How Much Radioactivity Are We Exposed to While Sampling Seawater for Fukushima Radioisotopes?

By Jay T. Cullen

The purpose of this post is to introduce a brief, informal movie made while using a Geiger Counter in the laboratory today. This diary is part of an ongoing effort to communicate what the scientific community is learning about the impact of the Fukushima disaster on environmental and public health. A Geiger Counter was used to examine ionizing radiation counts per minute in the laboratory owing to background radioactivity, the concentrated natural and man made isotopes in 20 liters of seawater collected by InFORM citizen scientist volunteers, the uranium oxide glaze on a Fiestaware dinner platter and Uraninite ore mined from New Hampshire. This simple demonstration supports more sensitive measurements indicating our citizen scientists are exposed to no more ionizing radiation than is typical of background when collecting seawater samples.

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A Quick Look at a Tide Pool at Botanical Beach Near Port Renfrew BC

This is a short video made on April 4, 2015 at Botanical Beach near Port Renfrew BC, one of our citizen scientist sampling locations organized by Surfrider Vancouver Island. Botanical Beach is at the north end of the Juan de Fuca Provincial Park on the southwest shore of Vancouver Island.

We arrived on the rising tide when the larger, more impressive tide pools were already submerged but this little pool shows the main types of organisms one can find there.  Almost got our feet wet in the end.

Kelp Watch 2015: Most Recent Results Looking for Fukushima Contamination

By Jay T. Cullen

The Raincoast Education Society has partnered with the University of Victoria and California State University to carry out radionuclide sampling of sea water and kelp, respectively, in Clayoquot Sound.

 The purpose of this post is to report the most recent results of Kelp Watch 2015 , a program dedicated to monitoring for the presence of Fukushima contamination off our Pacific Coast. This post is the latest in a series dedicated to the public dissemination of information about the impacts of the Fukushima Dai-ichi disaster on the health of the North Pacific Ocean ecosystem and health of North American residents. New results from the third sampling period (January through March 2015) of Kelp Watch 2015 were released on April 6, 2015 and can be found here. As with previously reported results here, here and here no radioactive isotopes from Fukushima were detected in kelp growing at sampling sites spread along our Pacific coast. The absence of 134Cs in kelp suggests that ocean transport of Fukushima contamination had yet to reach North American coastal water. As the contaminated water reaches the shoreline in the coming months Kelp Watch 2015 will help to track the arrival of the plume in time and space. Continue reading

Fukushima Contamination Detected at Shoreline in British Columbia

Satellite measurements of ocean temperature (illustrated by color) and the direction of currents (white arrows) help show where radionuclides from Fukushima are transported. Large scale currents transport water westward across the Pacific. Circles indicate the locations where water samples were collected. White circles indicate that no cesium-134 was detected. Blue circles indicate locations were low levels of cesium-134 were detected. Small amounts of cesium-134 have been detected in a water sample taken Feb. 19, 2015, from a dock in Ucluelet, British Columbia. (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

The purpose of this post is to report that for the first time ocean borne contamination from Fukushima has been detected at the shoreline in British Columbia representing the first landfall in North America. Citizen scientists collected the sample on February 19, 2015 in the town of Ucluelet on the west coast of Vancouver Island Canada as part of our partner program Our Radioactive Ocean out of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in the USA. The isotope Cesium-134 (134Cs half life ~2 years) is an unequivocal fingerprint of Fukushima derived contamination because all other sources of this man made isotope (principally the Chernobyl disaster in 1986) are far enough in the past that 134Cs has long since decayed to levels too low to detect today. The Ucluelet sample contained 134Cs at 1.4 Becquerel per cubic meter (Bq m-3) of seawater and 5.8 Bq m-3 of the longer lived 137Cs (half life ~30 years). These levels were expected given measurements made by monitoring programs offshore and modeling studies which predict the arrival time and activity of Fukushima radionuclides. These levels of 137Cs and 134Cs, are well below internationally established levels that might represent a danger to human or environmental health. The next number of months will be very important to track the ocean transport of the contamination as citizen scientists with Our Radioactive Ocean and the InFORM project continue to collect samples up and down the coast of North America. Continue reading