How Can I Wash This Stain Upon The Land?

Fukushima Exclusion ZoneThis is the second post in an occasional series of posts about the Fukushima nuclear disaster. I found this image, created by the radiation sensor network project Safecast, to be helpful. How is it helpful? First, it shows that some areas took a much bigger hit than others. Second, it shows that some areas which were initially part of the Exclusion Zone (the green and orange areas on the map) have been cleared for people to return. The pink areas on the map show the current Exclusion Zone.

How can I wash this stain upon the land?

xkcd made a radiation dose chart which was literally packed with information. I have created a simpler version.

Radiation Doses. How can I wash this stain upon the landxkcd’s chart contained a number of data points related to the Fukushima disaster. I believe it would be helpful if those data points could be put on the above scale.

Fukushima Radiation Doses. How can I wash this stain upon the landThe city of Tokyo received roughly the same dose as someone taking an airplane flight from New York to Los Angeles. The city of Fukushima (population 290,000) is located roughly 40 miles, as the crow flies, from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. The dose rate in the Exclusion Zone is between six and seven times the normal background dose rate. The above map shows that the northwest edge of the Fukushima Exclusion Zone is the area receiving the greatest amount of radiation.

How can I wash this stain upon the land? The amount of radiation various areas received has to do with the kinds of radioactive material that was released, and the half-lives of those materials. The half-life of a radioactive substance is the period of time over which the number of radioactive nuclei decreases (through radioactive decay) by a factor of one-half. The half-lives of different radioactive materials varies widely, from hours (iodine-123) to years (tritium) to hundreds of millions of years (uranium-235).

Releases from the Fukushima reactors have been primarily composed of two radioactive substances: iodine-131 and cesium-137. The good news is that iodine-131 has a half-life of slightly over 8 days. This means that all but an infinitesimal trace of the iodine-131 released on March 11, 2011 is gone, decayed into xenon. I surmise that this is why some portions of the Exclusion Zone are no longer restricted. The bad news is that cesium-137 has a half-life of slightly over 30 years. That would explain (to me, anyway) why some portions of the Exclusion Zone are still restricted after three years.

If the map is a snapshot of the Exclusion Zone, then this picture is a slideshow of the radiation levels in the Exclusion Zone


How bad was it? Worse in some places than others. Is it getting better? In some places, more than others. How can I wash this stain upon the land? I don’t know. I wish I knew.


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