Radioactive water from Japan's Fukushima power plant reaches Canada

Fukushima water has arrived off Canada, but scientists say there's no reason to panic.
By Brooks Hays  |  Feb. 25, 2014 at 1:57 PM
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Feb. 25 (UPI) -- Researchers say radioactive cesium isotopes from Japan's severely damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant have made their way to the waters just off the coast of Canada.

Scientists confirmed the arrival of radioactive Fukushima water at the annual American Geophysical Union's Ocean Sciences Meeting in Honolulu today, but pointed out that the concentrations of the two isotopes were still well below safe drinking levels.

Researchers from the Bedford Institute of Oceanography have been continuously sampling water off the coast of Vancouver, British Columbia, since 2011.

“These levels are still well below maximum permissible concentrations in drinking water in Canada for caesium-137 of 10,000 becquerels per cubic metre of water -- so, it’s clearly not an environmental or human-health radiological threat,” Bedford’s Dr. John Smith told BBC News.

Ken Buesseler at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) confirmed that none of the Fukushima water has yet reached U.S. beaches.

Like the rest of Japan, the Fukushima nuclear power plant was ravaged by 2011's tsunami and earthquake. In the wake of the plant's meltdown, several hundred tons of radioactive water leaked into the ocean. Smaller leaks continue to be found.

Initial results showed that water in the plant's immediate vicinity measured at 10 million becquerels per cubic meter (bq/m3). A becquerel is an internationally-agreed-upon unit used to measure radioactivity.

And while the two escaped radioactive cesium isotopes, cesium-134 and cesium-137, have found their way to the waters of British Columbia, their presence sits somewhere below 1 bq/m3. Scientists expect those concentrations to go up as the plume of Fukushima water makes its way slowly across the Pacific -- but not drastically.

Models put future levels of Cesium-137 at no greater than 27 Bq/m3, and maximum levels of cesium-134 at 2 Bq/m3 -- both amounts below what the World Health Organization, the EPA and Canada's Department of the Environment consider safe for human consumption.

In a video posted last month, Discovery News reporter Trace Dominguez told viewers there's no reason to worry about Fukushima radioactivity in the West Coast or anywhere else in the U.S.

[Discovery News] [BBC News]

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