Fukushima Disaster : University of South Carolina’s Superstar Biologist Dr. Timothy Mousseau

Fukushima Disaster : University of South Carolina’s Superstar Biologist Dr. Timothy Mousseau


Dr. Mousseau & Anders Moller working in the Fukushima Disaster Zone.

Dr. Mousseau is a Professor of Biological Sciences, and the Founding Director of the Chernobyl & Fukushima Research Initiative at the University of South Carolina.

Dr. Mousseau is a foremost expert on ecological and evolutionary consequences of the radioactive contaminants effecting populations of birds, insects and people. Dr. Mousseau has worked in the Chernobyl & Fukushima disaster zones extensively.

Our first question centers on mutant fish. In the press there has been coverage of a “monster fish” caught off the Japanese coast. Is this something we should expect to see more of?

Radiation hotspot in Kashiwa.

Dr. Mousseau responds, “There is a very high likelihood in around and near the power plant, genetic mutations, due to chronic exposure due to radiation in those areas, but in terms of morphological abnormalities, those are much less likely to be seen. Extra eyes and mouths are very unlikely to be seen, simply because they would die at an early age.”

Did you see mutations in Chernobyl?

福島第一原発3号機原子炉への注水 防衛省 – 出典:防衛省ホームページ https://www.mod.go.jp/e/jdf/no22/photo/photo10.html

Dr. Mousseau: “In chernobyl where contamination is higher, you see common amounts of evidence of effects of mutations, but relative to total population, these are still infrequent, and only from the highest contamination levels, where it becomes obvious.

When you say an early age, what type of lifespan can we expect for the creatures in and around the disaster zone and how likely is one to see a mutated animals vs the total local species?

Dr. Mousseau: “Yes its likely to spot a mutated animal, but only a small percentage will carry those visible mutations. But, the lifespan of the creature will depend on the type and number of mutations on each individual animal.”

But, how far did the Fukushima disaster spread out geographically from the power plant?

US Navy barge transports approx. 1 million liters of water to aid cooling efforts at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant following tsunami damage see also http://www.navy.mil/search/display.asp?story_id=59318

Dr. Mousseau: “Right at the power plant the contamination levels are significant. However, levels decrease precipitously as you move a few miles away. For instance, the year after the accident, there was some evidence of genetic consequences of 10, 20 maybe 30 miles beyond the accident. So there is really very little evidence of seeing abnormalities more than 10-20 miles away.”

Map of Radioactive Zone of Fukushima.

But, how badly will the area of Northern Japan be effected by this disaster? And how long will this last? And, the area emptied out after the disaster. Many Japanese lost their families and their homes. Their lives will never be the same.

Dr. Mousseau said firstly: “From what we know of how radiation works in the environment, I would predict there would be evidence of genetic damage in the close proximity of the power plant. Secondly, this kind of genetic damage is likely to persist for sometime in the future as the power plant continues to leak radiation into the ocean everyday. Thirdly, that will continue to occur for the foreseeable future.


In electromagnetic radiation (such as microwaves from an antenna, shown here) the term “radiation” applies only to the parts of the electromagnetic field that radiate into infinite space and decrease in intensity by an inverse-square law of power so that the total radiation energy that crosses through an imaginary spherical surface is the same, no matter how far away from the antenna the spherical surface is drawn. Electromagnetic radiation includes the far field part of the electromagnetic field around a transmitter. A part of the “near-field” close to the transmitter, is part of the changing electromagnetic field, but does not count as electromagnetic radiation.

Are there any ongoing studies to monitor the effects of the nuclear disaster on the local marine life environment?

Dr. Mousseau studying the current radition levels at Fukushima.

Dr. Mousseau: “There are no ongoing studies to monitor the genetic effects on marine organisms living in the area. So we don’t really know the answer to this question.”

How would you compare Fukushima vs Chernobyl in a general “disaster” sense?

Dating Wine Using Nuclear Signatures

Dr. Mousseau: “Fukushima vs Chernobyl, in terms of the land area effected by radioactive contamination was much higher at Chernobyl, larger amounts over larger area. The types of radionuclides were much more diverse.

Measurement Station of the real-time radiation level measurement system (near Fukushima Station)

In conclusion, cesium, in terms of total nuclear release to ocean and land Fukushima was huge. But, fortunately for Japan they went out to sea where they were diluted by the Pacific Ocean. And if winds had been blowing in a different direction. Lastly, a much larger area of Japan would have been contaminated and the disaster would have approached or exceeded the Chernobyl accident.”

Dr. Mousseau’s Research Papers:


Timothy Mousseau – Department of Biological Sciences | University of South Carolina

The Fukushima Nuclear Incident : An In-depth Analysis

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, which took place in March 2011, stands as one of the most severe nuclear accidents in history, alongside the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. It resulted in a series of meltdowns, hydrogen explosions, and releases of radioactive materials from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.


  1. Location and Design: The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, operated by Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), is located on the eastern coast of Japan in Fukushima Prefecture. The facility consists of six boiling water reactors. Designed in the 1960s and 1970s, the reactors began operation between 1971 and 1979.
  2. Seismic Concerns: Japan, being in the Pacific Ring of Fire, is no stranger to earthquakes and tsunamis. The country’s nuclear power plants, including Fukushima, were supposedly designed to withstand these natural events.

