CORVALLIS, Ore., Feb. 22 (UPI) -- Debris from the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan won't present a radiation threat when it reaches U.S. shores this year, researchers say.
Nuclear radiation health experts from Oregon State University say the minor amounts of the radiation deposited on the debris field from the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant will have long been dissipated, decayed or been washed away by months of pounding in ocean waves.
Any measurable radioactivity found on debris from Fukushima should be at very low levels and of no health concern, an OSU release said Wednesday.
However, that doesn't mean debris expected to reach U.S. and Canadian coastlines later this year will be entirely harmless, OSU researchers said.
"The tsunami impacted several industrial areas and no doubt swept out to sea many things like bottled chemicals or other compounds that could be toxic," said Kathryn Higley, head of the Department of Nuclear Engineering and Radiation Health Physics at OSU.
"If you see something on the beach that looks like it may have come from this accident, you shouldn't assume that it's safe," Higley said. "People should treat these debris with commonsense; there could be some things mixed in there that are dangerous. But it will have nothing to do with radioactive contamination."
OSU researchers have been studying the Fukushima accident since it occurred.
"In the city and fields near Fukushima, there are still areas with substantial contamination, and it may be a few years before all of this is dealt with," Higley said. "But researchers from all over the world are contributing information on innovative ways to help this area recover, including some lessons learned from the much more serious Chernobyl accident in 1986 in the Ukraine."