How Atomic Particles Helped Solve A Wine Fraud Mystery

The Kitchen Sisters. French physicist Philippe Hubert uses gamma rays to detect radioactivity in wine. In a laboratory, deep under a mile-high stretch of the Alps on the French-Italian border, Philippe Hubert , a physicist at the University of Bordeaux, is testing the authenticity of a bottle of wine. First, Hubert takes the bottle in the hand and puts it close to a detector. After he closes the shielding, which blocks the radiation, he records the gamma rays. The level of those gamma rays emitted can often tell him something about when the wine was bottled. For example, if it was bottled before about , there shouldn’t be any cesium — radioactive evidence of exploded nuclear bombs and the Atomic Age — in the wine.

Cesium 137 Wine Dating

Inspired by similar tests conducted in the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster , the French team decided to analyze the California wines for traces of radioactive particles, specifically cesium, a man-made isotope. Their findings, newly published in the pre-print online journal Arxiv , suggest that currents and atmospheric patterns carried radioactive particles across the Pacific, where they settled on grapevines growing in California’s wine regions.

The team writes that bottles produced following the nuclear meltdown contain increased levels of cesium, with the cabernet revealing double the amount of pre-Fukushima radiation. This method, which allows researchers to conduct tests on unopened bottles, is a key tool in detecting wine fraud, or the mislabeling of newer wines in order to inflate their prices. After failing to detect cesium in the unopened bottles, the physicists vaporized the wine.

Wine’s cesium levels after Fukushima are nothing compared with what Sign up for the Breaking News Newsletter and receive up to date.

Researchers have found the ‘signature’ of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in some California wine. A report from the MIT Technology review says traces of cesium are present in California-made wines Cabernet Sauvignon from the period just after the Fukushima incident. In March, An earthquake triggered a meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant. The disaster resulted in an atmospheric increase in cesium, a radioactive byproduct of the meltdown.

In , French pharmacologist Philippe Hubert discovered that he could use the presence of cesium to date wines without opening the bottle. As the study notes, “dating the wine is a simple process of matching the amount of cesium to atmospheric records from the time the wine was made.


When reactors exploded and melted down at the Fukushima nuclear power complex in March , they launched radioactivity from their ruined cores into the unprotected environment. Some of this toxic radioactivity was in the form of hot particles radioactive microparticles that congealed and became airborne by attaching to dusts and traveling great distances. However, the Fukushima disaster is only the most recent example of atomic power and nuclear weapons sites creating and spreading these microparticles.

Prior occurrences include various U.

While the 14C dating method is always destructive one, the Cs method may use a radiochemical separation of cesium from wine samples.

Some wealthy wine aficionados are comfortable spending millions on supposedly rare vintages. Here are some cases to illustrate the problem and ways to investigate the fraud. The world of rare and expensive wine collecting is populated with high rollers who enjoy the one-upmanship that private sales or public auction purchases often bring. They enjoy the limelight of owning one or several bottles of an extremely rare vintage that renowned wine experts have authenticated.

A fine winery produces a limited number of cases of a particular excellent vintage and connoisseurs desperately want it. That vintage is ripe so to speak for counterfeit versions. The winery only made two barrels of it, which is exactly bottles.

Cesium 137 wine dating

As long as rich men are willing to pay exorbitant amounts for old, fermented juice, there will be schemers willing to dupe them out of their money. But if you’re dropping a cool half million on four bottles of wine supposedly owned by Thomas Jefferson true story , you want to make sure you have the real thing, right? You can, thanks in part to the atomic bomb. The art of wine forgery isn’t really about creating an authentic-tasting wine; the bottle is equally important.

Collectors rarely crack open a bottle upon sale, and old wines can vary widely bottle to bottle after all those years.

Abstract: Did the Fukushima incident in leave its signature via the Cs radioactivity in wines, mainly from the Nappa Valley? This is a.

Skip to search form Skip to main content You are currently offline. Some features of the site may not work correctly. Corpus ID: Dating of wines with cesium Fukushima’s imprint. Pravikoff and P. Pravikoff , P. Did the Fukushima incident in leave its signature via the Cs radioactivity in wines, mainly from the Nappa Valley? This is a short note about a few measurements done at the PRISNA facility in Bordeaux, France, where the method of dating wine without opening the bottle was initially developed.

Trace amounts of isotope from Fukushima disaster found in California wine

First there was the earthquake and the tsunami. Then the three meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in March of , followed by a radioactive cloud that made its way across the Pacific Ocean to grapes growing in California. Now scientists are asking: do the wines that were eventually made from those grapes, including ones that were grown in Napa, today carry radioactive traces of the tragedy? Technically, yes, according to a new study from a team of French researchers who posed the question.

But, are the results any cause for alarm for drinkers of California wines made at the time?

