Kelly Creek Community School Collects January 2015 Fukushima Monitoring Sample

Powell River, BC

Jan. 16, 2015

January sampling was carried out in close proximity to the Kelly Creek Community School on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia.  According to volunteer citizen science coordinator Katherine McLean the school students helped to document the sampling and they saw two sea lions catching herring just off the beach.

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InFORM Citizen Science: Collecting January 2015 Seawater Sample at Salt Spring Island, BC

Jan. 15, 2015

Citizen scientist volunteer Karen Clemson collected seawater for the InFORM project on Vesuvius Beach, Salt Spring Island BC.

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Vesuvius Beach, Salt Spring Island BC Canada

Prince Rupert Citizen Science Monitoring in January 2015

Jan. 9, 2015

Prince Rupert BC

Collection team for January 2015 was Brittany Fenwick and Michael Standbridge, both students at NWCC.  Michael has just started in the Applied Coastal Ecology (ACE) program, and had only been in Prince Rupert for a week. Brittany is taking classes and also works/volunteers at the local fish hatchery. Sampling is being coordinated by Cheryl Paavola (Instructor and Science Lab Tech) at Northwest Community College – Prince Rupert.


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Prince Rupert, BC

Volunteers Collect January 2015 Seawater Sample in Lax Kw’alaams, BC

Coast Tsimshian Academy is our volunteer citizen science partner in Lax Kw’alaams who is helping us collect seawater to monitor for the arrival of Fukushima contamination along our coastline.  The picture below shows the January sample being collected from the dock there.

January 2015 seawater sample to be returned to the University of Victoria for processing.

January 2015 seawater sample to be returned to the University of Victoria for processing.

Lax Kw’alaams BC Canada

Canadian scientists track Pacific Ocean currents… using Fukushima radiation

Scott Sutherland

Originally published by The Weather Network

Wednesday, January 7, 2015, 8:09 PM - Radioactive isotopes originating from the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan have been slowly drifting across the Pacific Ocean since March 2011, and Canadian scientists have been using this to test some of their most basic ideas of how ocean currents work.

In March 2011, when the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was damaged by the magnitude 9.0 earthquake that struck off the east coast of Japan, it resulted in a ‘plume’ of radioactive cesium isotopes being released into the Pacific Ocean.

While regions closest to the plant came under intense scrutiny, due to the health risk posed by these isotopes – cesium-134 (134Cs) and cesium-137 (137Cs) to be exact – scientists from the Bedford Institute of Oceanography in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia began to closely monitor the plume as it was carried away by Pacific Ocean currents.

This wasn’t due to any risk to the ocean environment beyond Fukushima, though, or any radiation threat to the shorelines of North America (or any other part of the world). Even just months after the accident, ocean currents had so diffused the plume that radiation exposure levels had dropped to well below safety standards for drinking water, and by the time the plume had reached halfway across the ocean, the levels of radiation from the isotopes had dropped to such low levels that they would have been overwhelmed by the natural radioactivity of the ocean water itself.

DID YOU KNOW? Radioactive elements, including uranium-238, tritium, potassium-40, carbon-14 and rubidium-87, which are naturally found mixed into seawater, give the ocean an average natural radioactivity of 13,000 Becquerel (decays per second) per cubic metre. The safe radioactivity level for drinking water, in Canada, is 10,000 Bq per cubic metre. Even the human body gives off roughly 100 Bq/kilogram.

The reason these scientists, led by Bedford research scientist John Smith, tracked these cesium isotopes was that they represented a unique opportunity to see Pacific Ocean currents at work, and verify the computer models they are currently using.

“We had a situation where the radioactive tracer was deposited at a very specific location off the coast of Japan at a very specific time,” Smith told “It was kind of like a dye experiment, and it is unambiguous – you either see the signal or you don’t, and when you see it you know exactly what you are measuring.”

One of the models being tested by these findings is shown below, from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.



Note that the scale on this model, in Bq per cubic metre, only goes up to 10,000 (the safe level in Canadian drinking water), and levels by September 2011 – even closest to the power plant – are well below that, at around 1,000 Bq per cubic metre. As the plume spreads out, levels drop to below 100 Bq/m3, and the most concentrated areas represent only around 20-30 Bq/m3 (the scale is logarithmic, so the greens halfway between 10 and 100 are in the low 20s). This is well below any danger level to humans or wildlife.

Ken Buesseler, a marine chemist at Woods Hole who is currently working with Smith, as well as University of Victoria researcher Jay Cullen, on a monitoring program called InFORM, has been watching the waters along the northern coast of California for this same signal from Fukushima.

