The Integrated Fukushima Ocean Radionuclide Monitoring or InFORM network involves academic, government, non-governmental organizations and citizen scientists working to acquire data, assess radiological risks to Canada’s oceans associated with the Fukushima nuclear disaster and rapidly, appropriately and effectively disseminate this information to the public.
On March 11, 2011 the magnitude 9.0 Tohoku earthquake and resulting tsunami led to meltdowns in three of six nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant (FD-NPP). Significant releases of radionuclides to the atmosphere and directly to the Pacific Ocean occurred. Physical models of ocean circulation and mixing predict that predominant currents in the North Pacific will transport a plume of seawater contaminated with FD-NPP radionuclides to Canadian exclusive economic zone
waters. Certain of these radionuclides, when present in elevated concentrations in seawater or in marine foodstuffs, could potentially cause environmental and public health concerns on Canada’s west and Arctic coasts. Models disagree as to the timing of the arrival and maximum concentrations of isotopes expected but measurements made by a modest Canadian monitoring program indicate that the plume arrived in Canadian coastal waters in June 2013. Despite model uncertainties concentrations of FD-NPP derived radionuclides and their associated heath risks are expected to increase in the coming 3-4 year period. Models and measurements agree to this point that environmental and public health impact in Canada associated with the disaster are likely to be small but there is insufficient monitoring of radionuclides in seawater and the marine biota in time and space to adequately quantify these risks. Thus, there exists an urgent end-user demand for quality, timely, monitoring data that can be used to estimate public health risks associated with the presence of FD-NPP derived radionuclides in the marine environment and to provide citizens with reliable information so that they may minimize their exposure to potentially harmful levels of radiation. InFORM will meet this demand.
InFORM is funded by the Marine Environmental Observation Prediction and Response Network (MEOPAR), which is hosted at Dalhousie University, and funded by the Government of Canada’s Networks of Centres of Excellence Program. MEOPAR is working to better understand and predict the impact of marine hazards on human activities and ecosystems…and improve response.