The Trigger: The Great Tōhoku Earthquake and Tsunami

On March 11, 2011, a massive undersea earthquake with a magnitude of 9.0 struck off the northeastern coast of Japan, named the Great Tōhoku Earthquake. The quake, one of the strongest ever recorded, initiated a devastating tsunami with waves that reached heights of up to 40 meters.

Japanese evacuees at Koriyama High School gymnasium, Koryiama, Fukushima Prefecture

Steven L. Herman – http://www.voanews.com/english/news/photo-galleries/118102349.html

The Disaster Unfolds:

Japanese evacuees at Koriyama High School gymnasium, Koryiama, Fukushima Prefecture

Steven L. Herman – http://www.voanews.com/english/news/photo-galleries/118102349.html

  1. Immediate Impact: The earthquake’s initial tremors caused the Fukushima plant’s reactors to shut down automatically, a standard safety procedure. However, the ensuing tsunami, much larger than the plant’s seawall defenses had become designed for. As a result, inundated the facility.
  2. Power Failures: The tsunami waters flooded the power plant’s lower areas, where emergency diesel generators were located. This led to a failure of the generators, causing a station blackout. Without electricity, the cooling systems of the reactors could not operate.
  3. Meltdowns Begin: In the absence of cooling, the temperatures in reactors 1, 2, and 3 began to rise, leading to meltdowns. The zirconium cladding on the fuel rods reacted with water to produce hydrogen.
  4. Hydrogen Explosions: Between March 12 and 15, accumulated hydrogen caused several explosions. Thus, damaging the buildings housing reactors 1, 3, and 4.
  5. Release of Radioactive Materials: Due to the explosions and the rising temperatures, radioactive materials, including iodine-131, cesium-134, and cesium-137, became released into the atmosphere. Later, in addition, discovered that contaminated water leaked, releasing radioactive materials into the Pacific Ocean.

The center of Namie is a ghost town, Namie, Fukushima Pref., Japan 12 April, 2011 (VOA – S. L. Herman)

Steven L. Herman – Japan Evacuees Brave Radiation Fears to Briefly Return Home, VOA News, photo gallery.

Response and Aftermath:

Guards read a whiteboard near the Fukushima-1 nuclear plant’s main gate, April 13, 2011 (VOA Photo S. Herman)

Steven L. Herman – Photos at or near the Fukushima-1 Nuclear Power Plant, VOA News, photo gallery.

  1. Evacuation: As the situation deteriorated, authorities initiated an evacuation. Initially, it covered a 3 km radius from the plant, but eventually expanded to 20 km. Tens of thousands of residents found themselves displaced.
  2. Containment Efforts: TEPCO, with help from the Japanese Self-Defense Forces, the U.S. military, and other entities, initiated efforts to cool the reactors by pumping water and later by constructing a cooling system.
  3. Decontamination and Compensation: Post the disaster, a massive decontamination effort undertaken, especially in the evacuated areas. TEPCO has become involved in compensation claims amounting to billions of dollars.
  4. Health Concerns: The immediate health effects of radiation exposure became limited. Moreover, with no radiation sickness cases reported. However, there remains a concern over the long-term effects, especially thyroid cancers. Additionally, the psychological and mental health impacts of displacement and the disaster have been profound.
  5. Nuclear Policy Reevaluation: The disaster prompted Japan and many countries worldwide to reevaluate their nuclear energy policies. Japan shut down all its nuclear reactors, though a few have since become restarted after meeting stricter safety standards.

Wider view of the main gate of the Fukushima-1nuclear power plant, April 13, 2011 (VOA Photo S. Herman)

Steven L. Herman – Photos at or near the Fukushima-1 Nuclear Power Plant, VOA News, photo gallery.

In conclusion, the Fukushima incident serves as a stark reminder of the potential hazards associated with nuclear power, especially in regions prone to natural disasters.

This month’s safety slogan: Be sure to check everything and do a risk assessment. Zero disasters for this end of a fiscal year. TEPCO Fukushima-1 Nuclear Power Plant Safety Committee,’ April 13, 2011 (VOA Photo S. Herman) In Japan, FY starts in April and ends in March, but this picture was taken in April, not in March. —Hohoho (talk) 16:33, 11 June 2011 (UTC)

Steven L. Herman – Photos at or near the Fukushima-1 Nuclear Power Plant, VOA News, photo gallery.

Moreover, it underscores the need for rigorous safety standards, effective disaster preparedness, and robust response mechanisms. The event also offers lessons on the long-term challenges of dealing with nuclear accidents, from displacement to decontamination to societal trust in nuclear energy.

Coal’s share of electricity generation in Japan was higher in 2018 than it was before the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident. In 2010, coal accounted for 25% of Japan’s electricity generation, and nuclear generation accounted for 29%. <a href=”https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=39853” rel=”noreferrer nofollow”>www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=39853</a> June 14, 2019

Fukushima Disaster : University of South Carolina’s Superstar Biologist Dr. Timothy Mousseau

U.S. Energy Information Administration – Japan net electricity generation in 2000 through 2017

Fukushima Disaster : University of South Carolina’s Superstar Biologist Dr. Timothy Mousseau