Category Archives: Water Resources

The Science Behind ATOMIK Vodka

Source:  The Chernobyl Spirit Company

This is a radioactivity-free vodka produced by The Chernobyl Spirit Company from grain and water in Chernobyl’s abandoned zone. The website for ATOMIK vodka is at the following link: https://www.atomikvodka.com

While this product has been widely reported in that past few days, the website offers the following notice:

“WARNING: Sorry, but we’ve only got one experimental bottle of ATOMIK so far, so we can’t sell you anything yet. But if you want to find out more about what we’re trying to do please carry on reading.”

The website is quite interesting and I encourage you to take the time to visit the site.  Following is a summary of some key points from the website and a supporting technical paper.

Background

The members of the ATOMIK vodka technical team are: 

  • Jim Smith, Professor of Environmental Science at Portsmouth University, UK
  • Gennady Laptev, Head of the Radiometric Laboratory at the Ukrainian Hydrometeorological Institute
  • Kyrylo Korychensky, a geologist and radiochemist currently completing his PhD at the Ukrainian Hydrometeorological Institute. Kyrylo’s family has long experience of distillation and he is the Master Distiller of ATOMIK grain spirit.

The team explained their basis for creating ATOMIK vodka. 

“Our group of Ukrainian and UK scientists has been studying the transfer of radioactivity to crops both in the main Exclusion Zone (CEZ) and in the Narodychi District within the Zone of Obligatory Resettlement, where land can’t officially be used for agriculture, but people still live.​

The research shows that in many areas land could now be used to produce crops, which are safe to eat. As every chemist knows, distillation of fermented grain leaves many heavier elements in the waste product so the distillate alcohol is more radioactively “pure” than the original grain. We have used distillation to reduce radioactivity in the grain even further to make a product from Chernobyl which we hope people will want to consume.”

The ATOMIK vodka product

The ATOMIK website contains the following description of the product.

“ATOMIK is a grain spirit (or “moonshine”), a homemade vodka made by people in villages all over Ukraine, Belarus, Poland and Russia since about the twelfth century. 

Grain spirit has more flavour compounds than vodka – by double-distilling and filtering, we are trying to produce a grain spirit which keeps the flavour and character of homemade vodka (“samogon”) but isn’t quite as rough around the edges. We dilute our distillate with a mineral water from the deep aquifer  below the town of Chernobyl about 10 km south of the nuclear power station. It is pure and of high quality, having characteristics of a typical limestone aquifer such as that found in the South of England or the Champagne region of France. We’re currently trying to work out exactly how many thousands of years old this water is but it definitely wasn’t anywhere near the surface in 1986.”

The distillate alcohol experiment

On the Atomic vodka website, the technical team reported on their radiochemical analysis of ATOMIK:

“We have been doing studies to see how much radioactivity transfers from soil to crops in the Chernobyl abandoned areas more than 30 years after the accident. We found that, at our site in the main exclusion zone, radiocaesium in rye was below the (quite cautious) Ukrainian limit but that radiostrontium was a bit above the limit. But when we made ATOMIK grain spirit from the grain, we could find no Chernobyl-derived radioactivity in the distilled alcohol.

The water used to dilute the distillate to 40% alcohol is a mineral water from the deep aquifer  below the town of Chernobyl about 10 km south of the nuclear power station​

The laboratories of The Ukrainian Hydrometeorological Institute and the University of Southampton GAU-Radioanalytical could find no trace of Chernobyl radioactivity in ATOMIK grain spirit. Out of scientific curiosity we’re going to try even more sensitive analytical methods to see if we can find something – nothing on Earth is completely free of radioactivity.”

The August 2019 technical report, “Distillate ethanol production for re-use of abandoned lands – an analysis and risk assessment,” by Jim Smith, Gennady Laptev, et al., shows the location of the experimental plot for ATOMIK grain harvesting relative to the areas around the Chernobyl site that were contaminated by Cs-137.  The site is in an area that received a relatively low level of Cs-137 contamination.

Source: J. Smith, G. Laptev, et al., 2019

This report summarizes the results of the analysis as follows:

  • The rye grain had elevated levels of Cs-137 and Sr-90, but Pu and Am isotopes were below detection limits. The Sr-90 activity was slightly above the Ukrainian limit of 20 Bq kg-1.
  • There were no artificial radionuclides observed in the distillate ethanol (diluted to 40% with Chernobyl Town groundwater) sample. 
  • The low energy beta analysis recorded an estimated 58 Bq/L, which we attribute to natural C-14 consistent with the expected activity concentration of natural C-14 in ethanol at this dilution.

