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Fukushima Radiation Reaches California Coast, Contamination to Increase in Two Years?

Travelers Today       By    Althea Serad

Updated: Nov 11, 2014 06:12 PM EST

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Radiation reaches California Coast, and researchers say there could be no other source of the traces of radioactivity than the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant. Operated by Tokyo Electric Power, the power plant was damaged during the 2011 earthquake in Japan. Now, the radiation reaches California Coast, just 100 miles off the coast of California to be exact, according to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) Monday.

The 2011 earthquake was quickly followed by a massive tidal wave. Because of the extensive damage the power plant endured, workers were unable to cool the reactors, and they eventually exploded. The reactors leaked radioactive chemicals into the nearby sea, and now the plant has since been decommissioned, according to CNBC.

As the Fukushima radiation reaches California Coast, the WHOI is reporting that only low-level radiation from the nuclear power plant accident has been detected. These isotopes detected by oceanographers are currently at levels far from those which could possess measurable health risks, reports Bloomberg. However, the contamination has already reached several parts of off the Pacific Coast of the U.S. and Canada.

The Massachusetts-based WHOI said yesterday on its website that it was volunteer ocean monitors who collected the samples that found radiation reaching the California Coast. Trace amounts of the isotope cesium-134 were located about 100 miles (160 kilometers) west of Eureka, Calif.

Woods Hole oceanographer Ken Buesseler said in the institution's release that the "unprecedented levels" of radioactivity released by the Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant during the March 2011 disaster was the only possible source of the revealed isotopes that reached the California Coast.

The 2011 accident resulted in explosions where three reactors suffered meltdowns, apparently not only sending a burst of radioactivity into the atmosphere, but to the oceans as well as the water they used to cool overheating fuel rods flowed into the ocean weeks following the disaster. As time went by, lower levels of radiation have continued to trickle into the ocean through contaminated groundwater, and now it has reached the California Coast.

As the Fukushima radiation reaches California Coast, WHOI predicts that the below-level contaminant could increase over the next two to three years.

"We don't know exactly when the Fukushima isotopes will be detectable closer to shore because the mixing of offshore surface waters and coastal waters is hard to predict," said WHOI's monitoring team leader, Ken Buesseler.

"We stand to learn more from samples taken this winter when there is generally less upwelling," he added in the statement.

Buesseler said there needs to be careful and consistent monitoring of radioactive elements along the Pacific coastline.

Fortunately, samples taken from beaches have not tested positive for Fukushima radiation, according to KGW. However, it's hard to calculate when the Fukushima radiation will reach the beaches, according to Buesseler.

"The models predict cesium levels to increase over the next two to three years, but do a poor job describing how much more dilution will take place and where those waters will reach the shoreline first," Buesseler said.

Buesseler will reportedly be presenting his findings at the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry's annual meeting in Vancouver, BC Thursday.

While the Fukushima radiation reaches California Coast, Tepco, also known as the Fukushima plant's operator, released an e-mailed statement to address the issue. They said that they already expected the spread of radiation and that the company has already significantly improved their water management at the site since the 2011 accident. The effect of radiation to humans may be prevalent only years following contamination. Right now, there may be no other option but to wait and hope against all odds that radiation doesn't spread further. 

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