Favorable winds over Japan carrying radioactivity out to sea

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:16 PM GMT on March 16, 2011

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If there is going to be a major nuclear disaster with massive release of radioactivity into the atmosphere from Japan's stricken Fukushima nuclear plant, today would be the best day meteorologically for this to occur. The low pressure system that brought rain and several inches of snow to Japan yesterday has moved northeastwards out to sea, and high pressure is building in. The clockwise flow of air around the high pressure system approaching Japan from the southwest is driving strong northwesterly winds of 10 - 20 mph over the region. These winds will continue through Thursday, and will take radiation particles emitted by the stricken reactors immediately out to sea, without lingering over Japan. Since high pressure systems are regions of sinking air, the radiation will stay close to the ocean surface as the air spirals clockwise over the Pacific. The contaminated air will remain over the ocean for at least five days, which is plenty of time for the radiation to settle out to the surface.


Figure 1. Surface weather map for 8am EDT today, taken from the 6-hour forecast from this morning's 6 UTC run of the GFS model. A high pressure system to the southwest of Japan, in combination with a low pressure system to the northeast are driving strong northwesterly surface winds over the country. Image is from our wundermap with the "Model" layer turned on. The lines are sea-level pressure (blue contours, 4 mb interval) and 1000 to 500 mb thickness (yellow contours, 60 m interval). Thickness is a measure of the temperature of the lower atmosphere, and a thickness of 5400 meters is usually close to where the dividing line between rain and snow occurs.

Thursday night and Friday morning (U.S. time), the high pressure system moves over Japan, allowing winds to weaken and potentially grow calm, increasing the danger of radioactivity building up over regions near and to the north of the nuclear plant. On Friday, the high departs and a moist southwesterly flow of air will affect Japan. These southwesterly winds will blow most of the radiation out to sea, away from Tokyo. Southwesterly winds will continue through Sunday, when the next major low pressure system is expected to bring heavy precipitation to the country. Beginning Thursday night, the sinking airmass over Japan will be replaced a large-scale area of rising air, and any radiation emitted late Thursday through Friday will be carried aloft towards Alaska and eastern Russia by this southwesterly flow of rising air.

Ground-level releases of radioactivity are typically not able to be transported long distances in significant quantities, since most of the material settles to the ground a few kilometers from the source. If there is a major explosion with hot gases that shoots radioactivity several hundred meters high, that would increase the chances for long range transport, since now the ground is farther away, and the particles that start settling out will stay in the air longer before encountering the ground. Additionally, winds are stronger away from ground, due to reduced friction and presence of the jet stream aloft. These stronger winds will transport radioactivity greater distances. I've made trajectory plots for the next three days assuming two possible release altitudes--a surface-based release near 10 meters, which should be the predominant altitude in the current situation, and a higher release altitude of 300 meters, which might occur from an explosion and fire from a Chernobyl-style incident. Given that the radioactivity has to travel 3000 miles to reach Anchorage, Alaska, and 5000 miles to reach California, a very large amount of dilution will occur, along with potential loss due to rain-out. Any radiation at current levels of emission that might reach these places may not even be detectable, much less be a threat to human health. A Chernobyl-level disaster in Japan would certainly be able to produce detectable levels of radiation over North America, but I strongly doubt it would be a significant concern for human health. The Chernobyl disaster only caused dangerous human health impacts within a few hundred miles of the disaster site, and the distance from Japan to North America is ten times farther than that.


Figure 2. Five-day forecast movement of plumes of radioactive air emitted at 10 meters altitude (red line) and 300 meters (blue line) at 18 UTC (2pm EDT) Wednesday, March 16, 2011 from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The plumes spiral clockwise around the high pressure system to the southwest of Japan and stay near the surface. Images created using NOAA's HYSPLIT trajectory model.