It seems that ATOMIK is as safe to drink as any comparable grain spirit.

You can read the complete paper here: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/334988042_Distillate_ethanol_production_for_re-use_of_abandoned_lands_-_an_analysis_and_risk_assessment

When The Chernobyl Spirit Companyis able to offer ATOMIK for sale, a key market will be the increasing number of tourists who now visit the Chernobyl exclusion zone.  The Chernobyl Spirit Companyhas stated that at least 75% of profits from sales of ATOMIK will go to supporting communities in the affected areas and wildlife conservation.

While you can use the toast ‘na zdorovya’ in Ukraine, a more traditional Ukrainian toast is ‘budmo’ (cheers). When you hear the toast ‘budmo,’ reply back with a hearty ‘hey’! Keep that toast and reply cycle going and the evening will go by very quickly.

Best wishes for success to the The Chernobyl Spirit Company. I’m looking forward the day when I can get a bottle of ATOMIK at my local liquor store.

U.S. Drought Indicators Derived From GRACE Satellite Data

Scientists at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center generate groundwater and soil moisture drought indicators each week. They are based on terrestrial water storage observations derived from GRACE satellite data and integrated with other observations, using a sophisticated numerical model of land surface water and energy processes. You can see current results for the continental U.S. at the following link to the National Drought Mitigation Center (NMDC), University of Nebraska-Lincoln, website:

http://drought.unl.edu/MonitoringTools/NASAGRACEDataAssimilation.aspx

Drought indicator maps for 6 July 2015 are reproduced below for:

  • Surface soil moisture
  • Root zone soil moisture
  • Shallow groundwater

The drought in the U.S. West looks most severe in the shallow groundwater map.

You can find information on the twin GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment) satellites at the following link:

http://www.csr.utexas.edu/grace/

GRACE_6Jul15_SFSM

GRACE_6Jul15_RTZSM

GRACE_6Jul15_GWS

Bacteria Could Help Clean Groundwater Contaminated With Uranium

On 15 June 2015, Rutgers University announced the discovery in uranium-contaminated groundwater of bacteria that can breathe uranium and employ it in a reduction chemical reaction that immobilizes the uranium and thereby removes it from solution in the groundwater. Professor Lee Kerkhof, in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, leads the Rutgers team that is working with U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) researchers on this project.

The bacteria were discovered in soil at an old uranium ore mill site in Rifle, Colorado, almost 200 miles west of Denver. The bacteria of interest are from a common class known as betaproteobacteria.

Rifle CO uranium mill siteThe Rifle, CO site today. Source: news.slac.stanford.edu

The Rutgers University announcement states:

 “This bacterium can breathe either oxygen or uranium to drive the chemical reactions that provide life-giving energy”.

 “Exactly how the strain evolved, Kerkhof said, ‘we are not sure.’ But, he explained, bacteria have the ability to pass genes to each other. So just like bacteria pick up resistance to things like antibiotics and heavy metal toxicity, this bacterium ‘picked up a genetic element that’s now allowing it to detoxify uranium, to actually grow on uranium.’ “

You can read the Rutgers University announcement at the following link:

http://news.rutgers.edu/research-news/bacteria-could-help-clean-groundwater-contaminated-uranium-ore-processing-rutgers-study-finds/20150614#.VZcuR4sUyOI

You can read the April 2015 Rutgers paper, Spatial Distribution of an Uranium-Respiring Betaproteobacterium at the Rifle, CO Field Research Site, at the following link:

http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0123378

An earlier paper published in October 2011, entitled, Influence of Uranium on Bacterial Communities: A Comparison of Natural Uranium-Rich Soils with Controls, identified Acidobacteria, Proteobacteria, and seven others phyla in uraniferous samples. This French study, supported by the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, concluded that:

 “…our results demonstrate that uranium exerts a permanent high pressure on soil bacterial communities and suggest the existence of a uranium redox cycle mediated by bacteria in the soil.”

You can read the paper written by the French team at the following link:

http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0025771

 

Status of Desalination Plants in California

On 9 June 2015, Forbes reported that the Diablo Canyon NPP, located on the coast near San Luis Obisbo, CA, meets 100% of it’s own fresh water needs with it’s own reverse osmosis (RO) + ultrafiltration desalination plant.

Diablo-Canyon-Nuclear-Power-Plant  Source: PGE

Diablo Canyon salination_1 Source: PGE

This is the largest desalinization plant currently operating on the West coast. The current fresh water production rate is 675,000 gallons/day; about 40% of full capacity: 1,500,000 gallons/day (1,681 acre-feet/year). The Forbes article suggests that the Diablo Canyon NPP would quickly be able to help the nearby communities that currently are experiencing a severe water shortage as a result of the four-year California drought. With some additional modular RO units and a pipeline to connect to the public water system, up to 825,000 gallons/day could be delivered for public consumption.

