Japan – MEXT Releases New Maps Show Radiation Contamination from Tellurium Found Up To 2,660,000 Bq/m3

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Tellurium was used as a chemical bonder in the making of the outer shell of the first atomic bomb. The 1960s brought growth in thermoelectric applications for tellurium, as well as its use in free-machining steel, which became the dominant use.

Japan – MEXT Releases New Maps Show Radiation Contamination from Tellurium Found Up To 2,660,000 Bq/m3 And Silver Up To 83,000 Bq  – Still Less Than 16% of Cesium Alone

On October 31st, the Ministry of Education released new contamination maps showing the spread of radioactive Tellurium and Silver after the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster.

Large contamination areas accumulated within the 30 km zone, and 2,200 locations within 100 kilometers of Fukushima Daiichi were tested.

Of the 2,200 tested samples, 350 were found contaminated with Silver and over 800 were found contaminated with Tellurium.


The highest concentrations of Tellurium was found near Okuma, at nearly 2,660,000 bq/m3.

Humans exposed to as little as 0.01 mg/m3 or less in air develop “tellurium breath”, which has a garlic-like odor.

The garlic odor that is associated with human intake of tellurium compounds is caused from the tellurium being metabolized by the body. When the body metabolizes tellurium in any oxidation state, the tellurium gets converted into dimethyl telluride, (CH3)2Te, which is volatile and is the cause of the garlic-like smell.



Radioactive Silver was found at 83,000 bq near Futaba.  Both concentrations are a caution area.  The area is often found contaminated with accumulated Iodine 131, and some think the clouds could have carried the contamination.



Sankei MSN reports say that the concentrations of Tellurium and Silver are very small amounts compared to the soil concentrations of radioactive cesium, but no actual amount is listed.  Tellurium and cesium are diffused in gaseous form, the Tellurium levels extend to the south coastal areas, and also spread with the cesium contamination northwest of the plant.




NHK News reports that the Tellurium found is about 0.03% the amount of Cs-137 levels in the same area, and Silver remained less than 1% to 16% of the Cs-137 contamination.



The silver showed a different distribution path, the ministry will have to verify how silver was found so far away in such concentrations.

Tellurium and silver concentrations in soils are mapped and can be found at the information ministry radiation webpage (http://radioactivity.mext.go.jp/ja/)

The short-lived isotope 135Te (half-life 19 seconds) is produced as a fission product in nuclear reactors. It decays, via two beta decays, to 135Xe, the most powerful known neutron absorber, and the cause of the iodine pit phenomenon.

Tellurium is the lightest element observed to commonly undergo alpha decay, with isotopes 106Te to 110Te being seen to undergo this mode of decay.

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