The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. (Associated Press Photo)

UVic scientist asseses contamination levels from Fukushima aftermath

Radiation levels in Pacific Canadian waters from Japan’s doomed power plant are finally revealed.

A University of Victoria scientist has discovered the peak contamination levels in Pacific Canadian waters, nearly seven years after a meltdown at Japan’s tsunami-stricken Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in 2011.

The isotopes were first detected in June 2012, a year after a 15-metre tsunami, caused by a magnitude-9 earthquake, devastating the plant’s three reactor cores into meltdown and subsequently causing radioactive material to spill into the ocean. It is now considered the largest unplanned discharge of radioactivity into the ocean yet, the study said.

The disaster created widespread concern over the potential impact on marine life and human health, but as it turns out, the impact on Canadian shores were not as devastating as initially feared.

“Contamination from Fukushima never reached a level where it was a significant threat to either marine or human life in our neighborhood of the North Pacific,” says UVic chemical oceanographer Jay Cullen, who leads the Fukushima InFORM (Integrated Fukushima Ocean Radionuclide Monitoring), a network that monitors marine radioactivity at distances up to 1,500 kilometres off the coast of British Columbia.

Cullen’s study revealed radioactive isotopes from Fukushima were at their highest reaching offshore B.C. in 2015 and 2016.

“At their highest levels, contamination from Fukushima reached about one-tenth of what was seen in the North Pacific in the late 1950s and 1960s, before the ban of above-ground nuclear weapons tests,” says Cullen. “We are now seeing levels of Fukushima-related contamination similar to levels in the 1970’s and expect these to further decline in 2017-2018.”

The coastal average concentration of cesium-137 is now at 2.7 Bq per square metre, according to data from samples collected in January and February 2017. While nearly 300 per cent of the pre-Fukushima levels, observations remain extremely low when compared to the 10,000 Bq per square metre drinking water limit as set by Health Canada’s Radiation Protection Bureau.

The InFORM network brings together Canadian and U.S. scientists, health experts and non-governmental organizations. Citizen scientists along the B.C. coast who are also part of the network assist with monthly collection of sea water samples and once a year collect fish and shellfish samples for analysis.

The project is funded by the Marine Environmental Observation Prediction and Response Network.

More information can be found at fukushimainform.ca. The most recent findings were published in the American Chemical Society’s Environmental Science and Technology.

Just Posted

Success brewing for Saanich company

Magazine names Oughtred Coffee Macro Roaster of the Year

Canadian Tire’s Fix-A-Heart campaign holds personal meaning for some staff

Annual cardiac care campaign aims to push total raised to more than $1 million in 14th year

Songhees youth among those recognized by province for achievement in sport

Team BC athletes in North American Indigenous Games, Canada Summer Games recognized

Pedestrian struck in downtown Sidney after receiving safety reflector

Man treated for minor injures by police who were at the scene handing out reflectors

Wait is over for Willows students

École Willows portables complete - students moved in Monday

VIDEO: Innovating healthier homes

NZ Builders bring commercial concept into residential realm to improve energy efficiency and health

Opioid prescriptions up across Canada: report

The report shows the number of opioid prescriptions rose by almost seven per cent, while daily doses on average dropped

Ikea relaunches dresser recall after eighth child dies

Recall is for all Ikea chest and dressers and include 8 million Malm chest and dressers that were sold from 2002 through June 2016.

UPDATE: Washington Governor Jay Inslee visits B.C.

Premier John Horgan talks trains, trade with southern neighbour

Viral video shows deer killed on Snapchat in Campbell River

RCMP say they have identified those involved and are working with conservation officers

BC Conservatives call for ICBC reform

Leader Scott Anderson of Vernon calls ICBC ‘national embarrassment

Russian meddling has implications for Canada

Kosovo president Hashim Thaci warns that Russian meddling has implications for Canada

Health Canada hints at government’s plans for legal pot

Health warnings, plain covers for pot packs under proposed regulations

Washington governor tells BC don’t be ‘daunted’ by Trump

“I want to assure this assembly that no matter who is in the White House, it won’t affect Washington state’s relationship with Canada or British Columbia.”

Most Read