Over 1.2 million tons of radioactive cooling water from the Fukushima Nuclear Plant will be released soon. This is not Plutonium, but the more benign [iodine-131, cesium-137, and cesium-134. Of the three, only Cesium-137 has a longer half-life (30 years). The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution has a good explanation.

Will the world come to an end? Will it ruin the Pacific Ocean on our beautiful West Coast (USA)?

The answer is almost certainly no. The pacific ocean contains 171 million cubic miles of water, about 1,450,000,000,000,000,000 tons of water. 1,200,000 tons of water are equivalent to a concentration of 0.000,000,000,000,8276. This is 0.8 per trillion—similar to the amount of gold in seawater. For perspective, consider that natural uranium in seawater has a concentration of 3,300 per trillion.

Common estimates have it that it takes about 1,000 years for ocean water to circulate through the global conveyor belt–about 200 years for water to get from Japan to the US, by which time the radioactive isotopes will have decayed to about 5% of what they were at the time of the release.

In sum, it may mess up Japanese seafood, but it’s just not going to bug us much on the West-Coast of the US.

There are far more important ocean problems to consider:

  • the depletion of the oceans for the sake of more seafood

  • the terrible catching practices of the seafood industry

  • large-scale seafloor mining

  • acidification of our oceans

and more broadly

  • General species extinction on our planet

  • Deforestations

  • CO2 emissions

  • Methane and other industrial emissions

  • Population growth

Please, everybody: Focus on What is Important!