Fukushima Legacy Hits 2011 Napa Vintage…But Don’t Panic

In March 2011 a massive earthquake hit off the coast of Fukushima province on Japan’s east coast.  The massive concern in the subsequent aftermath was at the Daiichi nuclear power plant.  The initial damage from the earthquake, and subsequent damage from the tsunami left 3 reactors in meltdown, and officials scrambling to contain the radioactive pollution.

I was trading bonds at the time and spent the next two weeks trying to make as much money as I could from trading Toyota and Honda.  I don’t think I ever thought about the human or ecological effects.  I just wanted to make some trading profit so I could get paid at the end of the year.  Makes me feel all warm inside thinking about it now.


The biggest issue was radioactive leaks from the cooling towers and storage units, which was confirmed by August 2011 to be nearly 300 tons of highly radioactive water per day escaping into the vastness of the Pacific Ocean.

So fast forward to headlines this week that researchers at the University of Bordeaux have found spiked levels of radioactive compound Caesium-137 in some wines from the other side of the ocean, in Napa Valley’s 2011 vintage.  Cue the sensationalist headlines…

It’s very important to note that these levels are still well below what is thought to be dangerous to humans.  Even if you double negligible levels it’s still negligible.  Infact they are still over 100 times less than Californian wines of the 1950s when the effects of radioactive testing in that era were nearly completely unknown.

It’s also important to note that there is nothing that the grape growers and winemakers of Napa could do about this.  This is the legacy of a terrible earthquake thousands of miles away and a tragic accident at the local nuclear powerstation.  Napa vintners are some of the most diligent and ecologically minded in the world.

It’s definitely interesting, but don’t let it stop you popping the cork on that bottle of Cab.




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