Radiation From Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Spreads Off US Coast

Posted: Dec 5 2015, 1:54am CST | by , Updated: Dec 5 2015, 7:32am CST, in News | Latest Science News

 
Radiation from Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Spreads off US Coast
Credit: Jessica Drysdale, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

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Higher levels of radioactive contamination have been detected within several hundred miles off the coast of Oregon, Washington and California.

Researchers have found higher levels of radioactive contamination from Fukushima nuclear plant off the US West Coast.

Hundreds of samples collected from the West Coast indicated that Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant continues to leak radioactive isotopes even after four years of its meltdown and the latest contaminations levels are the highest to be detected throughout those years.

The highest trace amounts of radioactive cesium isotopes have been detected in a sample collected about 1,600 miles west of San Francisco, which is 50 times higher than other samples of water in the same area so far. But still it is too low to impure drinking water or threatening human or marine life in any way.

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) has been monitoring radiation in Pacific Ocean ever since the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster occurred in March 2011. The center uses sophisticated sensors to check the levels of ocean-borne radioactivity and notes down the measurements regularly.

“Levels today off Japan are thousands of times lower than during the peak releases in 2011. That said, finding values that are still elevated off Fukushima confirms that there is continued release from the plant.” Ken Buesseler, a marine radiochemist and director of WHOI Center for Marine and Environmental Radioactivity said.

"These new data are important for two reasons. First, despite the fact that the levels of contamination off our shores remain well below government-established safety limits for human health or to marine life, the changing values underscore the need to more closely monitor contamination levels across the Pacific. Second, these long-lived radioisotopes will serve as markers for years to come for scientists studying ocean currents and mixing in coastal and offshore waters."

The isotope cesium-134, which is the sign of contamination from Fukushima, has been detected within several hundred miles off the coasts of Oregon, Washington and California recent months. Another isotope cesium-137 was also found in almost all seawater samples from pacific which are the left over from nuclear weapon test conducted from 1950s to 1970s.

Buesseler and his colleagues will continue collecting the samples along the coast near the reactors and will try to determine how much radioactive material is still being released to the ocean each day.

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