Sampling for Fukushima Derived Radionuclides in the Northeast Pacific and Arctic 2015

By Jay T. Cullen

Bow of the CCGS Laurier. Great ship and crew for science operations in the Arctic.
The purpose of this short post is to update readers on the activities of the Integrated Fukushima Ocean Radionuclide Monitoring (InFORM) project. This post is the most recent in a series documenting scientific research into the impact of the Fukushima Dai-ichi disaster on environmental and public health. Today the icebreaker CCGS Sir Wilfrid Laurier will leave Victoria BC bound for Dutch Harbor Alaska and then up through Bering Sea and Strait to the Arctic Ocean. On the way the InFORM project will collect surface seawater to characterize the distribution of Fukushima derived radionuclides 137-Cesium (137Cs half life ~30 years), and 134-Cesium (134Cs half life ~2 years). As in previous years this information will help to determine how well model predictions of the activities and progression of ocean borne contamination across the Pacific Ocean match with observations. This provides important information on the impact of this contamination on the health of the Pacific ecosystem and the North American public that rely on the ocean for their food, livelihood and recreation. The evolution of the contaminant plume in time and space also helps the scientific community to better understand ocean mixing which is a key parameter toward understanding the oceans role in mitigating atmospheric greenhouse gas increases and climate change.

The icebreaker CCGS Laurier will leave the Victoria Coast Guard base this afternoon and take a direct, great circle, route to Dutch Harbor AK where American colleagues will join the ship for operations in the Bering Sea. The transect, largely west, across the northeast Pacific will intersect waters contaminated by the Fukushima Dai-ichi meltdowns in March-April 2011. We will collect 60 liter (~16 US gallons) seawater samples from an underway seawater pumping system which will subsequently be passed over a specialized resin that concentrates Cs from the seawater. This resin will be placed in a high sensitivity gamma spectrometer and the emission spectra will be used to quantify the activity of radioisotopes in the seawater.

The ships route is shown in the following map which can also be accessed by this link in the event of browser plug-in compatibility problems.

The results of these analyses will be shared with the public as quickly as possible given the mandate of the InFORM project to provide accurate, timely and scientifically sound information to the public about the impact of the Fukushima disaster on environmental and public health. The Canadian Coast Guard and Fisheries and Oceans Canada make this work possible and we thank them for the help and collaboration.

Undergraduate student Laura McKay is shown here in the main scientific laboratory on the icebreaker next to her filtration/concentration setup that will be used to collect the InFORM samples.

McKay and the resin preconcentration system on the CCGS Sir Wilfrid Laurier.
CCGS Sir WIlfrid Laurier at dock in Victoria Harbour July 3, 2015. Note helicopter for ship operations.

 

CCGS Laurier at dock showing crane for handling large navigation buoy deployment and retrieval.
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