Fukushima Radiation Found In Napa Valley Wines


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In this picture taken on January 31, 2018 an employee of Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) walks past an ice wall at Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima prefecture.  (Photo credit: BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images)

Believe it or not, one well-known way of authenticating the vintage of a certain wine without having to open it is to check how much nuclear fallout it contains. Now, the pioneer of that technique has used it to determine that radiation from the 2011 Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant meltdown and disaster in Japan made its way into wines from California’s Napa Valley.

The vintage of many wines can be verified and fakes outed by measuring their cesium 137 content with a gamma detector and then comparing the measurement against the known levels of the radioactive isotope in the atmosphere in a given year from nuclear tests and accidents like Chernobyl. After a few decades without any tests or accidents, Fukushima provided a new marker.

A team from the French National Center for Scientific Research and the University of Bordeaux including Philippe Hubert, who developed the method over 20 years ago, decided to check a series of California wines from between 2009 and 2012 for cesium 137, which was released in significant amounts from Fukushima and traveled across the Pacific on the wind.

To get an accurate measurement, the wines were opened and reduced to ash.

"It seems there is an increase in activity in 2011 by a factor of 2," reads a paper by the team uploaded to Cornell’s ArXiv pre-print server, meaning that levels of cesium 137 in California wine appears to have doubled right after Fukushima.

No need for cabernet fans to freak out, as the levels found are still considered extremely low, and as far as I’ve heard the wines were not found to be fakes.

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In this picture taken on January 31, 2018 an employee of Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) walks past an ice wall at Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima prefecture.  (Photo credit: BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images)

Believe it or not, one well-known way of authenticating the vintage of a certain wine without having to open it is to check how much nuclear fallout it contains. Now, the pioneer of that technique has used it to determine that radiation from the 2011 Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant meltdown and disaster in Japan made its way into wines from California’s Napa Valley.

The vintage of many wines can be verified and fakes outed by measuring their cesium 137 content with a gamma detector and then comparing the measurement against the known levels of the radioactive isotope in the atmosphere in a given year from nuclear tests and accidents like Chernobyl. After a few decades without any tests or accidents, Fukushima provided a new marker.

A team from the French National Center for Scientific Research and the University of Bordeaux including Philippe Hubert, who developed the method over 20 years ago, decided to check a series of California wines from between 2009 and 2012 for cesium 137, which was released in significant amounts from Fukushima and traveled across the Pacific on the wind.

To get an accurate measurement, the wines were opened and reduced to ash.

“It seems there is an increase in activity in 2011 by a factor of 2,” reads a paper by the team uploaded to Cornell’s ArXiv pre-print server, meaning that levels of cesium 137 in California wine appears to have doubled right after Fukushima.

No need for cabernet fans to freak out, as the levels found are still considered extremely low, and as far as I’ve heard the wines were not found to be fakes.

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