| USWorld

Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Scientists: Test West Coast for Fukushima radiation

Email Newsletters

Sign up for one of our email newsletters.

Daily Photo Galleries

By USA Today
Sunday, March 9, 2014, 6:24 p.m.

SALEM, Ore. — Very low levels of radiation from the Fukushima nuclear disaster likely will reach ocean waters along the West Coast next month, scientists are reporting.

Models predict that the radiation will be at extremely low levels that won't harm humans or the environment, said Ken Buesseler, a chemical oceanographer at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution who presented research on the issue last week.

But Buesseler and other scientists are calling for more monitoring. No federal agency samples Pacific Coast seawater for radiation, he said.

“I'm not trying to be alarmist,” Buesseler said. “We can make predictions, we can do models. But unless you have results, how will we know it's safe?”

The news arrives three years after the devastating Japan tsunami and resulting nuclear accident.

On March 11, 2011, a magnitude-9.0 earthquake hit off the coast of Japan, triggering a tsunami with waves as high as 133 feet. More than 15,000 people died, and about 6,000 were injured.

The earthquake and tsunami knocked out power to cooling pumps at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant complex, causing meltdowns at three reactors.

In July, Tokyo Electric Power Co., which operates the plant, acknowledged for the first time that the reactor was leaking contaminated underground water into the ocean.

Since then, the news has gotten worse, and there is widespread suspicion that the problem is underreported.

There are three competing models of the Fukushima radiation plume, differing in amount and timing. But all predict that the plume will reach the West Coast this summer, and the most commonly cited one estimates an April arrival, Buesseler said.

A report presented last week at a conference of the American Geophysical Union's Ocean Sciences Section showed that some Cesium 134 has arrived in Canada, in the Gulf of Alaska area.

Cesium 134 serves as a fingerprint for Fukushima, Buesseler said.

“The models show it will reach north of Seattle first, then move down the coast,” Buesseler said.

By that time, the material will be so diluted as to be almost negligible, the models predict.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.



Show commenting policy

Most-Read Nation

  1. Obama signs $607B Defense bill but blasts GOP limits for Gitmo
  2. ‘Crisis mode’ near at U.S.-Mexico line as nearly 5,000 children try to cross border in October
  3. Obama: No credible intelligence about terror plot against US
  4. Peanut glut poses hefty bailout tab for taxpayers
  5. New Hampshire cancer patient gets permission to travel to Maine for medical pot
  6. Barrier nears completion in Indiana marsh to keep Asian carp from Great Lakes
  7. Los Angeles-based water agency’s land buy rattles California farmers
  8. Foreign policy expert: Obama administration should create Syria safe areas
  9. Self-driving vehicles closer to getting green light as feds ease stance
  10. Girls outperform boys in variety of subjects, international survey shows
  11. Feds tell railroads they must meet deadlines for lifesaving technology