Answer to Question #11564 Submitted to "Ask the Experts"

Category: Radiation Effects

The following question was answered by an expert in the appropriate field:


How do algae commonly found in lakes and rivers respond to fission products, such as those that have been known to have been transported via the atmosphere after the Fukushima reactor accident (iodine-131 [131I], xenon-133 [133Xe], and cesium-137 [137Cs])? Also, can fission products cause some species of algae to awaken from a dormant state?


Algae found in lakes and rivers would not respond to trace amounts of fission products such as 131I, 133Xe, or 137Cs. This is logical because the algae are constantly in water that already has naturally occurring radioactive material in it. For example, all water contains potassium-40 (40K), radon-222 (222Rn), tritium (hydrogen-3 [3H]), and many other naturally occurring radioactive elements. Algae blooms ("awakening" of the algae) can be caused by warmer water temperatures and additional nutrients that provide a better environment for algae growth.

John Hageman, CHP

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