Radiation monitoring efforts along the Pacific Coast of the United States and Canada have detected the presence of small amounts of radioactivity from the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant accident that occurred in Japan back in 2011. Scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) discovered the radioactivity about 100 miles west of Eureka.
“We detected cesium-134, a contaminant from Fukushima, off the northern California coast. The levels are only detectable by sophisticated equipment able to discern minute quantities of radioactivity,” said Ken Buesseler, a WHOI marine chemist, who is leading the monitoring effort, as quoted by the Environmental New Network.
“Most people don’t realize that there was already cesium in Pacific waters prior to Fukushima, but only the cesium-137 isotope,” Buesseler continued. “Cesium-137 undergoes radioactive decay with a 30-year half-life and was introduced to the environment during atmospheric weapons testing in the 1950s and ’60s. Along with cesium-137, we detected cesium-134 – which also does not occur naturally in the environment and has a half-life of just two years. Therefore the only source of this cesium-134 in the Pacific today is from Fukushima.”
“We don’t know exactly when the Fukushima isotopes will be detectable closer to shore because the mixing of offshore surface waters and coastal waters is hard to predict,” said Buesseler, as quoted by CNBC. “We stand to learn more from samples taken this winter when there is generally less upwelling.”