Figure 3. Five-day forecast movement of plumes of radioactive air emitted at 10 meters altitude (red line) and 300 meters (blue line) at 18 UTC (2pm EDT) Thursday, March 17, 2011 from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The plumes initially spiral clockwise around the high pressure system to the southwest of Japan and stay near the surface. By Saturday, though, the plumes get caught in a southwesterly flow of air in advance of an approaching low pressure system. Ascending air lifts the plumes to high altitudes, where winds are stronger and rapid long-range transport occurs. Images created using NOAA's HYSPLIT trajectory model.


Figure 4. Five-day forecast movement of plumes of radioactive air emitted at 10 meters altitude (red line) and 300 meters (blue line) at 18 UTC (2pm EDT) Friday, March 18, 2011 from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The plumes get caught in a southwesterly flow of air in advance of an approaching low pressure system. The plume emitted near the surface (red line) stays trapped near the surface, but the plume emitted at 300 meters is lifted to 3.5 km altitude by the rising air associated with the approaching low pressure system. Images created using NOAA's HYSPLIT trajectory model.

Resources
Seven-day weather forecast for Sendai near the Fukushima nuclear plant

The Austrian Weather Service is running trajectory models for Japan.

Current radar loops from the Japan Meteorological Agency

Rare subtropical cyclone forms near Brazil
An unusual low pressure system that came close to becoming a tropical storm is in the South Atlantic, a few hundred miles east of the coast of Brazil. The Brazilian Navy Hydrographic Center has officially named the system Subtropical Storm "Arani", but I'm not sure the low would have been named by NHC, since Arani has somewhat of a loose circulation and limited heavy thunderstorm activity. The storm is expected to move slowly eastward out to sea, and does not pose a threat to South America. The latest run of the GFDL model shows little development of Arani, and the storm is now encountering a frontal system, which is bringing 20 - 30 knots of wind shear. It is unlikely that Arani will become a tropical storm. Some runs of the GFDL last weekend were predicting Arani would intensify into a Category 3 hurricane; that's the first time I've even seen such a prediction for a South Atlantic storm. The metsul.com blog has more info on Arani, for those of you who read Portugese.


Figure 5. During the daytime on Tuesday 15 March 2011 at 1820 UTC the TRMM satellite flew over a rare cyclone labeled Arani in the South Atlantic. Arani had the appearance of a tropical cyclone but has been classified as a subtropical cyclone. NOAA's Satellite and Information Service classified Arani as a T1 on the Dvorak intensity scale which would indicate an estimated wind speed of about 29 kt (~33 mph). TRMM's Microwave Imager (TMI) and Precipitation Radar (PR) data were used in the image above to show rainfall near Arani. Image credit: NASA.

Jeff Masters

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Quoting Grothar:


Don't frett none. I've seen hundreds of those 19 years moons over the years. They don't do anything but light up the pool.



Just had a horrible imiage of you skinny dippin every 19years...........OMG! Advise you pass on this one. Way too much techniacal equipment to get on the internet............LOL
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 179 Comments: 20448
Quoting Some1Has2BtheRookie:



"light up the pool" - hmmmmmmm. Perhaps a different choice of words would be in order, when you consider the current events? I'm jumpy enough over Japan's future already.


I guess we have to choose our words more carefully. I guess none of us want to be considered the Gilbert Gottfried of the blog. I should have said illuminate. Don't forget, English is not my first language.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 27208
The 6.5 Vanatu quake (VanatuIsland itself is out of frame, just north of Malekula)

Epicenter is located~55miles from Malekula(north), ~50miles from Epi(northeast),
and ~45miles from Efate(southeast)
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Quoting Grothar:


Why do you always ask those questions in the middle of the night? I can't even find my remote at this hour.


Is this it?

Link
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Quoting TampaSpin:
Spent Rods are not as hot as those that are in active status conditions. I thought reaction could not occur until certain things happen. I got a lot of reading to do, to learn more about nuke energy and how fusion occurs. My years in Chemistry i must have sleep in the 70's!