“We detected cesium-134, a contaminant from Fukushima, off the northern California coast. The levels are only detectable by sophisticated equipment able to discern minute quantities of radioactivity,” he said in a Woods Hole press release back in November. “Most people don’t realize that there was already cesium in Pacific waters prior to Fukushima, but only the cesium-137 isotope. Cesium-137 undergoes radioactive decay with a 30-year half-life and was introduced to the environment during atmospheric weapons testing in the 1950s and ’60s. Along with cesium-137, we detected cesium-134 – which also does not occur naturally in the environment and has a half-life of just two years. Therefore the only source of this cesium-134 in the Pacific today is from Fukushima.”

DON’T MISS: Watch 10 years of earthquakes go by in just under 3 minutes

Smith and his team tested sites stretching out into the ocean up to 1,500 kilometres from the British Columbia coastline, gathering water samples and specifically looking for both cesium-134 and cesium-137.

According to the study, the first indications of the plume showed up in June 2012, at the stations furthest west of the coast. By the next year, in June 2013, it had spread further onto the Canadian continental shelf, and by February 2014, the radioactivity from the cesium isotopes had increased to around 2 Bq/m3 – extremely low, but still detectable, levels. These results showed that the radiation plume was arriving on the North American coastline around two years ahead of one computer model, which predicted the first signal to show up in 2015. However, the model presented in the video above, was much more accurate, giving ocean researchers a much better idea of how ocean currents behave in the Pacific.

As for what future levels will be like, the authors state the following in the study: “Ocean circulation model estimates that are in reasonable agreement with our measured values indicate that future total levels of 137Cs (Fukushima-derived plus fallout 137Cs) off the North American coast will likely attain maximum values in the 3–5 Bq/m3 range by 2015–2016 before declining to levels closer to the fallout background of about 1 Bq/m3 by 2021. The increase in 137Cs levels in the eastern North Pacific from Fukushima inputs will probably return eastern North Pacific concentrations to the fallout levels that prevailed during the 1980s but does not represent a threat to human health or the environment.”

December 2014 Citizen Science Sampling Completed Sandspit, Haida Gwaii BC

Sandspit, Haida Gwaii

Dec. 28, 2014

Second InFORM citizen sample collected by Megan and friends.  The group was being watched by a pair of local Ravens. Locals call this Telus Corner. According to Megan and Sian it is located on Copper Bay Road in Sandspit (little Spit to some locals and Mathers Corner to the old timers).  Thanks again and Happy New Year to our volunteers.

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More Seawater Monitoring Results For Bella Bella, Port Hardy, Sandspit, Tofino and Vancouver BC: No Fukushima Contamination as of Nov. 24, 2014

By Jay T. Cullen

@JayTCullen and @FukushimaInFORM

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 Happy New Year from the InFORM team to all!

What we found:

The absence of any detectable 134-Cs (an unambiguous fingerprint isotope of Fukushima contamination) in the seawater samples indicates that as of Nov. 24, 2014 these locations of the British Columbia coast have not be affected by ocean currents carrying Fukushima contamination.



Sample Date


(Bq m-3)


(Bq m-3)


(Bq m-3)


(Bq m-3)

Bella Bella

Nov. 18, 2014






Nov. 21, 2014






Nov. 24, 2014






Nov. 8, 2014





Port Hardy

Nov. 22, 2014





ND = Not Detected


The InFORM team collected a seawater samples in collaboration with citizen scientists at the following locations in British Columbia, Canada during November 2014.

  1. Bella Bella
  2. Port Hardy
  3. Sandspit/Tlell, Haida Gwaii
  4. Tofino
  5. Vancouver

Samples were processed and the amount of gamma emitting isotopes determined using a high purity germanium detector.  We look primarily for radioisotopes of cesium (134-Cs half life ~2 years and 137-Cs half life ~ 30 years) for the following reasons:

  1. 134-Cs has a half life that is short enough that all other human sources to the environment have decayed away making it an ideal tracer for Fukushima contamination
  2. next to the short lived Iodine-131 (half life ~ 8 days), Cs isotopes were released in greatest activity to the environment from Fukushima and would be most likely to represent a radiological health risk given their chemistry and propensity to be taken up by the biota
  3. other isotopes were released in much lower amounts from Fukushima relative to Cs (see other posts here and search for plutonium and strontium for example) and would therefore be much more difficult to detect
  4. because they are gamma emitters (unlike Pu isotopes and 90-Sr which emit alpha and beta radiation respectively) they are relatively easy and resource efficient to detect

The absence of detectable 134-Cs indicates that waters near these locations spanning the length of British Columbia have not been contaminated with Fukushima radioactive elements transported across the Pacific by prevailing currents as of Nov. 24, 2014. The presence of 137-Cs is due to historical sources of this human made isotope owing to atmospheric nuclear weapons tests in the 20th century and contamination from the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. You can read about the levels of 137-Cs in the North Pacific pre-Fukushima here.

More results will be published as they become available.


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