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Monday
Mar102014

Scientists: Test West Coast for Fukushima Radiation

As reported by USA Today, calls are growing for the U.S. federal government to test the Pacific Ocean for Fukushima fallout. Varying models predict Fukushima radioactive contamination plumes in the sea will arrive at the West Coast of North America this summer at the latest, or as early as next month.

A report presented last week at a conference of the American Geophysical Union's Ocean Sciences Section showed that some Cesium-134 has already has arrived in Canada, in the Gulf of Alaska area.

Ken Buesseler, a chemical oceanographer based at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, reports that Cesium-134 serves as a fingerprint for Fukushima.

"The models show it will reach north of Seattle first, then move down the coast," Buesseler said.

Although Buesseler is calling for more federal involvement, he's also taking matters into his own hands. He's launched "How Radioactive Is Our Ocean?" The project will use crowd-sourced money and volunteers to collect water samples along the Pacific Coast, to be shipped across the country to be analyzed.

Similarly, Cal State Long Beach marine biologist Steven Manley has launched "Kelp Watch 2014," which will partner with other organizations to monitor kelp all along the West Coast for Fukushima radiation.

Oregon state park rangers take quarterly ocean water samples to test for radioactivity, according to the article. Their program began in April 2012, tied to monitoring for Japanese tsunami debris washing up on shore.

California also monitors ocean radioactivity near the sole remaining operating nuclear power plant in the state, Diablo Canyon.

The article reports Buesseler saying that current models predict that the radiation will be at extremely low levels that won't harm humans or the environment.

However, this does not comport with the affirmations of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS), in multiple reports over decades, that any exposure to ionizing radioactivity, no matter how low the dose, still carries a health risk for cancer. NAS has found that the higher the exposure, the higher the risk of cancer, but there is no threshold below which a radioactive exposure can be called "safe." NAS also has found that these health risks for cancer from ionizinig radioactivity accumulate over a lifetime of exposures.