Saturday, February 4, 2012

UK's The Independent: "Bird numbers plummet around stricken Fukushima plant", according to a US Researcher

The Independent's David McNeill reports that the group of international researchers (US, Denmark, and Japan) is set to publish a paper in a scientific magazine next week about their findings in Fukushima Prefecture that "bird populations there have begun to dwindle" and that "the effect on abundance is worse in the Japanese disaster zone".

A funny thing is though, it has just been reported by Japan's NHK that this group of researchers ARE GOING TO STUDY the effect of radiation in bird species in Fukushima starting MAY.

First, The Independent (2/3/2012):

Researchers working around Japan's disabled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant say bird populations there have begun to dwindle, in what may be a chilling harbinger of the impact of radioactive fallout on local life.

In the first major study of the impact of the world's worst nuclear crisis in 25 years, the researchers, from Japan, the US and Denmark, said their analysis of 14 species of bird common to Fukushima and Chernobyl, the Ukrainian city which suffered a similar nuclear meltdown, showed the effect on abundance is worse in the Japanese disaster zone.

The study, published next week in the journal Environmental Pollution, suggests that its findings demonstrate "an immediate negative consequence of radiation for birds during the main breeding season [of] March [to] July".

Two of the study's authors have spent years working in the irradiated 2,850 sq metre zone around the Chernobyl single-reactor plant, which exploded in 1986 and showered much of Europe with caesium, strontium, plutonium and other radioactive toxins. A quarter of a century later, the region is almost devoid of people.

Timothy Mousseau and Anders Pape Moller say their research uncovered major negative effects among the bird population, including reductions in longevity and in male fertility, and birds with smaller brains.

Many species show "dramatically" elevated DNA mutation rates, developmental abnormalities and extinctions, they add, while insect life has been significantly reduced.

Now, about Professor Timothy Mousseau, NHK ran the news yesterday. From tweets by Jun Hori of NHK:


A research team from the United States will begin the study in May this year on the effect of radioactive materials released from the Fukushima I Nuclear Plant accident on the animals living in the surrounding areas.


The group is led by Professor Timothy Mousseau of South Carolina University in the US. Professor Mousseau and his group have been studying the effect of radioactive materials from the Chernobyl nuclear plant accident on birds, insects and plants in the surrounding areas for over 13 years.


According to the result of the study by Professor Mousseau's group in the areas surrounding Chernobyl, even population decrease and anomalies have been observed in birds, insects and other life forms even in the low-radiation areas (1 to 3 microsieverts/hour) .


By studying the birds, insects and other life forms for a long period of time, Professor Mousseau believes the effect of low-level radiation may be revealed in the aftermath of the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident. He says he would like to conduct a long-term research with the help from the Japanese researchers.


In preparation for the research, Professor Mousseau is scheduled to visit Fukushima in mid February. He says, "The alternation of generations is much quicker in birds than in humans, so we can study the effect of radiation on genes. It will give a vital clue on the effect on humans."

Hori's tweets and NHK News do not mention anything about Professor Mousseau's group having already studied the subject last year and about to publish a paper. The news is presented as if they are going to study it starting May.

NHK's report has tremendously irritated the Japanese researchers like Professor Bin Mori (who has been studying the spiders and lizards in Fukushima after the accident and publishing the results on his blog, calling other biologists to follow suit). If the article by The Independent is correct (which seems to be, if the professor is publishing the paper next week), the international researchers were studying the effect of low-level radiation in birds in Fukushima last year while the Japanese government was (still is) pushing the idea hard that there would be no negative effect on health from low-level radiation.

It is somewhat similar to the case of SPEEDI data sharing. While the Japanese government kept telling the citizens that the SPEEDI system didn't work, the SPEEDI simulation data was being sent daily to the US military.

But then, in the case of SPEEDI info sharing, the US military knew enough to ask for information, so the information was given. None of the politicians in the Kan administration bothered to ask for it (even if the use of SPEEDI was specified in the disaster response manual that the government had created), therefore it was not given. Maybe it is the same thing here; Professor Mousseau asked to do the study, therefore he was allowed. Hardly any of the Japanese biologists asked, or bothered to go to Fukushima (unlike Professor Mori), therefore lost the great opportunity to collect information firsthand.

That should further irritate Professor Mori...


Anonymous said...

I have been watching this situation unfold since the beginning. As an American who lived in Asia for several years, I was always genuinely moved whenever I visited Japan. I was struck by the apparent efficiency of society, the seemingly high level of common respect between individuals and parties, the resilience of the people and above all, the high level of intellect.

Here in the States, each Japanese national I encounter, to the individual, is kind, respectful, incredibly intelligent and efficient in their undertakings.

It is tragic to see what is transpiring.

Thank you for your efforts with this blog good sir.

- Lurker

Anonymous said...

There is no mystery. Moller, Mousseau and Japanese scientists conducted preliminary research last July that is just now about to be published in a peer reviewed, scientific journal. This is the expected level for rigorous scientific inquiry. Publishing on blogs is fine but because it is not subject to the same level of scrutiny (if any), it can not be treated the same way as a peer-reviewed scientific paper. The minimum standard for scientific evidence should be a published paper in a peer-reviewed journal.

The NHK report was produced before the date of publication of the paper was known and NHK wisely chose to hold back on the details until the paper is actually published. The news report in the Independent probably jumped the gun a little... however, a summary of the key results from the paper is given here:

Mousseau and Moller are planning to start a new study this May as a follow on to their earlier work. They are currently looking for collaborators especially bird ringers, to help them. Anyone interested should send them an email.

Yosaku said...

"Two of the study's authors have spent years working in the irradiated 2,850 sq metre zone around the Chernobyl single-reactor plant"

2,850 sq _metre_ zone? Is this a mistake? Seems awfully small.

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