Go read this MIT NSE Nuclear Information Hub ... its easily the best simple explanation I have seen on the web of whats happening... and why

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Quoting Grothar:


Why do you always ask those questions in the middle of the night? I can't even find my remote at this hour.


I do think I shall wait till tomorrow....dont forget! :P
Member Since: September 16, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1496
Quoting Grothar:


Don't frett none. I've seen hundreds of those 19 years moons over the years. They don't do anything but light up the pool.



"light up the pool" - hmmmmmmm. Perhaps a different choice of words would be in order, when you consider the current events? I'm jumpy enough over Japan's future already.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Spent Rods are not as hot as those that are in active status conditions. I thought reaction could not occur until certain things happen. I got a lot of reading to do, to learn more about nuke energy and how fusion occurs. My years in Chemistry i must have sleep in the 70's!
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 179 Comments: 20448

Japan begins air drop on stricken reactor
By ERIC TALMADGE and MARI YAMAGUCHI, Associated Press Eric Talmadge And Mari Yamaguchi, Associated Press – 1 hr 37 mins ago
Link
ZAO, Japan – Japanese military helicopters dumped loads of seawater onto a stricken nuclear reactor Thursday, trying to avoid full meltdowns as plant operators said they were close to finishing a new power line that could restore cooling systems and ease the crisis.

U.S. officials in Washington, meanwhile, warned that the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant in northeastern Japan may be on the verge of spewing more radioactive material because water was gone from a storage pool that keeps spent nuclear fuel rods from overheating.
Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9882
Quoting EYEStoSEA:
Off subject...but.. how do you post an image from a pic you haved saved on your pc to here?


Why do you always ask those questions in the middle of the night? I can't even find my remote at this hour.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 27208
Quoting TampaSpin:


Hey Gro, Ya! This world will change without mans help. Thats just the way it is! Each needs to live every second like it was their last and make sure their lives are in order, cause one never knows. Funny i just looked at my life insurance and made some changes so my children uses my death wisely when that time should come.


I'm lucky I don't have to worry about things like that. I'm not planning on going anywhere. I like Earth. That is why I don't like being mad at anyone. You never know when it will be that last time you see them. Keep smiling.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 27208
Off subject...but.. how do you post an image from a pic you haved saved on your pc to here?
Member Since: September 16, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1496
Quoting EYEStoSEA:


I don't know....beginning to frett about Supermoon...:) Naw....I'm doing good !


Don't frett none. I've seen hundreds of those 19 years moons over the years. They don't do anything but light up the pool.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 27208
#
0417: It seems a woman in Singapore has put her government to shame with the size of her donation towards Japanese quake relief efforts. Elaine Low presented a cheque for 1m Singaporean dollars ($780,000) - or double what the government gave - to Japan's ambassador, Yoichi Suzuki, on Wednesday, an official with the embassy told AFP. Her family runs an Indonesia-based coal mining business that imports equipment from Japan and also supplies coal to Japanese power plants. She said she wanted to do her bit to help out the Japanese affected by the disaster.
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Quoting Grothar:


Hey, T. Long time no talk. Some serious stuff the world is facing, huh?


Hey Gro, Ya! This world will change without mans help. Thats just the way it is! Each needs to live every second like it was their last and make sure their lives are in order, cause one never knows. Funny i just looked at my life insurance and made some changes so my children uses my death wisely when that time should come.
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 179 Comments: 20448
Quoting Grothar:


Vanuatu is slowly disappearing anyway from the sea level rise. Shame. Very nice islanders there. Very friendly people. Don't worry, there are earthquakes everyday like this. We just don't hear about them.


I don't know....beginning to frett about Supermoon...:) Naw....I'm doing good !
Member Since: September 16, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1496
Quoting TampaSpin:
Can Spent fuel rods get hot enough to melt down?


