Study: Fukushima Radiation Not a Health Threat in U.S.
For all you folks that rushed to the drug store to stock up on iodine following the Fukushima nuclear reactor meltdown in March, rest easy. Researchers from the University of California San Diego (UCSD) have released the first quantitative study of radiation leaked from the meltdown, and the result is that although radiation levels across California spiked because of the meltdown, it was not enough to warrant any hazard to human health in the U.S.
Atmospheric chemists from UCSD were led by Mark Thiemens, Dean of the Division of Physical Sciences at UCSD, in an effort to measure radioactive sulfur levels in the air following the meltdown. When nuclear fuel rods melt, neutrons are released, and collide with chloride ions in the seawater used to cool the reactors. This results in the loss of a proton from the nucleus of the chloride atom, turning it into a radioactive form of sulfur. To avoid hydrogen (another product of the cooling process) from exploding, the vapors from the seawater are released into the atmosphere. When introduced to the air, the radioactive sulfur reacts with oxygen to make sulfur dioxide gas and sulfate particles.
These particles were carried via winds from Japan to North America, sparking alarm that the U.S. and Canada would experience the same kind of radioactive fallout seen in neighboring countries to the Chernobyl disaster of 1986. But fears of mutated babies, high cancer rates and radioactive crops may be put to rest with the UCSD study’s findings.
SEE OTHER TOP STORIES IN THE WDM CONTENT NETWORK
Thiemens and his team noticed an unprecedented spike in radioactive sulfur in the air following news of the meltdown, and using a model based on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s observations of atmospheric conditions were able to pinpoint that the radiation was indeed coming from Fukushima. The team then calculated how much radiation was actually leaked, concluding that 400 billion neutrons were released per square meter surface of the reactor’s cooling ponds.
"You know how much seawater they used, how far neutrons will penetrate into the seawater and the size of the chloride ion," says team member Antra Priyadarshi. "From that, you can calculate how many neutrons must have reacted with chlorine to make radioactive sulfur."
The team believes that for the levels of radiation observed in California, the concentrations a kilometer above the ocean around Fukushima must have been 365 times higher than normal levels. In California, the team measured 1501 atoms of radioactive sulfur in sulfate particles per every cubic meter of air. Yet, despite the higher than normal levels observed in California within the team’s four-day testing period, the team concludes that the levels are not dangerous to human health.
"Although the spike that we measured was very high compared to background levels of radioactive sulfur, the absolute amount of radiation that reached California was small," said Thiemens. "The levels we recorded aren't a concern for human health. In fact, it took sensitive instruments, measuring radioactive decay for hours after lengthy collection of the particles, to precisely measure the amount of radiation."
Itronics successfully tests manganese recovery process
Itronics - a Nevada-based emerging cleantech materials growth company that manufacturers fertilisers and produces silver - has successfully tested two proprietary processes that recover manganese, with one process recovering manganese, potassium and zinc from paste produced by processing non-rechargeable alkaline batteries. The second recovers manganese via the company’s Rock Kleen Technology.
Manganese, one of the four most important industrial metals and widely used by the steel industry, has been designated by the US Federal Government as a "critical mineral." It is a major component of non-rechargeable alkaline batteries, one of the largest battery categories sold globally.
The use of manganese in EV batteries is increasing as EV battery technology is shifting to use of more nickel and manganese in battery formulations. But according to the US Department of Interior, there is no mine production of manganese in the United States. As such, Itronics is using its Rock Kleen Technology to test metal recoverability from mine tailings obtained from a former silver mine in western Nevada that has a high manganese content.
In a statement, Itronics says that its Rock Kleen process recovers silver, manganese, zinc, copper, lead and nickel. The company says that it has calculated – based on laboratory test results – that if a Rock Kleen tailings process is put into commercial production, the former mine site would become the only primary manganese producer in the United States.
Itronics adds that it has also tested non-rechargeable alkaline battery paste recovered by a large domestic battery recycling company to determine if it could use one of its hydrometallurgical processes to solubilize the manganese, potassium, and zinc contained in the paste. This testing was successful, and Itronics was able to produce material useable in two of its fertilisers, it says.
"We believe that the chemistry of the two recovery processes would lend itself to electrochemical recovery of the manganese, zinc, and other metals. At this time electrochemical recovery has been tested for zinc and copper,” says Dr John Whitney, Itronics president.
“Itronics has been reviewing procedures for electrochemical recovery of manganese and plans to move this technology forward when it is appropriate to do so and has acquired electro-winning equipment needed to do that.
"Because of the two described proprietary technologies, Itronics is positioned to become a domestic manganese producer on a large scale to satisfy domestic demand. The actual manganese products have not yet been defined, except for use in the Company's GOLD'n GRO Multi-Nutrient Fertilisers. However, the Company believes that it will be able to produce chemical manganese products as well as electrochemical products," he adds.
Itronics’ research and development plant is located in Reno, about 40 miles west of the Tesla giga-factory. Its planned cleantech materials campus, which will be located approximately 40 miles south of the Tesla factory, would be the location where the manganese products would be produced.
Panasonic is operating one of the world's largest EV battery factories at the Tesla location. However, Tesla and other companies have announced that EV battery technology is shifting to use of nickel-manganese batteries. Itronics is positioned and located to become a Nevada-0based supplier of manganese products for battery manufacturing as its manganese recovery technologies are advanced, the company states.
A long-term objective for Itronics is to become a leading producer of high purity metals, including the U.S. critical metals manganese and tin, using the Company's breakthrough hydrometallurgy, pyrometallurgy, and electrochemical technologies. ‘Additionally, Itronics is strategically positioned with its portfolio of "Zero Waste Energy Saving Technologies" to help solve the recently declared emergency need for domestic production of Critical Minerals from materials located at mine sites,’ the statement continues.
The Company's growth forecast centers upon its 10-year business plan designed to integrate its Zero Waste Energy Saving Technologies and to grow annual sales from $2 million in 2019, to $113 million in 2025.