Fukushima Radiation Detected Off US Shores

Posted: Dec 10 2016, 7:50am CST | by , Updated: Dec 10 2016, 8:02am CST, in News | Latest Science News

 

Fukushima Radiation Detected off US Shores
Photo Credit: Getty Images
 

Testing of samples confirms the presence of radioactive elements in the wates of US oceans

Radioactive elements from Japan’s nuclear plant have been detected within several hundred miles of U.S. western coast, suggesting that Fukushima disaster continues to leak radiation even five years after its meltdown.

This raises serious concerns about water contamination in U.S. oceans, which can be harmful to biodiversity and humans.

Researchers monitoring the spread of Fukushima radiation looked for a particular radioactive isotope called cesium-134 and also found its traces in seawater samples taken from Tillamook Bay and Gold Beach in Oregon. 

Cesium-134 is the so-called fingerprint of Fukushima leakage. Since the isotope is short-lived, it would have only been come from damaged Fukushima nuclear plant.

Another radioactive isotope cesium 137 is already present in the seawaters as a result of nuclear weapon testing from 1950s through 1970s.

The Fukushima disaster was triggered by a massive earthquake in Japan in March 2011, causing nuclear meltdown and leading to evacuation of more than 160,000 people from the area. It was considered the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

 “In Japan, at its peak (celsuim-134 levels) it was 10 million times higher than what we are seeing today on the west coast.” Jay Cullen University of Vitoria chemical oceanographer told USA Today. 

The current levels of cesium-134 in US seawater still pose no threat. So, they should not cause any harm to people eating fish from West Coast or swimming in the ocean. However, tests of water samples confirm that there is a continued release from the plant. 

“To put it in context, if you were to swim every for six hours a day in those waters for a year, that additional radiation from addressed cesium in Japan – is 1000 times smaller than one dental X-ray.” Ken Buesseler, a senior scientist at Wood Hole Oceanographic Institution said.

The findings emphasize the need to more closely monitor contamination levels across the Pacific because the radioactivity can spread far further than anticipated and can also lead to higher concentrations of cesium-134.

 

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.

 

 

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