Japan Government: ‘Tsunami Debris May Have Already Reached North America, Back in February …’

Ministry of the Environment: “Tsunami Debris May Have Already Reached North America, Back in February…” (EX-SKF, April 6, 2012):

Oops. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution just recently released a paper saying the debris may reach North America in 1 to 2 years (see Huffington Post, 4/3/2012).

From Jiji Tsushin (4/6/2012):

既に北米沿岸到達か=震災漂流物で予測-環境省

Ministry of the Environment’s Forecast of disaster debris in the ocean: it may have already reached North America

環境省は6日、東日本大震災の津波で生じた海洋漂流物の動きに関する予測結果を発表した。それによると、ブイなど海面上に浮かんでいて風の影響を受けやすい漂流物の一部は、太平洋を東へ流れ、今年2月にカナダ西海岸の沿岸に達している可能性があることが分かった。

The Ministry of the Environment announced its forecast of the movement of the disaster debris in the [Pacific] ocean after the March 11, 2011 tsunami. According to the forecast, part of the debris floating on the surface of the ocean that is more easily affected by winds may have traveled across the Pacific Ocean and reached the west coast of Canada in February this year.

漂流物の大半を占める壊れた家屋などのがれき133万トンについて同省が試算したところ、2013年2月には、がれきの約3%に当たる約4万1300トンが北米西海岸の沖合10キロの範囲に到達する見込み。

The Ministry’s forecast of 1.33 million tonnes of debris from houses that got swept away, which consists the majority of the debris, shows about 3% of this type of debris, or about 41,300 tonnes, may reach within 10 kilometers off the west coast of North America by February 2013.

I can’t find a press release on the subject at the Ministry’s website. If the Ministry is to be believed, the first debris took only 11 months, instead of 1 to 2 years (I remember they were counting on two years).

Even the NOAA seems to have changed the story a little bit, and now says “NOAA researchers are currently relying on computer models to predict the debris items’ path and drift rate, but it’s possible that some buoyant materials are reaching U.S. shorelines right now.”

By the way, the Huffington Post article is more about the radioactivity of seawater, but here are some clarifications for readers who will go read it and get confused. The writer says:

Even so, Buesseler said, the radioactivity levels are still below what is allowed in food in Japan, which is 500 Bq per kilogram of “wet” weight.

Not any more. As of April 1, 2012, that level is 100 Bq/kg, and it’s only for radioactive cesium.

The writer also says:

And while cesium was present in the fish, it doesn’t accumulate up the food chain the way polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) or mercury do.

That’s what Japan’s Fisheries Agency claimed last year, right after the accident occurred. It does accumulate up the food chain, particularly when there is a constant supply of radioactive cesium in the environment.

And:

The researchers also found silver-110, but it wasn’t clear that was from the Fukushima plant.

Most likely, they detected Ag-110m, which has a half life of 250 days. It would be definitely from the Fukushima plant.

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