The nuclear crisis in Japan is far from over. In recent days, highly radioactive water has been discovered in tunnels under reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, and radioactive plutonium has been found in the soil nearby. Efforts to contain the leaking radioactive material are still underway, and cleanup will take far longer. Here are answers to some basic questions.
How did plutonium get in the soil?
In two samples, tests suggest that the plutonium came from the Fukushima reactors. If that is the case, it was most likely released into the air and then settled on the ground. Other positive tests were probably measuring plutonium that was already in the soil. Nuclear weapons testing by the U.S. and the Soviet Union between 1945 and 1962 spread low levels of radioactive plutonium around the world, said John Boice, a cancer epidemiologist and radiation safety expert at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. Also, the bomb dropped on Nagasaki by the U.S. in 1945 was made with plutonium, and trace quantities of that fallout could still be present in Japanese soil.
How dangerous is plutonium?
Read the rest of the story: Japan earthquake: Japan nuclear cleanup will take time.