Radioactive water travelling from Fukushima power plant being measured by scientists
Researchers are attempting to predict the amount of radioactive water from Japan that will hit the North American coast.
The concentration of radioactive water from the Fukushima power plant in Japan expected to hit North American coasts should be known in the next two months.
So far only small traces of pollution have been recorded in Canadian continental waters, but this is expected to increase as contaminants move eastwards on Pacific currents, BBC News has reported.
In 2011, three nuclear reactors at the Japanese facility went into meltdown, leaking radiation into the Pacific Ocean.
Researchers from the Bedford Institute of Oceanography in Canada have been analysing water along a line running almost 2,000km due west of Vancouver, British Columbia, since the 2011 Fukushima accident.
In June 2013, radioactive caesium-137 and 134 were detected in the entire line of the sampling length.
Scientists stress that even with the probable increases taken into account, the measurements will be well within limits set by safety authorities.
Researchers have harnessed the radioactive water to test two forecasting models to try and map the probable future progression of the plume of radioactive water.
Using one model, the scientists have predicted that a maximum concentration of 27 becquerels per cubic metre of water will appear on the Canadian coast by mid-2015, but the other model predicts no more than about two becquerels per cubic metre of water.
Bedford’s Dr John Smith told BBC News that further measurements currently being taken in the ocean should give researchers a fair idea of which model is correct.
How Radioactive Is Our Ocean: current sample locations
Speaking to reporters at the Ocean Sciences Meeting 2014 in Honolulu, Hawaii, he also stressed: “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.”
Dr Ken Buesseler from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), who was also speaking on a Fukushima panel at the event, described how citizens are involved in the effort to record radioactivity in beach waters on the western United States.
Members of the public are being recruited to regularly gather water samples from California to Washington State and in Alaska and Hawaii.
Caesium-134 has not yet been detected in these areas, but Caesium-137, which was also released by the damaged power plant, is already present in the water after A-bomb tests in the 1950s and 1960s.
However, Dr Buesseler expects a specific Fukushima signal from both radionuclides to be evident very shortly in US waters.
The ourradioactiveocean.org sampling project, which is organised at the website, is being funded through private donation because no federal agency has picked up the monitoring responsibility.
“What we have to go by right now are models, and as John Smith showed these predict numbers as high as 30 of these becquerels per cubic metre of water,” he told the BBC.
“It’s interesting: if this was of greater health concern, we’d be very worried about these factors of ten differences in the models.
“To my mind, this is not really acceptable," he said.
Mr Smith added: "We need better studies and resources to do a better job, because there are many reactors on coasts and rivers and if we can’t predict within a factor of 10 what caesium or some other isotope is downstream - I think that’s a pretty poor job.“
Fracking shame: Full threat to British wildlife is laid bare in a new report showing up to half the country could be licensed for shale gas extraction
Powerlines disturb animal habitats by appearing as disturbing flashes of UV light invisible to the human eye
Python eats croc: when two (or more) species go to war - the 12 most amazing animal battles ever recorded
The 10 best folding bikes
10 best hiking boots
- 1 Is your name now 'banned' in Saudi Arabia?
- 2 Best films on Netflix: 32 movies that will put an end to your scrolling
- 3 Istanbul protesters take 'Ellen selfie' from the back of a police van
- 4 Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: Jet ‘hi-jacking’ began soon after take-off
- 5 Lady Gaga has struggled with eating disorders in the past, so it's indefensible that she's glamourising bulimia in her SXSW set
Katie Hopkins continues campaign to become Britain's most hated talking head with poorly timed Bob Crow tweet
No EU referendum under Labour: Ed Miliband to reveal that vote on membership is ‘unlikely’ in next Parliament if party wins power
Grace Dent: Who cares if she spells it Barraco Barner? Gemma Worrall is more employable than some bookish arts graduate
Europeans have ‘got whiter’ due to natural selection in past 5,000 years, scientists say
Fracking is turning the US into a bigger oil producer than Saudi Arabia
The rise of Ukip: Study warns Labour that Eurosceptic party's electoral base now 'more working class than any of the main parties'
£50000 - £60000 per annum: Charter Selection: This well respected and exciting...
£40000 - £50000 per annum: Charter Selection: This exciting company and market...
£40000 - £60000 per annum + EXCELLENT SALARY: Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Cli...
£25,000 to £35,000: IT Connections Ltd: Signal Processing Engineer / Acoustics...