Higher Fukushima radiation has been detected off the U.S. West Coast, but researchers claim that it doesn’t actually represent a health threat to locals.
Following the magnitude 9.0. Great East Japan Earthquake which occurred on March, 11, 1011, a major tsunami disrupted the activity of three Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors, putting cooling and power supply on halt.
Despite efforts undertaken in order to limit the damage, three reactor cores melted in a matter of days, and 160,000 persons had to be evacuated, due to the danger posed by radioactive releases.
Now, it appears that radiation has also reached the North American West Coast, and has actually spread across a section measuring over 1,000 miles in length.
Researchers analyzed a large number of samples collected from the Pacific Ocean, and it was determined that cesium-134 which has leaked from the Fukushima power plant is present a few hundred miles away from the shorelines pertaining to states such as California, Oregon and Washington.
According to recent measurements, the most elevated concentrations of nuclear radiation have been reported approximately 1,600 miles west from the city of San Francisco, and these readings are the most notable to have been found beyond Japanese waters.
Moreover, radioactive isotopes have also been identified in the waters close to Vancouver Island, in Canada.
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, a non-profit organization whose mission is to advance ocean research and exploration, has conducted its own independent study, which proved that cesium-137 was also common, albeit in small amounts, in all the 110 samples of seawater that had been brought for analysis throughout the year 2015.
This isotope, whose half-life is of 30 years, partly originates from the 2011 nuclear disaster, while the rest has lingered from nuclear tests which unfolded between the 1950’s and the 1970’s.
Even though more than 4 years have passed since the Fukushima meltdown, which was considered to be the world’s worst nuclear disaster since the 1986 accident at Chernobyl, it appears that contamination is still detectable, even as far as the U.S. coast.
On the other hand, even though it’s extremely widespread and not limited to a few spots only, its levels aren’t nearly as high as the maximum radiation concentration accepted by federal legislation.
For example, off the coast of San Francisco, scientists identified cesium isotope amounts which were around 50% higher in comparison with those measured in other locations, but even these are around 500 times lower than permissible levels of radiation for drinking water, as established by the Environmental Protection Agency.
In addition, the concentrations are much too meager so as to represent a threat to swimmers, boaters, and any other people engaged in aquatic sports.
Therefore, travelers and residents from nearby areas shouldn’t feel alarmed, since radioactive pollution isn’t considered to be likely to result in any of its usually significant health disorders, such as leukemia, tumors, cardiovascular issues, cataract etc.
Moreover, the radioactive isotopes aren’t estimated to be ubiquitous enough in the Pacific waters, so as to put marine life at risk.
On the other hand, given that radiation near the Fukushima plant is up to 100 times greater than the one measured throughout the ocean, it may be that in a few years its concentration off the West Coast will indeed be significant enough to be deemed as hazardous, as dangerous isotopes continue to leak into North American waters.
Therefore, according to Ken Buesseler, marine radiochemist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, it’s still essential to carefully track any changes in contamination levels, so as to ensure that immediate action is taken if higher amounts of nuclear pollutant accumulate.
More in-depth information regarding this issue will be provided at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, scheduled to take place between December 14 and December 18 in San Francisco.
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