Study Says California Kelp Bears No Signs of Ocean-Borne Radiation from Japan’s Fukushima; Worst of Fears Could Be Over

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By Esther Tanquintic-Misa | May 15, 2014 3:57 PM EST

Kelp samples collected along the U.S. West Coast continue to test negative to possible ocean-borne radiation from Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant that was crippled by a tsunami triggered by a 9.0 magnitude earthquake in March 2011.


Wearing a protective suit and a mask, U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy (L) listens to Naohiro Masuda (3rd R), an executive of Japan's Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), during her visit to the central control room for the unit one and unit two reactors of the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant at Okuma town in Fukushima prefecture May 14, 2014. REUTERS/Toru Yamanaka/Pool

Scientists working on a project called Kelp Watch 2014 (see here) said the collection of first kelp samples sourced from as far north as Kodiak Island, Alaska,to as far south as Baja, California, are still clean from radiation from the devastated Japanese power plant.

"Our data does not show the presence of Fukushima radioisotopes in West Coast Giant Kelp or Bull Kelp," Steven Manley, one of the researchers, said. "These results should reassure the public that our coastline is safe, and that we are monitoring it for these materials. At the same time, these results provide us with a baseline for which we can compare samples gathered later in the year."

Samples of non-kelp brown algae collected from Hawaii and Guam were likewise negative for Fukushima radiation.

"The samples of greatest concern were those from the north, Alaska to Washington State, where it is thought the radioactive water will first make contact with North America," Manley said. "The tell-tale isotopic signature of Fukushima, Cs-134, was not seen, even at the incredibly low detection limits provided by Dr. Vetter's group at the Berkeley Lab and UC Berkeley."

Still, scientists, while ecstatic of the results, warned the kelp samples may not have contained the feared radiation simply because the radiated-seawater hasn't arrived yet.

"Because the Pacific Northwest may be ground zero for its arrival, we will be receiving monthly samples from the west and southern coastline of Vancouver Island (Canada)," Manley said.

"One of the goals of Kelp Watch 2014 is to keep the public informed, to let them know we are on top of this event, and to document the amount of Fukushima radiation that enters our kelp forest ecosystem."

The second of the three 2014 sampling periods will begin in early July.

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(Photo: / )
Wearing a protective suit and a mask, U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy (L) listens to Naohiro Masuda (3rd R), an executive of Japan's Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), during her visit to the central control room for the unit one and unit two reactors of the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant at Okuma town in Fukushima prefecture May 14, 2014. REUTERS/Toru Yamanaka/Pool
(Photo: / )
Wearing a protective suit and a mask, an employee of Japan's Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) walks carefully along a dark aisle after U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy visited the central control room for the unit one and unit two reactors at TEPCO's tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant at Okuma town in Fukushima prefecture May 14, 2014. REUTERS/Toru Yamanaka/Pool
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