While it took Japan over two years to admit the Fukushima situation on the ground is "out of control", a development many had predicted for years, a just as important topic is what are the implications of this uncontrolled radioactive disaster on not only the local environment and society but also globally, particularly Japan's neighbor across the Pacific - the US.
To be sure, there has been much speculation, much of it unjustified, in the past two years debating when, how substantial and how acute any potential debris from Fukushima would be on the US. Which is why it was somewhat surprising to see the NOAA come out with its own modeling effort, which shows that not only "some buoyant items first reached the Pacific Northwest coast during winter 2011-2012" but to openly confirm that a debris field weighing over 1 million tons, and larger than Texas is now on the verge of hitting the American coastline, just west off the state of California.
Obviously, the NOAA in releasing such a stunner could well be hammered by the administration for "inciting panic" which is why it caveated its disclosure carefully:
Many variables affect where the debris will go and when. Items will sink, disperse, and break up along the way, and winds and ocean currents constantly change, making it very difficult to predict an exact date and location for the debris’ arrival on our shores.
The model gives NOAA an understanding of where debris from the tsunami may be located today, because it incorporates how winds and ocean currents since the event may have moved items through the Pacific Ocean. This model is a snapshot of where debris may be now, but it does not predict when debris will reach U.S. shores in the future. It's a "hindcast," rather than a "forecast." The model also takes into account the fact that winds can move different types of debris at different speeds. For example, wind may push an upright boat (large portion above water) faster than a piece of lumber (floating mostly at and below the surface).
Still despite this "indemnity" the NOAA does come stunningly close with an estimate of both the location and size of the debris field. One look at the map below shows clearly why, while the Fed may have the economy and markets grasped firmly in its central-planning fist, when it comes to the environment it may be time to panic:
Some of the disclosures surrounding the map:
- Japan Ministry of the Environment estimates that 5 million tons of debris washed into the ocean.
- They further estimated that 70% of that debris sank near the coast of Japan soon after the event.
- Model Results: High windage items may have reached the Pacific Northwest coast as early as winter 2011-2012.
- Majority of modeled particles are still dispersed north and east of the Hawaiian Archipelago.
- NOAA expects widely scattered debris may show up intermittently along shorelines for a long period of time, over the next year, or longer.
In light of these "revelations" which come not from some tinfoil website but the Department of Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, it becomes clear why there has been virtually zero mention of any of these debris traffic patterns on the mainstream media in recent history, or ever.
Appropriately enough, since the US media will not breach this topic with a radioactive 10 foot pole, one has to go to the Russian RT.com website to learn some more:
Over a million tons of Fukushima debris could be just 1,700 miles off the American coast, floating between Hawaii and California, according to research by a US government agency.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently updated its report on the movement of the Japanese debris, generated by the March 2011 tsunami, which killed 16,000 people and led to the Fukushima nuclear power plant meltdown.
Seventy percent of an estimated 5 million tons of debris sank near the coast of Japan, according to the Ministry of Environment. The rest presumably floated out into the Pacific.
While there are no accurate estimates as to where the post-tsunami junk has traveled so far, the NOAA has come up with a computer model of the debris movement, which gives an idea of where its highest concentration could be found.
Having released the radioactive genie from the bottle, the NOAA is now doing all it can to avoid the inevitable social response. RT has more:
The agency was forced to alleviate the concerns in an article saying there was “no solid mass of debris from Japan heading to the United States.”
“At this point, nearly three years after the earthquake and tsunami struck Japan, whatever debris remains floating is very spread out. It is spread out so much that you could fly a plane over the Pacific Ocean and not see any debris since it is spread over a huge area, and most of the debris is small, hard-to-see objects,” NOAA explains on its official webpage.
The agency has stressed its research is just computer simulation, adding that “observations of the area with satellites have not shown any debris.”
Scientists are particularly interested in the organisms that could be living on objects from Japan reaching the west coast.
"At first we were only thinking about objects like the floating docks, but now we’re finding that all kinds of Japanese organisms are growing on the debris," John Chapman of the Marine Science Center at Oregon State University told Fox News.
"We've found over 165 non-native species so far," he continued. "One type of insect, and almost all the others are marine organisms … we found the European blue mussel, which was introduced to Asia long ago, and then it grew on a lot of these things that are coming across the Pacific ... we’d never seen it here, and we don’t particularly want it here."
What is the worst-case scenario:
The worst-case scenario would be that the trash is housing invasive organisms that could disrupt the local environment’s current balance of life. Such was the case in Guam, where earlier this year it was announced that the US government intended to parachute dead mice laced with sedatives on to the island in order to deal with an invasive species of brown tree snake that was believed to have been brought to the American territory on a military ship over 60 years ago. In a little over half a century, a few snakes spawned what became an estimated 2 million animals, the likes of which ravaged the island’s native bird population and warranted government intervention.
Other concerns such as radiation, meanwhile, have been downplayed. On its website, the NOAA says, “Radiation experts agree that it is highly unlikely that any tsunami-generated marine debris will hold harmful levels of radiation from the Fukushima nuclear emergency.”
Independent groups like the 5 Gyres Institute, which tracks pollution at sea, have echoed the NOAA’s findings, saying that radiation readings have been “inconsequential.” Even the release of radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear reactor shouldn't be a grave concern, since scientists say it will be diluted to the point of being harmless by the time it reaches American shores in 2014.
Which is great news: since even the worst case scenario is inconsequential, we expect the broader media will promptly report on the NOAA's findings: after all, the general public surely has nothing to fear.