SCIENCE

Fukushima Radiation on Its Way to California

  • Osvaldo Nunez , Design & Trend Contributor
  • Feb, 25, 2014, 04:13 PM
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Fukushima power plant, waters of west coast
(Photo : REUTERS/Tomohiro Ohsumi/Pool) A Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) employee wearing a protective suit and mask uses a survey meter at the tsunami-crippled TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima prefecture November 7, 2013. Japan approved on October 30, 2013 a plan by TEPCO to extract thousands of nuclear fuel rods from the fuel pool of the No. 4 reactor of the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Containing radiation equivalent to 14,000 times the amount released in the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima 68 years ago, more than 1,300 used fuel rod assemblies packed tightly together need to be removed from a building that is vulnerable to collapse, should another large earthquake hit the area.

Radiation from the disaster in the Fukushima power plant in 2011 has yet to reach the Californian coast, officials said on Monday. However, low levels of radiation cesium from the power plant could reach the Pacific Coast by April, scientist reported.

Researchers have detected small traces of radioactive cesium by the waters off Vancouver, Canada. Its levels are lower than naturally occurring radiation, like polonium-210, which is already in the ocean, said John Norton Smith, a senior research scientist at Canada's Bedford Institute of Oceanography, at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in Hawaii.

On the Internet however, there are continuous reports that the radiation has already reached the coast off California. Scientists and health officials deny this however.

The question now is, how much of cesium-134 will eventually reach our coast?

"It's really a little hard to predict at this moment which model is correct," said Smith.

Either outcome, he added, is not dangerous to humans because the levels are so low.

"It's clearly not an environmental or human health radiological threat," he said Monday.

Once it reaches the coast however, a team of volunteers called "citizen science project" will be made to collect water samples to be tested. 

"It's not here yet," said Ken Buesseler, a scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts. "When we're talking about the arrival of the plume - and, you know, I'm the first person to say radioactivity can be quite dangerous, we should be concerned - but maybe not at the levels we're going to expect coming across from Japan." 

According to a widely considered accurate model of the oceans' circulation patterns, traces of the plume of radioactive seawater from Fukushima should be detectable along the Pacific coast in April. 

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