No sign yet of Fukushima radiation on US west coast shoreline

Kelp
Kai Vetter/Courtesy

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A team of scientists released new data Wednesday indicating that evidence of radiation from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster has not yet reached the U.S. west coast shoreline.

Kelp Watch 2014, a collaborative effort, has been using kelp to detect and measure the radioactivity in seawater from the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, in which dangerous levels of radiation were leaked from a Japanese nuclear facility. The team is led by Steven Manley, a professor of marine biology at Cal State Long Beach, and Kai Vetter, a professor of nuclear physics and engineering at UC Berkeley.

After the disaster, radioactive materials began leaking into the surrounding waters, and many were concerned about the radiation reaching the west coast of the United States.

“We wanted to contribute to the discussion and address public concerns by providing data and facts,” Vetter said.

After analyzing kelp samples collected between February and March in 26 locations along the Pacific coast, including samples taken in Hawaii and Guam, the team concluded that there were no signs that radiation from the nuclear power plant disaster has spread to the west coast shoreline.

According to Vetter, kelp, which absorbs nutrients from the sea water and is highly sensitive to small concentrations of radiation, is also a very cost-efficient way to test for radioactivity, as it can be commonly found on the ocean surface.

Manley and more than 40 other marine scientists and educators were responsible for collecting and harvesting the kelp. The team collected about 14 pounds of kelp from each sampling location, which were then shipped to three processing centers on the West Coast, one of which was Manley’s lab. There, he says, the kelp blades were dried in an oven and ground into particles.  The kelp powder was then sent to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, where Vetter serves as director of applied nuclear physics, for analysis of radioactive isotopes in the composition.

Vetter said the team looked for traces of the radioactive isotope cesium 134, a main contaminant released from the disaster, but did not detect it in the kelp samples. Although the team observed small traces of other radioactive isotopes in the kelp, Vetter said he attributes this to naturally occurring radiation and prior events — not Fukushima.

“The models that predicted the arrival of radioactive seawater stated that the seawater could come anytime from late March or early April to the end of year, so we didn’t really expect to see it around this time,” Manley said. “The data we gathered will help provide a good baseline to compare future samples to.”

Manley said the team plans to collect and release two other sets of data samples of kelp in 2014, with the next one scheduled for around July.

“According to predictions based on our scientific models, we should see at some point the arrival of small concentrations of cesium,” Vetter said. “But the concentration we are expecting is extremely small and most likely won’t be a danger to the public.”

Contact Kathleen Tierney at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @kathleentierney.

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  • bubba

    Although the team observed small traces of other radioactive
    isotopes
    in the kelp, Vetter said he attributes this to naturally occurring
    radiation and prior events — not Fukushima. What isotopes?
    Name them. How do you know they are not from Fukushima? We do not
    beleave you. Look for the other isotopes. It is not fairy dust that just goes away.
    Where did it go? In 2011 Obama said not to worry about radiation from
    the explosions. Now we know people on west coast were breathing hot
    particles for weeks. Obama went to south America with his family while
    this was happening. `They could have told us to limit out door exposure, avoid the rain etc. Nuclear industry is more important to them then our health.

  • Barry

    Even if the kelp is not showing radiation now it does not mean its not going to test positive soon and since the fish swimming up and down the west cost are indeed testing positive for radiation right now the radiation is just coming in slower because of the ocean currents. Anyone eating fish and seafood from the pacific ocean may want to consider doing a radiation detox with the ingestable mineral called zeolite that has been proven to safely remove both radiation and heavy metals from the body.

    • Mike O’Brien

      Even if the kelp started to show radiation, zeolite wouldn’t be of any use.
      Borey has a website where he sells zeolite, but he doesn’t want you to know that he has a financial interest in the product he is promoting.
      He also is lying when he says it has been proven to safely remove both radiation and heavy metals from the body. The ‘proof’ he has on his website is pseudo-science and even then doesn’t prove anything. The rest of his ‘proof’ is essentially anonymous testimonals like have been used by snake oil salesmen since the beginning of time.

      • Chew

        Barry and I debated his zeolite on Forbes. After I repeatedly asked for any research that supported his claim he finally provided a study on animals but obviously didn’t bother reading it first because it concluded zeolite was not effective in humans!

        • Mike O’Brien

          Thanks for the info.
          Have you ever read the ‘study’ on his website? It doesn’t prove anything about zeolite because ALL the participants took zeolite (their results before they took any were considered the baseline, what a joke). And it only had 20 participants, yet the Doctor (Doctor of Naturopathy) still claimed the results were significant.
          There are other major flaws in the study, but I will be feeding them to Barry slowly to keep him dancing as long as possible.
          He just recently claimed that my posts caused his sales to increase by $1000 in just four days, yet he turned me in to an unnamed ‘they’ for cyberstalking.

          • Chew

            Uh oh, watch out for the cyberpolice!