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North American scientists track incoming Fukushima plume via BBC

The likely scale of the radioactive plume of water from Fukushima due to hit the west coast of North America should be known in the next two months.

Only minute traces of pollution from the beleaguered Japanese power plant have so far been recorded in Canadian continental waters.

This will increase as contaminants disperse eastwards on Pacific currents.

But scientists stress that even the peak measurements will be well within the limits set by safety authorities.

Since the 2011 Fukushima accident, researchers from the Bedford Institute of Oceanography have been sampling waters along a line running almost 2,000km due west of Vancouver, British Columbia.

And by June of last year, they were detecting quantities of radioactive caesium-137 and 134 along the sampling line’s entire length.

Although the radioactivity concentrations remain extremely low – less than one becquerel per cubic metre of water – they have allowed the scientists to start to validate the two models that are being used to forecast the probable future progression of the plume.

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Dr Smith was speaking at the Ocean Sciences Meeting 2014 in Honolulu, Hawaii.

He was joined on a panel discussing Fukushima by Dr Ken Buesseler from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

The Whoi scientist described the citizen science effort now under way to record radioactivity in beach waters of the western United States.

Members of the public are being recruited to regularly gather water samples from California to Washington State and in Alaska and Hawaii.

No caesium-134 has yet been detected. Caesium-137, which was also released by the damaged power plant, is in the environment already as a result of the A-bomb tests in the 1950s and 1960s. However, Dr Buesseler expects a specific Fukushima signal from both radionuclides to be evident very shortly in US waters.

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