Fukushima Disaster: An Interview with Renowned Biologist Dr.Timothy Mousseau
Dr. Mousseau is a Professor of Biological Sciences, and the Founding Director of the Chernobyl & Fukushima Research Initiative at the University of South Carolina. Dr. Mousseau is considered in many circles the foremost expert on ecological and evolutionary consequences of the radioactive contaminants effecting populations of birds, insects and people. Dr. Mousseau has worked in the Chernobyl & Fukushima disaster zones extensively.
Dr. Mousseau & Anders Moller working in the Fukushima Disaster Zone.
Our first question centers on mutant fish. Recently in the press there has been some coverage of a recent "monster fish" caught off the Japanese coast. Is this something we should expect to see more of?
A "monster" fish caught near the Fukushima disaster.
Dr. Mousseau responds, "There is a very high likelihood in around and near the power plant, genetic mutations, due to chronic exposure due to radiation in those areas, but in terms of morphological abnormalities, those are much less likely to be seen. Extra eyes and mouths are very unlikely to be seen, simply because they would die at an early age."
Did you see mutations in Chernobyl?
Dr. Mousseau: "In chernobyl where contamination is higher, you see common amounts of evidence of effects of mutations, but relative to total population, these are still infrequent, and only from the highest contamination levels, where it becomes obvious.
When you say an early age, what type of lifespan can we expect for the creatures in and around the disaster zone and how likely is one to see a mutated animals vs the total local species?
Dr. Mousseau: "Yes its likely to spot a mutated animal, but only a small percentage will carry those visible mutations. The lifespan of the creature will depend on the type and number of mutations on each individual animal."
How far does the Fukushima disaster spread out geographically from the power plant?
Dr. Mousseau: "Right at the power plant the contamination levels are significant. However, levels decrease precipitously as you move a few miles away. The year after the accident, there was some evidence of genetic consequences of 10, 20 maybe 30 miles beyond the accident. So there is really very little evidence of seeing abnormalities more than 10-20 miles away."
Map of Radioactive Zone of Fukushima.
How badly will the area of Northern Japan be effected by this disaster and how long will this last?
Dr. Mousseau: "From what we know of how radiation works in the environment, I would predict there would be evidence of genetic damage in the close proximity of the power plant. This kind of genetic damage is likely to persist for sometime in the future as the power plant continues to leak radiation into the ocean everyday. That will continue to occur for the foreseeable future.
Are there any ongoing studies to monitor the effects of the nuclear disaster on the local marine life environment?
Dr. Mousseau studying the current radition levels at Fukushima.
Dr. Mousseau: "There are no ongoing studies to monitor the genetic effects on marine organisms living in the area. So we don't really know the answer to this question."
How would you compare Fukushima vs Chernobyl in a general "disaster" sense?
Dr. Mousseau: "Fukushima vs Chernobyl, in terms of the land area effected by radioactive contamination was much higher at Chernobyl, larger amounts over larger area. The types of radionuclides were much more diverse, cesium, in terms of total release to ocean and land Fukushima was huge, but fortunately for Japan they went out to sea where they were diluted by the Pacific Ocean. If winds were blowing in a different direction, a much larger area of Japan would have been contaminated and the disaster would have approached or exceeded the Chernobyl accident."
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Written & Edited by Alexander Fleiss