In 2011, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan suffered a meltdown, releasing nuclear radiation into the surrounding area and into the ocean. While that disaster happened seven years ago and half a world away, the effects can be found even on our own shores. A finds that radioactive particles from the Fukushima disaster can be found in wines from California.
Radiation in wine is nothing new. In fact, every bottle of wine made after 1952 contains some radioactive particles. The first thermonuclear weapons test occurred then, and that single explosion released so much radiation into the atmosphere that some of it is still around today. There’s less radiation in the atmosphere since atmospheric tests stopped in the 60s, but some of it will stick around for a very long time.
Some of that atmospheric radiation makes its way into wine bottles, where it can be measured with a common gamma detector. Even small variances in the amount of radiation can be picked up this way. For instance, after the Chernobyl meltdown wines in France recorded an increased level of radiation, and a similar thing seems to have happened in California.
The researchers tested several different wines from the Napa valley that were bottled between 2009 and 2012. They found that after 2011, the wines recorded almost twice the level of radioactive particles as the prior years. The radiation levels in the wines are still far below the threshold for causing harm.