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Fierce Typhoons Spread Japan's Nuclear Contamination December 6, 2013
Japan radiation map graphic
Radiation levels in 10 prefectures surrounding the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant shortly after the 2011 explosions and meltdowns. Areas in red indicate over 3 million becquerels of cesium per square meter. Light brown shows less than 10,000.
An unusually active and fierce typhoon season in Japan has brought a fresh flood of hazardous cesium particles from the country’s Fukushima nuclear disaster zone to areas downstream, researchers say.

A joint study by France’s Climate and Environmental Science Laboratory and Japan’s Tsukuba University finds that people who escaped the initial fallout from reactor meltdowns in March 2011 could now find their food and water contaminated by the radioactive particles as typhoon runoff penetrates agricultural land and coastal plains.

The five typhoons that struck Japan during October alone were the most ever recorded during the month. Two other named storms struck the archipelago during September.

Earlier studies found that soil erosion from the tropical cyclones can move the radioactive isotopes cesium-134 and -137 from the mountains near the crippled Fukushima Daiichi plant into rivers and then out into the Pacific.

The latest research concludes that typhoons “strongly contribute” to soil dispersal, though it can be months later, after the winter snow melts, that nuclear contamination finally runs off into rivers.

Graphic: (Japan) Ministry of Science