Below is a selection of articles published in the last few days reporting on CTBTO findings and analyses related to the nuclear emergency in Japan and on the technical capabilities of CTBTO’s global monitoring system. Excerpts are provided as well as external links to the full text.
Commenting on atmospheric readings hundreds of kilometers (miles) outside of the crisis zone in Japan and further afield, the Vienna-based diplomat said the measurements are 100 million to 1 billion times below health-threatening levels.
He said the measurements were taken at Takasaki, Japan, about 330 kilometers (200 miles) southwest of the accident site near the city of Fukushima; at Petropavlosk-Kamchatsky on Russia’s Kamtchatka Peninsula; and at Sacramento, California.
The diplomat — who asked for anonymity because the CTBTO does not make its data public — was citing readings taken from the Vienna-based Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization. He said the instruments at the monitoring stations were sensitive enough to measure single atoms.
Set up to monitor all nuclear testing, the CTBTO’s worldwide network of stations can also detect earthquakes, tsunamis and fallout from accidents such as the disaster on Japan’s northeastern coast that was set off by a massive earthquake and a devastating tsunami eight days ago.
CTBTO radionuclide stations test for radioactive particles; air filters are checked once daily with a gamma-ray detector to identify what radionuclides may be present and in what quantities. It takes 2 or 3 days for the information to get to the signatory governments. Wotawa says that there were problems with early data from one of the two stations in Japan this week, first because of a power failure following the earthquake and then because of contamination of the filter. Those problems have now been resolved and he is expecting the latest data tomorrow.
Based on the radionuclide data he has received so far, he believes none of the Fukushima reactors has experienced a full meltdown. Most of what has been detected have been volatile isotopes, including iodine, cesium, and xenon. A meltdown would have added less volatile elements to the mix, such as zirconium and barium, and these haven’t been detected in large quantities.
A radiation monitor in California has detected a trace of radioactive material from the stricken nuclear power plant in Japan, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization said Friday.
The exact amounts were not available, but the test ban organization’s executive secretary, Tibor Toth, said the measurements were below what would be considered harmful to human health.
The test ban organization maintains a worldwide network of monitoring stations to look for evidence of nuclear explosions that could violate the prohibition in its namesake treaty, which has not come into force, against nuclear weapons testing. The treaty has been ratified by 153 nations but the United States is not one of them.
The organization announced Friday that it has started sharing its monitoring data and analysis reports with the International Atomic Energy Agency and the World Health Organization because it could prove useful in cases like Japan’s.
A diplomat with access to radiation tracking by the U.N.’s Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization in Vienna cited readings from a California-based measuring station of the agency as “about a billion times beneath levels that would be health threatening.” He spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the CTBTO does not make its findings public.
Graham Andrew, a senior official of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, suggested the diplomat’s comments reflected his own feelings.
“We want to study the data carefully, but one-billionth shows just how far away it is from human danger,” he said. “For members of the public, the dose limit in the air or ingested is 1 milisievert a year and this is 1000 million times less than that.”
The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO), a Vienna-based independent body for monitoring possible breaches of the test ban, has more than 60 stations around the world, including one in Sacramento in California. They can pick up very small amounts of radioactive particles such as iodine isotopes. “Even a single radioactive atom can cause them to measure something and this is more or less what we have seen in the Sacramento station,” said the first diplomat, who declined to be named.
The Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) confirmed in a statement that it would share its monitoring data and analysis reports with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the World Health Organisation. This was after “respective requests communicated on March 17 to use its data in assessing the situation following the recent nuclear accident in Fukushima and the possible dispersion of radioactive substances in Japan and the wider region,” it said.
The CTBTO has calculated the course of the plume of radiation over the Pacific to the US and other countries. However, the body is normally only allowed to share the data with member states and not directly with the public. Nevertheless, it confirmed in a statement that it would share its monitoring data and analysis reports with the IAEA and the World Health Organisation.