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What Lies Under the Beach?

What Lies Under the Beach?

November 30, 2018

A team of international scientists led by Ken Buesseler at WHOI dug pits to sample sand and groundwater at a popular surfing beach in Yotsukura, Japan, for residual radioactivity released after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that led to a massive release of radioactivity from nuclear power plants at Fukushima. While the reactors and nearby rivers release small amounts of radioactivity to the ocean to this day, former WHOI Postdoctoral Scholar Virginie Sanial and colleagues discovered another unexpected source of radioactive material into the ocean: Groundwater underlying beach sands still contains relatively high levels of radioactive cesium, and a process called “tidal pumping” returns some of the cesium back to the ocean. (Photo by Ken Buesseler, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

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