Although initial investigations suggest that the Fukushima nuclear disaster will not impact the western US, several universities and research institutions agree it’s an important issue to monitor. Thanks to generous support from donors Blaine and Valerie Lando, Channelkeeper has joined two collaborative research efforts to assess radiation levels along our coast.
In early 2014, Channelkeeper collected a water sample from Butterfly Beach for “Our Radioactive Ocean,” a Woods Hole Institute of Oceanography research project that is monitoring the extent of Fukushima radiation transport. No Cesium-134 isotopes were detected in our first sample, and the results indicated that background levels of radiation were normal and that Fukushima radiation had not arrived in Santa Barbara. In 2011 a sample near UCSB tested positive for Cs-134 at 7.4 Bq/m3. The highest value ever recorded throughout this sampling effort was a sample taken about 1,600 miles west of San Francisco, at 11 Bq/m3, which the researchers described as “more than 500 times lower than safety limits established by the US government for drinking water and well below limits of concern for direct exposure while swimming, boating, or other recreational activities.” Since then, samples taken in the Channel and along the Santa Barbara/Ventura coast (including the sample Channelkeeper took at Butterfly Beach) have not tested positive. An update from December 2015 summarizing that research effort can be found at http://www.ourradioactiveocean.org/results.html.
Channelkeeper also collected kelp near Rincon as part of “Kelp Watch” an initiative coordinated by researchers at Cal State Long Beach and UC Berkeley to assess the extent of possible radiation contamination (primarily Cesium-137 & -134) in kelp forests along the West Coast from seawater arriving from Fukushima. Over 40 research groups participated in this effort. Results from the two sampling periods in 2014 indicated that radiation from Fukushima has not reached the West Coast. Check out the analysis at http://kelpwatch.berkeley.edu/results. A third sampling period occurred from December 2014 – January 2015 for areas north of Point Conception. The final sampling completed in the end of July after all the Spring/Summer 2016 samples along the west coast came back negative for Cs-134 (the isotope indicative of Fukushima radiation). None of Channelkeeper’s three samples came back positive during the two year period of the program. Ultimately the lead scientist concluded that “there was no indication that the radioactivity from Fukushima became incorporated in the coastal kelp beds sampled.”
For more information on Kelp Watch visit http://kelpwatch.berkeley.edu/.
In the News
Check out the Santa Barbara Independent’s cover story that highlights Channelkeeper’s collaborative monitoring efforts and discusses the facts and fiction surrounding how the west coast may be affected by the Fukushima disaster.
More Radiation Information
For more information about the Fukushima disaster we recommend these articles:
FAQ: Radiation from Fukushima (Includes links to other useful articles)
Dr. Ken Buesseler, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Friday Fishwrap: Is Fukushima radiation harming food chain?
Glen Martin, UC Berkeley Alumni Association
All The Best, Scientifically Verified, Information on Fukushima Impacts
Dr. Craig McClain, Assistant Director of Science for the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center