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Is radioactivity from Fukushima dangerous to British Columbians?

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution marine radiochemist Ken Buesseler in front of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant. (Photo courtesy Ken Buesseler)

After calling on the public to help gather samples, scientists at the Massachusetts-based Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution says traces of radioactivity from the meltdown 2011 meltdown of Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plan are showing up in B.C. waters.

But researchers says there is good news: the levels of radioactivity likely pose no threat.

“Radioactivity can be dangerous, and we should be carefully monitoring the oceans after what is certainly the largest accidental release of radioactive contaminants to the oceans in history,” said marine chemist Ken Buesseler. “However, the levels we detected in Ucluelet are extremely low.”

A sample collected on February 19 in Ucluelet, says Woods Hole, contained trace amounts of cesium (Cs) -134 and -137, which the institute says is “well below internationally established levels of concern to humans and marine life”.


Scientists from Woods Hole have gathered samples from more than 60 sites along the U.S. and Canadian coasts and say there is simply no cause for alarm.

“If someone were to swim for 6 hours a day every day of the year in water that contained levels of cesium twice as high as the Ucluelet sample, the radiation dose they would receive would still be more than one thousand times less than that of a single dental x-ray,” said a report from Woods Hole.

On March 11, 2011 three of six nuclear reactors melted down at Japan’s Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant after it was hit by a tsunami that was triggered by the magnitude 9.0 Tōhoku earthquake. The release of radioactive material from the plant created what is regarded as the largest nuclear incident since Chernobyl, in 1986.

A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says it took just over two years for the radioactive plume from Fukushima to reach North America. The report says its expects levels will peak in 2015 and 2016.

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About The Author /

Cantech Letter founder and editor Nick Waddell has lived in five Canadian provinces and is proud of his country's often overlooked contributions to the world of science and technology. Waddell takes a regular shift on the Canadian media circuit, making appearances on CTV, CBC and BNN, and contributing to publications such as Canadian Business and Business Insider.
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