Water samples show no radiation

01/30/2014

A project to monitor West Coast waters for radiation released from the 2011 nuclear accident at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant has posted its first results with help from Bing Gong, the co-host of KWMR’s Post-Carbon Radio who raised money for sampling kits and buckets of water to be shipped from Point Reyes to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod, Mass. Mr. Gong has already raised $2,200, enough for tests at four intervals throughout the year, and plans to raise enough to pay for continued sampling over the next three years. Early results show that no radionuclides from Fukushima have been detected at Point Reyes. Isotopes of cesium-137, which has a much longer half-life than another isotope released at Fukushima, cesium-134, were detected, but are presumed to be from nuclear testing over the Pacific Ocean in the ‘50s and ‘60s, said Ken Buesseler, the scientist behind the project. The levels of cesium-137 were also hundreds of times lower than doses of potassium-40, naturally occurring radiation. Dr. Buesseler hopes that this early data will provide a baseline of radioactivity from which to compare the radioactive plume when it does reach California. While federal agencies have continued to monitor drinking water and food products, they are not testing ocean water, leaving others to shoulder that burden. “We need to know the actual levels of radiation coming at us,” Mr. Gong said. “There’s so much disinformation out there.” Although Dr. Buesseler does not expect dangerous levels in the ocean water or seafood, he believes that precautions should be taken to monitor the situation. Other sites planned for testing will include La Jolla, Santa Monica and Mendocino, as well as locations farther north in Washington. Data can be accessed at the “How Radioactive Is Our Ocean” website at ourradioactiveocean.org/results.html.