LA JOLLA, Calif. - Researchers at the University of California San Diego said Monday they have detected small amounts of radioactivity from Japanese nuclear reactors damaged by the Marchearthquake and tsunami.
The disclosure came in a report prepared by a UCSD team investigating atmospheric sulfur. In March, air filters at the end of Scripps Pier picked up nearly double the normal amount of radioactive sulfur.
Experts said there was no exposure concern for humans.
“It’s wow. It’s wow,” explained researcher Antra Priyedershi as she saw results that showed the radioactivity had traveled to the coast of California.
She said her team had seen the tragedy in Japan and considered the possibility that radioactivity from the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant could float across the Pacific Ocean, but seeing results was still a surprise.
“The next question is, we are sure they are going to make the radioactive sulfur,” Priyedershi said, “The biggest question is whether they are able to see that signal 5,000 miles away from Fukushima or not.”
As it turns out, the reason radioactive sulfur found its way to La Jolla Shores was the salt water Japanese crews poured on the plants' nuclear cores to cool them down. There was a reaction that created steam filled with radioactive material. Scientists expected it to dilute through weather patterns, which is why they were surprised by the measurments.
The UCSD team will share its information with scientists in Japan to see if it may help them as the country rebuilts.
Priyedershi calls this an anomaly, caused only by the use of salt water in Japan, a practice now discouraged.