It's been six-and-a-half years since Fukushima Dai-ichi was hit by an earthquake and tsunami. And now, nuclear plant radiation has showed up somewhere scientists didn't expect -- the beach.
A nuclear plant like Fukushima has nuclear fuel rods inside of a water bath. The bath helps regulate their temperature, because nuclear rods heat up due to radioactive decay. They're hot all the time, even before fission.
When Fukushima's plant was hit by a tsunami, the systems that kept the water baths cool stopped working, the rods overheated, and had a melt-down. Literally. To try and stop it, they ran seawater (the nearest cold thing) over the melting fuel rods. This made the water radioactive, as cesium-137 (a byproduct of the radioactive uranium) is water soluble, but it helped cool rods. Then they had to clean up the radioactivity.
80 percent of the decontamination of a person after Fukushima can be simply: removing any clothing being worn. Though radiation is invisible to us, it's just really tiny particles that get caught on dust, then on your clothes.
They also had to get the dust out of the environment. In the case of Fukushima, 4 centimeters of topsoil was bagged up and hauled away. That said, you have to know the radiation is there before you can clean it off. A new study of the beaches around Fukushima found more radioactive Cesium-137 than expected. Turns out they overlooked the beaches around the plant.
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