Scientists surprised by variability in radiation levels in different areas of Pacific Ocean

Tuesday, February 18, 2014 by: L.J. Devon, Staff Writer
Tags: radiation levels, Pacific Ocean, Fukushima

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(NaturalNews) Research findings from an important exploratory cruise in June 2013 reveal radioactivity levels up to 1,000 times greater than pre-Fukushima breakdown readings. Spearheaded by the Wood Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), these findings show that radioactivity from the Fuskushima nuclear power plant is present in new and surprising places up to 600 kilometers off the coast of Japan.

The findings, presented at the biennial Ocean Sciences Meeting, were collected by cruise researchers from the US, UK, France, Spain and Japan. This independent cruise check was conducted separately from government-funded research provided by TEPCO. Additionally, the research and those involved were not connected to the owners of the dilapidated Daiichi plant that tarnished the Pacific Ocean with radioactive waste.

Zigzagging between 30 and 600 km off the coast, research vessel Kaimikai-O-Kanaloa chartered a comprehensive course that allowed researchers to collect samples of seawater that included the plankton and small fish living in it. The vessel also deployed "drifters" into currents and eddies to collect samples in crucial and unexplored areas of the ocean.

Cesium-137 and cesium-134 readings high in eddies and currents

Radioactivity readings in the seawater samples ranged from 3 becquerels per cubic meter (Bq/m^3) up to 4,000 Bq/m^3 and included cesium-137 and cesium-134. The readings were nearly 1,000 times greater than readings taken prior to the nuclear incident.

The most remarkable finding was that the highest readings weren't coming from just off the coast of Fukushima. The highest detections of radioactivity were actually found in eddies and currents just under the ocean's surface.

"There was an eddy quite close to the coast that seemed to be trapping water, and had high levels of caesium in it relative to the water that was actually closer to the plant, which had lower levels. It would appear that the circulation was just holding more contaminated water," said WHOI's Dr. Steven Jayne, who reported the drifter experiments.

Researchers find first open-ocean discovery of radioactive silver

Concentrated readings were repeatedly found in marine organisms. The strangest discovery was of radioactive silver, which was a first for an open-ocean discovery. The research did not include samples taken within 30 km of the coast, as that area is off limits and very dangerous.

Ken Buesseler, from the WHOI, stated, "It still surprises me how much variability even on our one cruise, between one location and another, that we can't necessarily explain as scientists, why one organism or one location has particularly more of the cesium in the organisms that we measured than another location. That's still a bit of a mystery and an open question."

A professor from Stony Brook University, Nicholas Fisher, publicly commented that the concentration of the Fuskushima samples is relatively very small, saying, "I would not hesitate eating any of the organisms we sampled."

He compares the Fukushima samples to naturally occurring radioactive potassium-40 levels, saying, "The concentration of potassium-40 was five to six times greater than all of the [elements from Fukushima] combined."

On the other hand, Dr. Buesseler warns, "The reactor site still seems to be leaking; it hasn't shut off completely, and at those levels right on the coast you could still have these concentration factors that we measured that would indicate some organisms would be at levels unfit for human consumption."

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