Scientists have crowdsourced a network of volunteers taking water samples at beaches along the U.S. West Coast in hopes of capturing a detailed look at low levels of radiation drifting across the ocean since the 2011 tsunami that devastated a nuclear power plant in Japan.
Federal agencies are not sampling at the beach. The state of Oregon is sampling, but looking for higher radiation levels closer to federal health standards, said state health physicist Daryl Leon. Washington stopped looking after early testing turned up nothing, said Washington Department of Health spokesman Donn Moyer.
The March 2011 tsunami off Japan flooded the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, causing radiation-contaminated water to spill into the Pacific. Airborne radiation was detected in milk and rainwater in the U.S. soon afterward. But things move much more slowly in the ocean.
“We know there’s contaminated water coming out of there, even today,” Ken Buesseler, a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, said in a video appealing for volunteers and contributions.
In fact, it is the biggest pulse of radioactive liquid dropped in the ocean ever, he said.
“What we don’t really know is how fast and how much is being transported across the Pacific,” he added. “Yes, the models tell us it will be safe. Yes, the levels we expect off the coast of the U.S. and Canada are expected to be low. But we need measurements, especially now as the plume begins to arrive along the West Coast.”
Full article: U.S. scientists expect traces of ocean radiation from Fukushima soon (Japan Today)