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Low Levels of Fukushima Radioactivity Detected at Ucluelet, BC

Map of InFORM testing sites and sample results. Image source: InFORM e-news April 2015

Map of InFORM testing sites and sample results.
Image source: InFORM e-news April 2015

Updated December 22nd, 2015: Health Canada has just released (Dec 2015) a Summary Report on Fukushima Accident Contaminants in Canada (link to Health Canada, PDF available on page) and a technical report Special Environmental Radiation in Canada Report on Fukushima Accident Contaminants (links to PDF hosted by Fukushima InForm. For additional copies see instructions on Health Canada’s Summary Report page). Fukushima InForm has commented as follows (Dec 21st, 2015) regarding this report:

The Impact of the Fukushima on Canada: Health Canada Reports

 

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The combined presence of Cesium-134 and Cesium-137 is the ‘marker’ used to recognize radioactive emissions from ‘Fukushima’.

Measurable levels of Cesium-137 are always present in all coastal water samples due to lingering contamination from atmospheric nuclear weapons tested during the 1950s and 1960s, and the Chernobyl nuclear disaster (1986).

First radioactivity detected from Fukushima

In April 2015 the first sample testing positive for radiocesium from Fukushima captured at a North American shoreline collection point was reported. The water sample, which contained detectable Cesium-134, was collected by citizen scientists at the Ucluelet Aquarium on February 19th, 2015. The sample tested positive for very low levels of the isotope, Cesium-134. The sample also indicated elevated levels of Cesium-137. The combined presence of Cesium-134 (134Cs) and Cesium-137 (137Cs) is the marker that indicates these isotopes came from Fukushima.

Trace Amount of Cesium-134 Detected

The amount of total radiocesium measured in this sample [~7 Bq m-3 of (134Cs + 137Cs)] is far below the maximum acceptable concentration (MAC) in drinking water of 10,000 Bq m-3*. The following comparison made by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution helps puts it in perspective: “If someone were to swim for 6 hours a day every day of the year in water that contained levels of cesium twice as high as the Ucluelet sample, the radiation dose they would receive would still be more than one thousand times less than that of a single dental x-ray.”

Importance of Monitoring Radioactivity from Fukushima

However it indicates that further monitoring will be very important for tracking the progression of the radiocesium from Fukushima toward the North American west coast.

The capture, measurement and reporting of this sample is due to the laudable efforts of InForm, a local network of BC citizen scientists who collaborate with the University of Victoria and international testing facilities for sample analysis and to keep the public informed about radiological risks to Canada’s oceans associated with Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear accident.

* According to the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality by Health Canada.

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