Nov 11, 2014

Legacy of Fukushima disaster (cesium-134) found in waters off coast of California via David DeMar (betawired)

David DeMar(betawired):  The 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster has had far-reaching effects, including the discovery of waterborne radioactive isotopes around 100 miles off the coast of California.

Volunteer oceanic monitoring crews from the Moss Landing Marine Laboratory discovered the radioactive isotopes in August, approximately due west of Eureka. The collected samples were then shipped to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts; the institute revealed on its website that the samples came back positive for traces of cesium-134, an isotope originating from the Fukushima disaster. The findings correlate with a Canadian study that found similar radioactive traces off the coast of British Columbia last February.

Woods Hole oceanographer Ken Buesseler said that the Fukushima plant has been giving off levels of radioactivity that he called “unprecedented” following the March 11 2011 earthquake and resultant tsunami. The natural disaster triggered a chain of events that led to the meltdown of half of the six nuclear reactors on site, creating a nuclear incident that rivals the Chernobyl disaster.

So far, the danger to human and seaborne life is likely to be low. Buesseler and the rest of his colleagues had been involved in testing the radioactivity levels off the coast of Japan near the Fukushima disaster, and the samples tested by Woods Hole originating off the coast of California were vastly safer by several orders of magnitude. Using a radioactivity unit known as a becquerel, Buesseler found that the Fukushima waters had tens of millions of becquerels in one cubic meter of seawater – yet the waters off the coast of Eureka only had around 2 becquerels in a cubic meter. The oceanographer said that this is quite low, and is around 1,000 times lower than what the US Environmental Protection Agency has classified as a “safe” level of background radiation for drinking water.

The Fukushima disaster has been held up as a valid reason to transition from nuclear-powered electricity generation to safer and more environmentally friendly power plants. In the wake of the event, international pressure to increase investment into renewable energy resources and to phase out nuclear power generation has increased significantly.