Radio interview related to broadcast by CBC Daybreak North on Dec. 10, 2014 by George Baker. The live radio broadcast highlights efforts of volunteer, citizen scientists Laurel Stueck (student) and Cheryl Paavola (Instructor and Science Lab Tech) at Northwest Community College – Prince Rupert collecting the first seawater sample there in November 2014.
Link to the article here
Seawater testing project ramps up
Citizen scientists aid in tracking coastal radiation
by Chris Bolster | email@example.com
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 compare the concentrations of Sr-90 and Cs-137 in the North Pacific Ocean over the last 50 years to the concentrations predicted to arrive on the west coast associated with waters affected by release of radionuclides from the Fukushima-Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Given present levels that are being measured in the eastern Pacific and barring release rates that significantly exceed past rates in March-April 2011, when release rates were 10,000-100,000 times greater than ongoing releases at the plant, the impact on marine organisms and the marine environment is likely to be less significant than impacts owing to radioactivity in the 20th century. What follows is a comparison of the concentrations measured and predicted over much of the Pacific owing to Fukushima to the concentrations that were present in the mid-1960s from the fallout of atmospheric weapons testing that is free from any discussion of safe doses or models of radiation exposure to organisms.
Interview on Terry Moore’s program The Drive begins at the 5 minute mark and can be found