Posted by: ctbtonewsroom | April 1, 2011

CTBTO in the News (24 March-01 April)

Below is a selection of articles published in the last few days, with most recent on top, 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.

 

Update from IAEA on Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Crisis (International Business Times)

 

Excerpt:

 

IAEA Director General: “Our Incident and Emergency Centre has distributed information, channelled offers of cooperation, sent missions to Japan, and coordinated with partners including WHO, FAO, WMO, ICAO and CTBTO.”

 

A balance of power, by Chiara Canzi (C-Ville)

 

Excerpt:

 

Last week, a Charlottesville-based radiation detection center identified small radioactive particles tied to a plume generated by the Japanese plant, according to the New York Times. The local Radionuclide Station, part of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), is sensitive enough to detect even the smallest particles of radioactivity. The station, located about four-and-a-half miles outside of Charlottesville, is one of 80 stations created to uphold the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

 

 

Fukushima plant’s fallout to go around globe (Japan Times)

 

Excerpt: 

 

Radioactive substances released from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power station have already reached the United States and Iceland, and are expected to go around the globe in two to three weeks, the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization said. The amount will be too small to affect humans, the Vienna-based CTBTO said Thursday. The commission operates a network of monitoring facilities at 63 locations around the world, including Takasaki, Gunma Prefecture. A senior official at the commission’s monitoring department said figures observed in Takasaki continue to go up and down and the amount of radioactive substances from the Fukushima plant can’t be said to be on the decrease.

 

The small world of big nuclear worries, by Sandi Doughton (Seattle Times)

 

Excerpt:

 

The fact that the isotopes from Japan can be picked out halfway around the globe is a testament to more than a decade of research by scientists at PNNL and elsewhere. “Our stations are 100 times more sensitive than any other equipment out there,” said Lassina Zerbo, chief scientist for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), the Vienna-based United Nations branch that operates the ultrasensitive network. PNNL maintains two of the instruments on its Richland campus, though they are not formally part of CTBTO’s worldwide network of 60 detectors. PNNL is sharing its data with state and federal health agencies, which operate networks of less-sensitive detectors.

 

Glitches hamper radiation warning system in Calfornia, by Jack Dolan and Rong-Grong Il (LA Times)

 

Excerpt:

 

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, based in Vienna, has four real-time radiation monitors in the continental U.S. The one in Sacramento, operated by the U.S. Department of Energy, was the first to detect traces of radiation from Japan in California. But that system is designed to detect evidence of nuclear bomb tests, not to notify the U.S. public to evacuate or take other precautions if elevated levels of radiation are detected.

 

Built For Bombs, Sensors Now Track Japan Radiation, by Geoff Brumfiel (NPR)

 

Excerpt:

 

As radioactive contamination from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant spreads, a global network of sensors is tracking it across oceans and continents. The network was originally set up to detect nuclear weapons testing, but scientists now hope it can tell them more about the accident. The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization began setting up its monitoring stations about a decade ago, with the eventual goal of enforcing a worldwide ban on nuclear weapons tests. “We have currently over 280 sensors worldwide, monitoring underground, the atmosphere, the oceans for any sign of a nuclear explosion, and we’re also sniffing the air for any sign of radioactivity,” says spokesperson Annika Thunborg.

 

Fukushima radioactive fallout nears Chernobyl levels, by Debora MacKenzie (New Scientist)

 

Excerpt:

 

The organisation set up to verify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) has a global network of air samplers that monitor and trace the origin of around a dozen radionuclides, the radioactive elements released by atomic bomb blasts – and nuclear accidents. These measurements can be combined with wind observations to track where the radionuclides come from, and how much was released.The level of radionuclides leaking from Fukushima Daiichi has been unclear, but the CTBT air samplers can shed some light, says Gerhard Wotawa of Austria’s Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics in Vienna.

 

Radioactive Substances from Fukushima Plant to Go Around Globe (Kyodo)

 

Excerpt:

 

Radioactive substances released from Japan’s crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station have already reached the United States and Iceland, and are expected to go around the globe in two to three weeks, the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization said Thursday. But the amount is too small to affect humans, the Vienna-based CTBTO told Kyodo News. The commission operates a network of monitoring facilities at 63 locations in the world, including one in Takasaki, Gunma Prefecture.

 

Fukushima: Another reason to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, by Lawrence Korb and Alexander Rothman (Bulletin of Atomic Scientists)

 

Excerpt:

 

Designed to detect nuclear weapons tests, the CTBT’s network of global monitoring stations has enabled the international community to track Fukushima’s radioactive plume, which reached the West Coast of the United States last week. Perhaps even more significantly, in the immediate aftermath of the quake, data from the CTBT’s monitoring system allowed scientists to issue tsunami alerts for Japan, Hawaii, and other parts of the Pacific. The utility of this monitoring system during this terrible time should serve as a reminder to the Obama administration and the Senate that ratifying the CTBT would strengthen both US and global security.

 

Austrian authorities release detailed data on Japan radiation, by Cyrus Farivar  (Deutsche Welle)

 

Excerpt:

 

Austrian scientists have released what appears to be the first clear, independent data concerning radiation levels in the immediate aftermath of the Fukushima radiation leak. By releasing data from two monitoring stations of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) from Japan and California, researchers from the Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics in Vienna have calculated backwards to estimate the true levels of radiation from Fukushima.

 

Radiation leaks below Chernobyl (Vancouver Sun)

 

Excerpt:

 

Data gathered by a UN agency’s global network of detectors — including four in Canada — indicate the Fukushima power plant emitted “about 50%” of the Cesium-137 as Chernobyl and 20% of that disaster’s total emissions of Iodine-131, says an Austrian team at the Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics in Vienna. Both Cesium-137 and Iodine-131 are potentially hazardous radioactive isotopes commonly produced by nuclear fission. The radioactive plume from the Japanese reactors has dispersed widely and is said to have crossed North America, now heading for Europe. Low levels of radiation has been picked up by detectors in Hawaii, Alaska, British Columbia, California, Russia, and Charlottesville, Virginia, “where the levels were close to the detection limit,” the team, led by Gerhard Wotawa, reported Tuesday. But Wotawa said there is “no health risk whatsoever,” from the miniscule levels of radiation picked up at the North America stations. The supersensitive detectors constantly “sniff” the air for evidence of clandestine nuclear weapons tests for the UN’s Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization. The network of 63 radionuclide detectors includes stations in four Canadian provinces and territories, near Victoria, Yellowknife, Resolute and St. John’s.


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