Five Years After Fukushima Pacific Salmon Remain Safe

A chemical oceanographer from the University of Victoria said that the 2015 study of salmon off the coast of British Columbia, Canada, found no traces of cesium-134, the radionuclide that could have been attributed to the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which suffered from three reactor meltdowns due to a tsunami event that flooded back up power systems.

2015 Salmon studyGround water containment has been a major concern at the disaster site in Japan, including the possibility that groundwater enters radioactive areas of damaged buildings, but then re-joins the natural water flow, ending up in the Pacific Ocean.

Studies of marine life have been ongoing. A major concern is the salmon fisheries along the west coast of North America.

Radioactive water has been detected close to the coast. But the latest study released Monday found no samples of cesium-134 in 156 salmon of four species – steelhead, Chinook, sockeye and pink salmon, said oceanographer Jay Cullen. Cesium-137, on the other hand, was found in seven of the fish, although that isotope is largely the result of nuclear weapons testing from the last century, Cullen said.

It is not possible to name the source of the cesium-137. Cullen said, naming atmospheric weapons tests as responsible for the “vast majority” of the isotope in the environment. There's also "an imprint" of cesium-137 in the Pacific from the Chernobyl disaster, he said.

The levels of radioactivity is a fraction of what is considered unsafe for consumption. “It's a thousand times below the maximum allowable level of cesium in our drinking water. It's still a very trace level,” Cullen said.

“Similar to 2014, none of the fish from 2015 analyzed thus far were found to contain detectable levels of c-134, a man-made radionuclide that serves as a fingerprint of the Fukushima disaster,” the study found.

C-137 has a longer half-life. But that “was already present in the Pacific Ocean prior to the Fukushima accident.”

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