Nuclear bear carcass illustrates Fukushima water recovery struggles

Last year, nearly a quarter of an inch of rain fell on nearly an entire month in March. Among the collateral damage was the dead carcass of a 1,500-pound brown bear that was found…

Nuclear bear carcass illustrates Fukushima water recovery struggles

Last year, nearly a quarter of an inch of rain fell on nearly an entire month in March. Among the collateral damage was the dead carcass of a 1,500-pound brown bear that was found swimming in a river on the night of March 11, mere hours after the magnitude 9.0 earthquake.

The bear was trapped in Sekima, Fukushima, and taken to the nuclear power plant, where it met the fate of so many other animals killed by the nuclear disaster in 2011. An exception in this particular case was a young female brown bear with cubs still at home. Officials packed the bears into concrete containers, which were later shipped out in tens of thousands of lbs. to safety.

A study published this month in Conservation Letters documents the strange feast that the isotopic evidence of radioactive cesium discovered in the bears’ fat indicates: The bears had been sleeping in a forest-lined creek where cesium had apparently spilled from cooling systems that ran on thermal power plants.

It’s the first detection of cesium in bear skin at Fukushima since the nuclear plant. The radiation hit as the plant began to shut down in early 2011 for the cesium depletion phase of its decontamination. Last spring, government inspectors found that much of the contaminated soil on land near the plant had been removed — leaving the carcasses of bears and wildlife in Fukushima Park as a powerful reminder of the tragedy.

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