25 February 2014, 19:56

Fukushima radiation to reach US West coast by April - report

Fukushima radiation to reach US West coast by April - report

Radiation from Japan's leaking Fukushima nuclear power plant could arrive to Pacific coast by April, scientists reported. The report came even as some Internet sites continue claiming that dangerously radioactive ocean water from Fukushima is showing up along California beaches - reports that have been denied by health officials and scientists since they first surfaced more than a month ago.

Ken Buesseler, a chemical oceanographer at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod, Mass., reported that four coastal monitoring sites in California and Washington have detected no traces of radiation from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant destruction - "not yet," he said during a telephone press briefing.

Buesseler said no federal or international agencies are monitoring ocean waters from Fukushima on this side of the Pacific, so he has organized volunteer monitors at 16 sites along the California and Washington coasts and two in Hawaii to collect seawater in 20-liter specialized plastic containers and ship them by UPS to his Woods Hole laboratory.

Two specific radioactive isotopes of the element cesium are formed in nuclear accidents, he explained.

One is cesium-137, whose radioactivity decays very slowly - its half-life is 30 years - while the other is cesium-134, which decays rapidly with a two-year half-life. So while cesium-137 is still detectable in the world's oceans from old nuclear-weapons tests, any traces of cesium-134 that are detected by monitoring instruments could only have come from the Fukushima nuclear accident, Buesseler said.

According to a widely accepted model of the oceans' circulation patterns, traces of the plume of radioactive seawater from Fukushima should be detectable along the Pacific coast in April.

"We need to know the real levels of radiation coming at us," said Bing Dong, a retired accountant and self-described activist at Point Reyes Station who has volunteered to collect ocean samples for Buesseler's project. "There's so much disinformation out there, and we really need actual data."

The initial nuclear accident from the Fukushima reactors released several radioactive isotopes, such as iodine-131, cesium-134 and cesium-137.

"The only cesium-134 in the North Pacific is there from Fukushima," Ken Buesseler said.

Voice of Russia, sfgate.com, livescience.com

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