UPDATE: “Our Radioactive Ocean” Results
By Caitlin McKinstry
On April 14th, PWSSC oceanographers collected the first seawater sample for Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute’s (WHOI) “Our Radioactive Ocean” monitoring program and shipped it to Massachusetts for analysis. We collected five gallons of water from the west side of Hinchinbrook entrance during the Science Center’s Gulf Watch Alaska survey of the Sound. This sample marks the first of five collections planned in 2014 to test for radioisotopes from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant disaster of April 2011.
The marine chemists who analyzed this first sample determined that no radiation from Fukushima has reached Gulf of Alaska waters near Hinchinbrook Island. They did detect background radiation from nuclear weapons testing during the 1940s and 50s (1.3 Becquerel per cubic meter of seawater of cesium 137) and is consistent with levels researchers expect to see. This incredibly low level of radiation is detected all over the world and is 100,000 times lower than the harmless amount of radiation found in a banana. Processed seawater samples from the coast of California also have shown no detectable radioisotopes from the Fukushima meltdown.
The “Our Radioactive Ocean” campaign is a citizen science program organized by Dr. Ken Buesseler, a chemist at WHOI. This program is open to the public, and all are encouraged to visit the website (ourradioactiveocean.org) to view current results, take part in sampling seawater in your area, and/or donate money for water shipment and analysis.