Radioactivity in our ocean: Fukushima and its impact on the Pacific — Ken Buesseler and Jay Cullen, Vancouver Aquarium

Dr. Ken Buesseler, senior scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and Dr. Jay T. Cullen, a professor at the University of Victoria’s School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, speak at the Vancouver Aquarium about radiation levels in the Pacific Ocean and marine biota due to Fukushima contamination. Low levels of cesium-134 (2-year half life) are being found in water samples along the North American coast, but no levels of cesium-134 are showing up in sockeye salmon and steelhead trout. Levels of cesium-137 (30-year half life) in fish are not greater than levels measured before the Fukushima disaster. Those elevated levels were due to fallout from nuclear bomb testing in the ’50s and ’60s.

So is it safe to swim in the Pacific Ocean? Yes. There is a very low risk.
Is it safe to eat fish caught from the Pacific coast? Yes. But keep monitoring the scientific data that’s being collected. Levels of cesium-137 on and near and Canadian and Californian coasts remain elevated but do not pose a significant risk. Groundwater continues to pour into the Pacific from the Fukushima site at a rate of about 300 tons daily. There is still no end in sight, and we can anticipate this contamination to continue for decades to come.

Dr. Buesseler is especially concerned about the amount of contaminated water stored at the Fukushima site that contains over 100 times the amount of strontium-90 than the amount that has been released from the Fukushima plant since the triple meltdowns. The water storage tanks are not meant to store radioactive water permanently, and there have already been a number of leaks. If something were to happen to those tanks, the amount of strontium-90 released could pose a serious health risk, as strontium-90 is stored in the bones and causes bone cancer.

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