Yes! Without the cooling water covering them, they will soon heat up enough to burn the casings they are in and become actively reactive. This can happen in about two hours time. ... This is what I have heard from the "experts" questioned about this possibility. The level of radiation would rise nearly immediately and be very intense. You would no longer be able to approach them.
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Quoting TampaSpin:


Those darn 5th grade books guess are still heavy......


Hey, T. Long time no talk. Some serious stuff the world is facing, huh?
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 27208
2.03pm The radioactive plume is being blown across the Pacific Ocean and could hit southern California by Friday, according to a UN forecast.

There is little danger to people's health however, as experts stress the radiation levels will dilute as the plume travels.

This forecast contradicts advice from US officials who have said the radiation isn't expected to hit their shores.

1.59pm The US has gone much further with their warnings than the Japanese. They've told citizens living within 80kms of the plant to evacuate or seek shelter.

1.45pm Supplies of anti-radiation pills are dwindling as rumours fuel panic-buying of the iodine pills.
The massive demand comes mainly from the US West Coast, but orders are also flooding in from Asia's Far East.

South Korean authorities have launched a crackdown on scaremongering, saying the consistent Westerly winds will blow the radiation out into the Pacific.
Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9882
Quoting EYEStoSEA:


I'm only 70 mi. from Grand Gulf Nucleur Plant...Pat pretty close to. Grothar that last 6.5 quake was off the coast of Austraila at Vanuatu...


Vanuatu is slowly disappearing anyway from the sea level rise. Shame. Very nice islanders there. Very friendly people. Don't worry, there are earthquakes everyday like this. We just don't hear about them.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 27208
Quoting TampaSpin:
Can Spent fuel rods get hot enough to melt down?
yes if holding tank drains of water the rods can begin to reheat to the point of chain reaction
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 55984
Little known facts:


Cancer controversySee also: Downwinders#Health Effects of Nuclear Testing
The exterior scenes were shot on location near St. George, Utah, 137 miles (220 km) downwind of the United States government's Nevada Test Site. In 1953, extensive above-ground nuclear weapons testing occurred at the test site, as part of Operation Upshot-Knothole. The cast and crew spent many difficult weeks on location, and in addition Hughes later shipped 60 tons of dirt back to Hollywood in order to match the Utah terrain and lend verisimilitude to studio re-shoots.[1] The film-makers knew about the nuclear tests[1] but the federal government reassured residents that the tests caused no hazard to public health.[2]

Powell died of cancer in January 1963, only a few years after the picture's completion. Pedro Armendáriz was diagnosed with kidney cancer in 1960 and committed suicide in 1963 after he learned his condition had become terminal. Hayward, Wayne, and Moorehead all died of cancer in the mid to late 1970s. Cast member actor John Hoyt died of lung cancer in 1991. Skeptics point to other factors such as the wide use of tobacco — Wayne and Moorehead in particular were heavy smokers — and the notion that cancer resulting from radiation exposure does not have such a long incubation period. The cast and crew totaled 220 people. By 1981, 91 of them had developed some form of cancer and 46 had died of the disease.[2][3]

Dr. Robert Pendleton, professor of biology at the University of Utah, stated, "With these numbers, this case could qualify as an epidemic. The connection between fallout radiation and cancer in individual cases has been practically impossible to prove conclusively. But in a group this size you'd expect only 30 some cancers to develop...I think the tie-in to their exposure on the set of The Conqueror would hold up in a court of law
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 27208
Quoting Skyepony:
#
0352: The temperature of Reactor 5 is now a growing cause for concern, a Japanese official reports. "The level of water in the reactor is lowering and the pressure is rising," he says.


I had heard a report earlier, on a radio talk show, that #4 water level was low enough for the tops on the stored fuel rods to be exposed and the temperature was rising. The radio show went to commercial break and never said anything else about this when they returned. I have not heard any other reports regarding this. ... The information we are getting is very conflicting. I guess you would have to personally peek over the edge to know for sure what is actually happening. Extremely frustrating, to say the lest.
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Quoting Grothar:


If you blow it up you can see more detail.


