InFORM team members Dr. Erica Frank (UBC) and Karen Wristen (Living Oceans Society) sat down with Jill Krop on Unfiltered.
Link to the article here
Seawater testing project ramps up
Citizen scientists aid in tracking coastal radiation
by Chris Bolster | firstname.lastname@example.org
Published: Wednesday, October 8, 2014 12:42 PM PDT
A seawater testing project on BC’s coast is ramping up to record the arrival of Japanese radiation leaked into the sea from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster.
On March 11, 2011, the plant on the north east coast of Japan was hit by a tsunami triggered by a 9.0 magnitude earthquake. Three of the six nuclear reactors at the plant went into meltdown and a day later started to leak radioactive material into the Pacific Ocean. It is known as the largest nuclear incident since Chernobyl in 1986.
Dr. Jay Cullen is a chemical oceanographer at the University of Victoria who is leading the three-year project.
Starting this month, Cullen and his team will be coordinating about 600 citizen scientist volunteers in 14 coastal communities who will be collecting seawater samples monthly to send to the lab.
“The project itself is building on the success of more modest testing programs the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and Health Canada have been carrying out since the triple meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi in March 2011,” said Cullen.
DFO and Dr. John Smith have been making measurements in the north east Pacific and the Arctic oceans looking for radionuclides from Fukushima in seawater, he said.
Cesium-137, a signature isotope of Fukushima, was first detected about 1,500 kilometres offshore in 2012. In June 2013 it was detected off the west coast of Vancouver Island.
Cullen’s project will track the arrival of the plume of contaminated seawater being transported on North Pacific ocean currents.
“It’s to track its arrival and look for the maximum activities of these isotopes which will dictate what the risk is to the public,” Cullen said, adding that estimates suggest peak levels will reach BC during the next three years.
Scientist have measured low levels of radioactive material in seawater for decades.
“If you look at the activity of some of the isotopes which present the greatest health risks like Cesium-137 or Strontium-90 those levels peaked in the mid-1960s as a result of weapons testing,” said Cullen.
Currently there is only a slight trace of the chemicals from the disaster, he said.
“If you lived here in the 1970s or 80s the radioactivity of seawater and fish was likely greater than what we expect to be resulting from Fukushima,” he added.
Readers interested in the most recent scientific studies on the radiation-contaminated seawater or more information on the project, can visit Cullen’s blog or the study’s website.
The purpose of this post is to report measurements of radioactivity in fish caught off the west coast of Canada based on the work of InFORM team member Dr. Jing Chen. A collaborative effort between Health Canada, Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and the University of Victoria was published in May 2014 in the peer-reviewed, open-access scientific journal Radiation Protection Dosimetry (link). The authors examined the activities of cesium radioisotopes (134-Cs half-life ~2 years and 137-Cs half-life ~30 years) that were released in large quantities due to the triple reactor meltdowns at Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant in 2011 as well as a naturally occurring polonium isotope (210-Po) that can pose radiological health concerns for human consumers of marine fish. Samples of chum and coho salmon, halibut, sablefish and spiny dogfish were analyzed and none were found to contain detectable levels of Fukushima derived radionuclides. Radiation doses to human consumers were determined by assuming a conservative worst case scenario where Cs isotopes were present at detection limits of the measurement and found to be 18 times lower than doses attributable to the naturally occurring, alpha-emitter 210-Po. The authors conclude that the radiation dose from Fukushima derived isotopes present in fish caught in Canadian waters represent a very small fraction of the annual dose from exposure to natural background radiation. Based on these measurements, at present, Fukushima derived radionuclides in fish do not represent a significant radiological health risk to Canadians. Continue reading Looking For Fukushima Radionuclides in Fish Caught Off the West Coast of Canada
Interview on Terry Moore’s program The Drive begins at the 5 minute mark and can be found