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The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution findings on Fukushima radiation

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

A new report from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution of the spread of radiation from Japan’s 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident is causing another flurry of excitement for news hounds, bloggers and tinfoil hat enthusiasts across the continent.

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) has just released its findings on water samples collected off the US West Coast which show higher levels of contamination than previously detected, including one sample collected 1,600 miles west of San Francisco that measured radioactive cesium isotopes 50 percent higher than earlier samples.

The WHOI self-identifies as, “the world’s leading non-profit oceanographic research organization,” whose mission is, “to explore and understand the ocean and to educate scientists, students, decision-makers and the public.”

Ken Buesseler, director of WHOI’s Center for Marine and Environmental Radioactivity says that while these results are still well below hazardous levels – more than 500 times lower than what the US government says is safe for drinking water – they do show the need for continued monitoring of our oceans. “The changing values underscore the need to more closely monitor contamination levels across the Pacific,” Buesseler says.

Let’s repeat that number again so we will all remember it the next time we see a salacious headline about Fukushima radiation levels hitting our shores. Scientists are telling us it is 500 times below the danger level.

But already, the fear flags are waving. Karen Graham of Digital Journal writes, “How worried should we be about the ocean’s waters?” and Bryan Nelson of Mother Nature Network says that the WHOI’s results are “alarming” and help to confirm that, yes, your fears about radiation coming across from Fukushima, “continue to be founded.”

Of course the internet coughs up all kinds of nonsense. Its cardinal virtue is also its greatest weakness, as supporting a more-or-less level playing field for the exchange of ideas brings with it the downside that we often have to wade through thick trenches of the weird and the deluded (chem trails, anyone?) before getting to the bottom of things.

But it seems that we keep hitting new lows when it comes to the Fukushima fallout story. Yes, the selling of anti-radiation underwear in Japan was a funny story. And, yes, it would have been quite the event if Big Government had jumped in bed with Big Nuclear to create the Big Coverup. But that ain’t happening. And those who propagate distrust by adding a little wiggle room where there isn’t any are not just spicing things up a bit with a little, “who knows how bad it’s going to get?” They’re opening the door for real damage.

See the example of Dr. Jay Cullen, chemical oceanographer at the University of Victoria, who started receiving death threats after publishing the findings of his radiation monitoring program in 2014. Dr. Cullen told the Globe and Mail, “I knew there were lots of individuals who felt strongly about nuclear power. So it wasn’t a surprise that there were those who didn’t accept what the scientific research was showing. But I have to admit the hatred and the threats I received, that was somewhat of a surprise.”

So, yes, there are crazies out there. And, no, you shouldn’t be fear-baiting them to greater heights of stupidity.

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About The Author /

Jayson is a writer, researcher and educator with a PhD in political philosophy from the University of Ottawa. His interests range from bioethics and innovations in the health sciences to governance, social justice and the history of ideas.
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