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Dartmouth scientists track radioactive iodine from Japan nuclear reactor meltdown
Date:4/2/2012

Radioactive iodine found by Dartmouth researchers in the local New Hampshire environment is a direct consequence of a nuclear reactor's explosion and meltdown half a world away, says Joshua Landis, a research associate in the Department of Earth Science. The failure of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power facility, following the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami, was the largest nuclear disaster since 1986 at Chernobyl. "We live on a really small planet and this demonstrates that what happens in Japan has the potential to affect us."

Landis and a team drawn from Dartmouth's Department of Earth Science and Department of Geography recently published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences addressing such concerns.

"Though regrettable, the Japanese catastrophe did provide a unique opportunity to examine the transport and accumulation of radioactive iodine in the environment," Landis says. "We took up this study mostly as concerned scientists in our own right, wondering how much of this contaminant is really coming down, and where the iodine is moving in the landscape."

The paper reports that testing in New Hampshire's Mink Brook watershed during March through May 2011 showed the amount of radioactive iodine deposition in the soil was minimal, with calculations revealing the total amount to be on the order of 6,000 atoms per square meter. Landis comments that "at these levels, it is unlikely that this is going to cause measurable health consequences."

However, sampling of Mink Brook stream sediments showed a doubling of iodine concentrations relative to what was found in soils. But even in these concentrations, stream and river transport are expected to result in significant dilution.

The radioisotope iodine-131, a significant constituent of the fallout, is a by-product of nuclear fission, highly radioactive, acutely toxic and presents a health risk upon its release to the environ
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Contact: Joseph Blumberg
joseph.e.blumberg@dartmouth.edu
603-646-2117
Dartmouth College
Source:Eurekalert  

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