With much assurance, the radioactive contamination would be contained, the Pacific Ocean is contaminated.
Researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution are reporting that, Cesium-134, a radioactive chemical that leaked from Fukushima, is being detected in seawater samples from Gold beach and Tillamook Bay in Oregon. Due to its short half-life, cesium-134 can only originate from Fukushima. Through the Fukushima InFORM project, led by Jay Cullen, who is a chemical oceanographer, reports that for the first time, their is a detection of cesium-134 in a Canadian salmon.
The Japanese government is re-estimating the cost from the disaster to $188 billion. Although, this estimate can be increased if foreign governments and companies seek damages for destruction of industry and environment. Statesman Journal reports:
A tremendous amount of contaminated water had been released from the destroyed nuclear plant following a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami in March of 2011. More radiation was released to the air, then seeped into the sea. Woods Hole chemical oceanographer Ken Buesseler runs a crowd-funded, citizen science seawater sampling that has tracked the radiation plume as it slowly makes its way across the Pacific Ocean.
The Oregon samples, marking the first time cesium-134 has been detected on U.S. shores, were taken in January and February of 2016 and later analyzed. They each measured 0.3 becquerels per cubic meter of cesium-134.
Buesseler’s team had found the isotope in a sample of seawater taken from a dock on Vancouver Island, B.C., marking its landfall in North America. Meanwhile, in Canada, Cullen is leading the InFORM project to examine radiological risks to Canadian oceans following the nuclear disaster. It is a partnership of a dozen academic, government and non-profit organizations, including Woods Hole.
In the last month, the group found a single sockeye salmon, taken from Okanagan Lake in the summer of 2015, that was tested, was found to have a presence of cesium-134. The level of cesium in the fish is 1,000 times lower than the action level set by Health Canada, and isn’t going to pose any risk to consumers, Cullen says.
Those results will become more important in tracking the radiation plume, Buesseler said, because the short half-life of cesium-134 makes it harder to detect as time goes on. Cesium-134 has a half-life of two years, meaning it’s down to a fraction of what it was five years ago, he said. Cesium-137 has a 30-year half-life. An InFORM analysis of Buesseler’s data concludes that concentrations of cesium-137 increased in the central northeast Pacific, although they still are at levels that pose no concern. “It appears that the plume has spread throughout this vast area from Alaska to California,” the scientists wrote.
They estimated that the plume is moving towards the coast at roughly twice the speed of a garden snail. Radiation levels have not yet peaked.
“As the contamination plume progresses towards our coast we expect levels closer to shore to increase over the coming year,” Cullen said.
Even that peak won’t be a health concern, Buesseler said. But the models will help scientists model our ocean currents. It could be important if there was to be another accident or disaster at the Fukushima plant, which holds more than a thousand steel tanks filled with contaminated water, and where hundreds of tons of molten fuel remain inside the reactors.
Worst case scenario, the fuel could melt right through steel-reinforced concrete containment vessels into the ground, therefore spreading radiation into soil, groundwater and worse..into the ocean.
“That’s the type of thing where people are still concerned, as am I, about what could happen,” Buesseler said. Scientists now know it would take four to five years for any further contamination from the plant to reach the West Coast.