Whether by tampering with the bottle or the liquid inside, wine fraudsters have is an expert in dating objects by detecting levels of cesium, a radioactive.

Amanda Grennell Amanda Grennell. In an underground lab covered by nine feet of concrete and compacted dirt, two nuclear physicists hunt for fraudulent wine. Their method is unusual — they measure radiation coming from the wine itself, without ever opening the bottle. Now in a new preprint study , Michael Pravikoff and Philippe Hubert at National Center for Scientific Research and University of Bordeaux in France show the radiation from the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant made its way into California wine.

Radiation detection has been used for decades as a way to verify the age, or vintage, of a wine. Wines from to the s, for example, have much higher radiation levels due to above ground nuclear testing. As for Fukushima, other studies have found increased levels of radiation in the ocean and marine life off the Pacific coast of North America after the incident.

Subscribe to RSS

Those tests released vast quantities of radioactive material into the air and triggered fears that the nuclear reactions could ignite deuterium in the oceans, thereby destroying the planet in a catastrophic accidental fireball. Atmospheric tests ended in , when China finished its program, but the process has left a long-lasting nuclear signature on the planet.

One of the most obvious signatures is cesium, a radioactive by-product of the fission of uranium

While the 14C dating method is always destructive one, the Cs method may use a radiochemical separation of cesium from wine samples when better.

Years after the disaster, a group of French nuclear physicists wanted to see whether cesium, a radioactive isotope, was more present in wines made after the disaster than those made before. Radioactive cesium is made when other radioactive materials undergo nuclear fission. Using a gamma detector, the researchers tried to figure out what radioactive particles were inside the bottles without opening them.

Wines made after had higher levels of radioactive particles, the researchers found. In the Cabernet bottles, there was twice as much cesium as there was before the disaster. The Chernobyl accident, which took place in Ukraine during the Cold War, caused wines made in parts of Europe to have larger amounts of the radioactive isotope, the study says.

In March , a 9. At the same time, wild boars contaminated by radioactive material continued to reproduce and eat crops in the Fukushima area. People can get exposed to cesium through such things as nuclear weapons testing or radioactively contaminated soils and waste. A few things spiked radioactive levels in the early s.

Fukushima’s nuclear signature found in California wine

Make sure that your printout includes all content from the page. If it doesn’t, try opening this guide in a different browser and printing from there sometimes Internet Explorer works better, sometimes Chrome, sometimes Firefox, etc. Most of us have at least one device in our homes that guards our safety and, at the same time, depends on radioactivity to operate properly. This device is a smoke detector. A typical smoke detector contains an electric circuit that includes two metal plates about 1 cm apart.

In another interesting example of radioactive dating, hydrogen-3 By measuring the current activity of cesium in a sample of wine (the.

Wine dating methods based on anthropogenic 14 C and Cs, as well as on the cosmogenic 14 C were studied with the aim to improve the accuracy and precision of the dating results. While the 14 C dating method has proved to be useful for dating young and old wines, the Cs has been effective for dating of wines originating around the Cs bomb-peak observed in A new method was developed for simultaneous 14 C and Cs dating of wines, which helped to distinguish wines originating before or after the bomb peak.

While the 14 C dating method is always destructive one, the Cs method may use a radiochemical separation of cesium from wine samples when better precision of results is required, but it can be also a nondestructive one with direct gamma-spectrometry of wine samples, especially those that are very rare.

Abstract Wine dating methods based on anthropogenic 14 C and Cs, as well as on the cosmogenic 14 C were studied with the aim to improve the accuracy and precision of the dating results. Substances Cesium Radioisotopes Cesium

Dating of wines with cesium-137: Fukushima’s imprint

July 24, report. Michael Pravikoff and Philippe Hubert have written a paper describing their study and have posted it on the arXiv preprint server. Prior research has shown that after nuclear accidents such as the Chernobyl disaster in , isotopes such as cesium a radioactive byproduct produced by fission of uranium can be absorbed by plants. Where they wind up is generally dependent on geography and the direction of the wind.

Grape vines are one such plant that can be impacted by the isotope—it can show up in wine produced from the grapes.

In the wake of the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster, cesium made its like many extremely expensive wines dating back to the s.

Two years ago, nuclear scientist Michael Pravikoff, an American ex-pat working in France, was shopping at the local supermarket when he came across a few bottles of Napa Valley Cabernet. It lead to a fascinating experiment that led to the discovery of radioactive isotopes generated by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in California wines.

Completely harmless levels of radioactive isotopes, to be more specific. One of Pravikoff’s colleagues, pharmacologist Philippe Hubert , had discovered in that he could date unopened bottles of wine by testing them for cesium Cesium is a radioactive isotope of the element cesium that does not occur in nature. Any wines containing cesium would have to have been vinified after the midth century, when Cold War nuclear testing began.

Cesium 137- Your Permanent Nuclear Friend