Monday, June 27, 2011
The debris mass, which appears as an island from the air, contains cars, trucks, tractors, boats and entire houses floating in the current heading toward the U.S. and Canada, according to ABC News.
The bulk of the debris will likely not be radioactive, as it was presumably washed out to sea during the initial tsunami - before much radioactivity had leaked. But this shows the power of the currents from Japan to the West Coast.
Of course, fish don't necessarily stay still, either. For example, the Telegraph notes that scientists tagged a bluefin tuna and found that it crossed between Japan and the West Coast three times in 600 days:
That might be extreme, but the point is that fish exposed to radiation somewhere out in the ocean might end up in U.S. waters.
Nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen doesn't think there will be a risk within the next year. But as the plume spreads across the Pacific, and as small fish get eaten by bigger fish (i.e. bioaccumulation), it would be prudent to measure radiation in fish caught off the West Coast of the U.S. (and Hawaii), and Gundersen suggests we contact our representatives and demand measurement:
The Telegraph confirmed recently that one year seems to be about the right time frame:
The waste will move at a speed of between 5 and 10 miles a day, catching the North Pacific Current and crossing the ocean in as little as 12 months.
Off the coast of California, debris is expected to circulate either north or south, taking either the Alaskan or North Equatorial currents back to the western reaches of the ocean.
Much is predicted to end up caught in the vortex of the Eastern Garbage Patch, which is estimated to measure between 270,000 square miles and 5.8 million square miles.
"Over time plastic debris eventually fragments into tiny particles creating 'plastic plankton' or 'microplastic,' which is a serious long-term concern, particularly for marine food webs." the organisation said.