Higher levels of radiation from Japan’s 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident are showing up in the ocean off the west coast of North America, scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution reported Thursday.
And an increased number of sampling sites are showing signs of contamination.
The new findings are important for two reasons, said Ken Buesseler, the Woods Hole scientist who was the first to begin monitoring radiation in the Pacific after the accident.
“First, despite the fact that the levels of contamination off our shores remain well below government-established safety limits for human health or to marine life, the changing values underscore the need to more closely monitor contamination levels across the Pacific,” Buesseler said. “Second, these long-lived radioisotopes will serve as markers for years to come for scientists studying ocean currents and mixing in coastal and offshore waters.”
In April of 2015, Buesseler’s team announced it had found Fukushima radiation in a sample of seawater taken from a dock on Vancouver Island, B.C., marking the first time it was recorded on West Coast shores.