Fukushima's nuclear signature found in California wine


In 2001, one of the researchers in this new effort discovered that he could date bottles of unopened wine by testing them for cesium-137 levels.

A pair of researchers with CNRS/Université de Bordeaux has found trace amounts of the isotope cesium-137 in wines produced in California shortly after the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Wines made around major nuclear events, including USA and Soviet nuclear tests during the Cold War and the Chernobyl accident, should show higher levels of radioactive isotopes, called cesium-137, according to the researchers. French scientists this month submitted research to the Cornell University Library that showed some wines produced subsequent to the disaster were twice as radioactive than those made before. But researchers note that the use of such wine does not affect human health, because of the isotopes it is still less than radiation in the environment. The authors of the study examined 18 bottles of wine, either rosé or cabernet sauvignon, and found the man-made isotope in increasing levels, and since it's only released into nature after radioactive events, it could be easily traced to Fukushima.

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However, the amount detected is still considered "extremely low".

"We can measure some radioactive level that is much higher than the usual level", said Michael Pravikoff, a physicist at a French research centre who worked on the study. It was originally invented to determine the authenticity of vintage wines.

Still, it took more than a gamma detector to uncover the California bottles' secrets.

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"I just bought [the wines], just to see", he tells the New York Times' Zaveri.

"It is more for the pure scientific aspect that we were interested in measuring them", he told the newspaper.

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