Three years ago, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake (the fourth largest earthquake ever recorded) off the coast of Japan, generated a tsunami with forty five foot waves. Almost sixteen thousand lives were lost with over two thousand more still missing. In addition to the enormous loss of life, the tsunami waves overwhelmed the eighteen-foot break wall of the Fukushima Dai’Ichi Nuclear Power Plant. The resultant damage led to failures in the cooling of the nuclear fuel and subsequently hydrogen explosions which released the largest single contribution of radiation to the ocean ever observed (and we’ve observed many nuclear weapon tests that released huge amounts of radiation into the oceans which have been prohibited since 1963). In the last three years, the crippled nuclear power plant has been leaking radioactive water into the ocean at the rate of three hundred tons per day.
The powerful Kuroshio Current has rapidly spread the contaminated water throughout the Pacific Ocean. Scientific models predicted the radiation would reach the Pacific West Coast sometime this year.
Last month, Canadian scientists validated the models by presenting data showing radiation found in waters around the Continental Shelf off British Columbia.
Andrey Shvetsov, AMRI’s Executive Director scoping out sampling locations.
In California, there are three research projects investigating the arrival of radiation. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) is doing a publicly supported water testing project titled, “How Radioactive are Our Oceans”. Kelp Watch 2014, which is supported by a number of California Universities and other organizations, is testing kelp collected along the U.S. West Coast. Anacapa Marine Research Institute (AMRI), a nonprofit organization, has set out to collect and test fish caught along the Southern California Coast, Catalina and the Channel Islands. Founded by a local fisherman, AMRI is focused on keeping the fishing community aware and confident of the safety of their catch. The all volunteer staff and board rely on donations and their private/commercial seafood radiation testing program to help fund the research project.
Although the common belief among the three research projects is that radiation will not reach harmful levels, the efforts will continue to ensure this is so and that word gets out if radiation reaches harmful levels.
We here at BD will continue to monitor the situation and report results of the research projects periodically.
For more information on the topic or to provide support to the research projects, please visit the following websites: