Posted by: ctbtonewsroom | March 17, 2011

Article in the New York Times reports on CTBTO findings

The New York Times article “Scientists Project Path of Radiation Plume,” published in the 16 March issue, reports on CTBTO findings related to the nuclear emergency situation in Japan.

Link to the full-text NYT article here.

Below find the excerpts from the article that make reference to the CTBTO.

Excerpt 1: “A United Nations forecast of the possible movement of the radioactive plume coming from crippled Japanese reactors shows it churning across the Pacific, and touching the Aleutian Islands on Thursday before hitting Southern California late Friday. 

Excerpt 2: “The projection, by the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization, an arm of the United Nations in Vienna, gives no information about actual radiation levels but only shows how a radioactive plume would probably move and disperse.  The forecast, calculated Tuesday, is based on patterns of Pacific winds at that time and the predicted path is likely to change as weather patterns shift.”

Excerpt 3: “The test ban treaty group routinely does radiation projections in an effort to understand which of its global stations to activate for monitoring the worldwide ban on nuclear arms testing. It has more than 60 stations that sniff the air for radiation spikes and uses weather forecasts and powerful computers to model the transport of radiation on the winds.

On Wednesday, the agency declined to release its Japanese forecast, which The New York Times obtained from other sources. The forecast was distributed widely to the agency’s member states.

But in interviews, the technical specialists of the agency did address how and why the forecast had been drawn up.

“It’s simply an indication,” said Lassina Zerbo, head of the agency’s International Data Center. “We have global coverage. So when something happens, it’s important for us to know which station can pick up the event.”

For instance, the Japan forecast shows that the radioactive plume will probably miss the agency’s monitoring stations at Midway and in the Hawaiian Islands but is likely to be detected in the Aleutians and at a monitoring station in Sacramento.

The forecast assumes that radioactivity in Japan is released continuously and forms a rising plume. It ends with the plume heading into Southern California and the American Southwest, including Nevada, Utah and Arizona. The plume would have continued eastward if the United Nations scientists had run the projection forward.”

Excerpt 4: “The United Nations agency has also detected radiation from the stricken reactor complex at its detector station in Gunma, Japan, which lies about 130 miles to the southwest.”


  1. You should be serving the public and publishing your analysis on the radioactive plume dispersal. Otherwise, I have to wonder why my tax dollars go to your organization. I encourage your organization to adopt a culture of transparency and service to the global public. As scientists, I call on you to rise to the ocassion and to the standing of your peers by making the case to your masters that such information be available to the public as soon as it becomes available. The fact that the NYT had to go to other sources to get the information is deplorable. Best wishes in your efforts to bring about this much needed change.

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