
Besides the environmental concerns, the report cites this about human exposures to the glass microparticles.
“The leading edge observations by nano-science facilities presented here are extremely important. They may change our understanding of the mechanism of long range atmospheric mass transfer of radioactive caesium from the reactor accident at Fukushima to Tokyo, but they may also change the way we assess inhalation doses from the caesium microparticles inhaled by humans. Indeed, biological half- lives of insoluble caesium particles might be much larger than that of soluble caesium”.
This could create much higher exposures in the population than have been assumed. The longer biological half life is additionally concerning as their insolubility could make it much harder for the body to expel them. This material may also explain the health complaints many people had during the weeks after the meltdowns that were dismissed by officials as not being related to the radiation levels. Nose bleeds were a common complaint as were sore throats and flu like symptoms.
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