Other operating desalination plants in regular use in California are:

Sand City Coastal (seawater) Desalination Plant in Monterey County: 300 acre-feet/year (268,000 gallons/day).

  • Southern California Edison seawater desalination plant on Catalina Island: 224 acre-feet/year (200,000 gallons/day).
  • Cambria Community Services District brackish water desalination plant, which began operating in early 2015, providing 250 acre-feet/year (223,000 gallons/day), about 35% of the town’s fresh water needs.

Other desalination projects in California include:

  • The Posiedon Water seawater desalination plant in Carlsbad, CA, which is expected to have a capacity of 56,050 acre-feet/year (50,000,000 gallons/day) after it is completed in November 2015. This plant will meet about 7% of San Diego county’s fresh water needs.

Carlsbad-Desalineation-Plant-Site

Source: San Diego Water Authority

  • The Posiedon Water seawater desalination project in Huntington Beach, which is in the final phase of permitting and is expected to be completed in 2018, also with a capacity of 50,000,000 gallons/day.
  • The Doheny Ocean Desalination Project in south Orange County, which is planned to deliver 16,816 acre-feet/year (15,000,000 gallons/day), with a target completion date of 2020.
  • The city-owned Charles E. Meyer desalination plant in Santa Barbara, which was mothballed in 1992 after a short test period. Plans are being prepared to modernize and re-start this plant, which has a licensed capacity is 7,500 acre-feet/year ( 6,691,0000 gallons/day) and can meet about 30% of the city’s fresh water needs.
  • Four new desalination plants on the Monterey peninsula are in the planning stage:
    • Marina Coast, Armstrong Ranch brackish water desalination plant: 2,700 acre-feet/year (2,409,000 gallons/day)
    • California American Water, Monterey Peninsula Water Supply seawater desalination plant: 9,750 acre-feet/year (8,698,000 gallons/day)
    • Deepwater Desalination, Moss Landing seawater desalination plant: 10,000 acre-feet/year (8,922,000 gallons/day)
    • People’s Project: Moss Landing seawater desalination plant: 13,400 acre-feet/year (11,950,0000 gallons/day)

You can find more details on California desalination plants at the following links:

The Forbes article:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2015/06/09/californias-megadrought-nuclear-power-to-the-rescue/

The Diablo Canyon NPP seawater desalination plant (video):

http://www.sanluisobispo.com/2015/06/03/3663267_how-diablo-canyons-desalination.html?rh=1

Posiedon Water’s Carlsbad seawater desalination plant:

http://poseidonwater.com/our_projects/all_projects/carlsbad_project

Posiedon Water’s Huntington Beach seawater desalination plant:

http://poseidonwater.com/our_projects/all_projects/huntington_beach_project

Santa Barbara’s Charles E. Meyer seawater desalination plant:

http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-santa-barbara-desal-20150303-story.html

The several Monterey peninsula desalination projects:

http://www.montereycountyweekly.com/news/local_news/marina-coast-gets-gangbusters-for-its-own-desal-plant-to/article_10f8adc4-c82b-11e4-a7f6-9b88d4a73155.html

The Cambria brackish water desalination plant:

http://www.sanluisobispo.com/2014/11/08/3339786/cambria-csd-water-treatment-plant.html

Catalina seawater desalination plant:

https://www.sce.com/wps/wcm/connect/9b85bcbc-a87f-4cf1-8e42-008090ff30be/Catalina+Island+Fact+Sheets+FINAL_v2.pdf?MOD=AJPERES

Sand City Coastal (seawater) desalination plant:

http://www.water-technology.net/projects/sand-city-plant/

The Doheny Ocean (seawater) Desalination Project:

http://www.scwd.org/projects/oceandesal3.asp

20 December 2015 update

The sea water desalination plant in Carlsbad, CA was officially dedicated on 14 December 2015 in a public ceremony attended by more than 600 elected officials, community leaders and project partners.  Formerly known as the Poseidon desalination plant, the plant was officially named in honor of former Carlsbad Mayor, Claude ‘Bud’ Lewis. A 30-year Water Purchase Agreement is in place between the San Diego County Water Authority and Poseidon Water for the entire output of the plant, which started delivering water earlier in December.  This is the largest sea water desalination plant in the western hemisphere.

You can get more information at the home page for this plant at the following link:

http://carlsbaddesal.com