Leave that to PyonYang
Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9882
Quoting RitaEvac:
6.5 quake isn't being noticed by many. At 948 pm cdt in pacific east of Australia. Maybe the pacific is gonna unzip itself for the grand finale on the 19th moon shot.


hmmmm...
Member Since: September 16, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1496
6.5 quake isn't being noticed by many. At 948 pm cdt in pacific east of Australia. Maybe the pacific is gonna unzip itself for the grand finale on the 19th moon shot.
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 2 Comments: 9685
Quoting Grothar:


If you blow it up you can see more detail.


I'm only 70 mi. from Grand Gulf Nucleur Plant...Pat pretty close to. Grothar that last 6.5 quake was off the coast of Austraila at Vanuatu...
Member Since: September 16, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1496
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 55984
682. Skyepony (Mod)
0401: Ceiling of Reactor 4 reduced to frame, power station station operator Tepco says - Kyoto
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Can Spent fuel rods get hot enough to melt down?
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 179 Comments: 20448
Quoting N3EG:


Satsop, however, was built ON a fault. It was never in service due to economic factors (look up WPPSS for info on that disaster.)


There is no place in the pacific northwest that is not sitting on or very close to a fault line. There is historical evidence pointing to Tidal waves hitting over 200 feet on the westcoast.
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679. Skyepony (Mod)
#
0352: The temperature of Reactor 5 is now a growing cause for concern, a Japanese official reports. "The level of water in the reactor is lowering and the pressure is rising," he says.
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Boiling Nuclear Superheater Rincon, PR

The decommissioned Boiling Nuclear Superheater (BONUS) reactor was developed as a prototype nuclear power plant to investigate the technical and economic feasibility of the integral boiling-superheating concept. This small-scale nuclear reactor produced saturated steam in the central portion of the reactor core, superheated it in four surrounding superheater sections of the same core, and then used the superheated steam in a direct loop to drive a turbine generator. It was one of only two boiling-water superheater reactors ever developed in the United States. The reactor was designed to be large enough to evaluate the major features of the integral boiling-superheating concept realistically without the high construction and operating costs associated with a large plant. Construction of the began in 1960 through a combined effort of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission and Puerto Rico Water Resources Authority. The reactor first achieved a controlled nuclear chain reaction on April 13, 1964. It underwent a series of criticality tests and then was operated experimentally at various power levels, first as a boiler and later as an integral boiler-superheater. Operation at full power (50 megawatts of thermal energy) and full temperature (900 F [482 C] steam) was achieved in September 1965, and tests demonstrated satisfactory operation at 10 percent over power in November 1965. Operation of the BONUS reactor was terminated in June 1968 because of technical difficulties and the ensuing need for high-cost modifications. The Puerto Rico Water Resources Authority decommissioned the reactor between 1969 and 1970.

The fuel and control rods were returned to the United States for disposal. The remainder of the radioactive material was either decontaminated on site or placed into the core which was then entombed in concrete. Additional cleanup and shielding was completed in the 1990s and 2000s. A museum is planned for the main floor of the facility.

One of the most popular Surfing beaches in Rincon, lies just in the shoreline of the Bonus Plant. Surfers call it Domes beach...

Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9882
Quoting Grothar:


Hey, That was my high school paper on why one shouldn't write backwards. Try lugging those to school everyday.


Those darn 5th grade books guess are still heavy......
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 179 Comments: 20448
Humboldt Bay Nuclear Power Plant

So here you have a plant... with spent fuel stored onsite... on a known fault line.. that cannot handle a Mag 7, which it is well over due for... in your back yard.
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675. N3EG
Quoting Orcasystems:
Found it :)

The 63 MW Boiling Water Reactor at the Humboldt Bay Nuclear Power Plant in Eureka was in operation by PG&E from August 1963 to July 1976. It was the seventh licensed nuclear plant in the United States. It was closed because the economics of a required seismic retrofit could not be justified following a moderate earthquake from a previously unknown fault just off the coast. It was permanently shut down July 2, 1976, and retired in 1985. The plant was then placed in SAFSTOR (with spent nuclear fuel rods stored in water pools on site) until anticipated full decommissioning in 2015. See more on SAFSTOR below.

