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

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

An example of the forest land in the Port Renfrew and Fairy Creek area of Vancouver Island is shown on May 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne
Old-growth logging opponents launch hunger strike as arrests continue at Fairy Creek

Zain Haq says the hunger strikers will gather today at Burrard Street in downtown Vancouver

The City of Victoria is hoping to ring in the summer by celebrating local art and offering some distanced, live music to surprise people in parks, plazas and other public spaces. (Photo courtesy of the City of Victoria)
Live, pop-up concerts and local art being showcased in Victoria this summer

People will see surprise serenades at 16 locations throughout the summer

An example of the forest land in the Port Renfrew and Fairy Creek area of Vancouver Island is shown on May 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne
Old-growth logging opponents launch hunger strike as arrests continue at Fairy Creek

Zain Haq says the hunger strikers will gather today at Burrard Street in downtown Vancouver

Jada Benwell and Connor Larkey are the valedictorians of the 2021 graduating class at Parkland Secondary School. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Pandemic taught lessons in perseverance for North Saanich high schoolers

Parkland Secondary School to release 2021 grad ceremony video on June 25

The 14th annual Oak Bay Young Exceptional Star (YES) awards June 3. (Christine van Reeuwyk/News Staff)
Oak Bay celebrates its Young Exceptional Stars with outdoor award ceremony

Nine young people recognized in 14th annual awards

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Most Read