A new study shows that there is a Fukushima radiation “signature,” or “imprint,” found in California wine produced after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, detailed MIT Technology Review. The study was conducted by French pharmacologist Philippe Hubert.
Hubert discovered that he could accurately date wines without opening the wine bottles by checking for cesium-137. This is because cesium-137 was released into the atmosphere in large quantities during specific years.
For example, from the 1950s through 1980, atmospheric testing of thermonuclear weapons was being conducted by several countries around the globe. This meant that cesium-137 was being released into the air as a byproduct of uranium-235. That means that if a wine is tested for cesium-137 and there is no trace of it, that the wine was produced after 1980.
And when the Chernobyl nuclear disaster took place in 1986, there was again a spike in cesium-137. This directly correlated to the amount of cesium-137 found in wines.
So after the Fukushima nuclear disaster of 2011, it would be logical to think that there would again be a spike in cesium-137.
In order to find out, researchers tested 18 bottles of California rosé and cabernet sauvignon from 2009 to 2012.
The researchers discovered that levels of cesium-137 in wines after the Fukushima disaster were “indistinguishable from background noise.”
However, the researchers conducted more in-depth testing. They opened the wine, and reduced it to ash by heating the wine to 100 degrees Celsius for an hour, followed by eight hours of 500 degrees Celsius. When they examined the ashes in a gamma ray detector, they found that there was an increase in activity in 2011 by a factor of two.
The conclusion is that although there is a “signature” of the Fukushima radiation in the wines, that levels of cesium-137 are barely detectable.
It appears that the Fukushima radioactive cloud floated all the way over the Pacific Ocean into California’s atmosphere, later dropping onto the grape crops.
The California Department of Public Health said there are no “health and safety concerns to California residents…. This report does not change that.”
The health concerns surrounding ingesting cesium-137 is increased risk of cancer, reported the New York Times. The World Health Organization has declared that radioactive fallout from Fukushima has been too low to consider a hazard.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, cesium is a metal that becomes liquid at room temperature. Cesium-137 is a product of nuclear reactors, and moves easily through the air, dissolves in water, and binds to soil. Ingesting or inhaling cesium-37 increases risk of cancer due to the high-energy gamma radiation.