Eureka California... best little foreign port in the whole world :)


Satsop, however, was built ON a fault. It was never in service due to economic factors (look up WPPSS for info on that disaster.)
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Quoting Some1Has2BtheRookie:
Grothar. As fast as you are posting those images, you must have gotten an updated tablet?





Hey, That was my high school paper on why one shouldn't write backwards. Try lugging those to school everyday.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 27208
The Asain Markets are taking another booty whippin today.......don't know where the bottom might be this time.

World Markets
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Quoting sunlinepr:


That's a real informative map... thanks...


If you blow it up you can see more detail.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 27208
Found it :)

The 63 MW Boiling Water Reactor at the Humboldt Bay Nuclear Power Plant in Eureka was in operation by PG&E from August 1963 to July 1976. It was the seventh licensed nuclear plant in the United States. It was closed because the economics of a required seismic retrofit could not be justified following a moderate earthquake from a previously unknown fault just off the coast. It was permanently shut down July 2, 1976, and retired in 1985. The plant was then placed in SAFSTOR (with spent nuclear fuel rods stored in water pools on site) until anticipated full decommissioning in 2015. See more on SAFSTOR below.

Eureka California... best little foreign port in the whole world :)
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670. N3EG
Quoting Orcasystems:


Not sure.. looking.. I remember I was on the ship when we went past it, so it has to be on a river or right on the coast. I "think" it was on our way upriver to Sacramento, or maybe Portland...


Trojan, the one mentioned before, was on the Columbia River about two thirds of the way from the ocean to Portland. They demolished the cooling tower several years ago, and all that's left are a few buildings, warehouses, and transmission lines.
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Grothar. As fast as you are posting those images, you must have gotten an updated tablet?



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Quoting Grothar:


That's a real informative map... thanks...
Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9882
Quoting risavjl:


OMG - This hasn't happened in in in in 19 years!!!!!! ;)


I know this probably goes over Orca's head as well but, i do find it very coincendental that this major quake occured during this time and before some said this would happen. Was the gravity pull from the Moon at fault? I have no idea, but the theroy was right on as some had suggested. Who knowS
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 179 Comments: 20448
Quoting N3EG:


Satsop.


Not sure.. looking.. I remember I was on the ship when we went past it, so it has to be on a river or right on the coast. I "think" it was on our way upriver to Sacramento, or maybe Portland...
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From the Internet.


The first atomic bomb to be detonated at Bikini was code-named "Able", a bomb similar in most respects to "Fat Man," which was dropped on Nagasaki. The B-29 designated to drop Able was named "Dave's Dream," and on July 1, 1946, at about 8:45 AM, the first peacetime detonation of a nuclear ordnance occurred. Of the animals left on board the ships at anchor in Bikini Lagoon, approximately 10% died instantly. The Naval vessels managed to withstand the blast for the most part, but many were destroyed during Test "Baker" on July 25. In the coming years, some twenty additional bomb tests would be conducted before the United States government officially returned control of the islands over to their natives in 1969. The largest test, Castle Bravo, also proved to be a large radiation fallout disaster: ashes from the explosion flew miles into inhabited islands, putting nuclear fallout into the public minds of many.

[edit] The AftermathShortly after the announcement that the islands were safe, a group of the native people left their makeshift home to return to Bikini, but were evacuated ten years later after developing radiation poisoning from Cesium-137, (some sources also state Strontium-90), a remnant of the radioactive fallout. As of 2009, the islands remain uninhabitable, and many of the displaced natives now reside in the Carolines and Marshall Islands in the Western Pacific; also some live in California, and in Nevada.

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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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