Fukushima Radiation A Threat In America?

Radiation from the recent nuclear disaster in Fukushima could be making its way to the American Pacific coast.

As a result of a 9.0 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Fukushima, Japan, in March of 2011, a tsunami wiped out the power grid at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant complex, turning off cooling pumps and causing meltdowns in three reactors. This caused large quantities of radioactive contaminated water to pour into the sea, which could eventually make its way to other shores.

According to KGW.com,tests have been conducted on the coast of Oregon to determine if the radiation is posing a substantial threat to humans and wildlife in America. Oregon's coast is a major tourist attraction, but if the Fukushima radiation has made it across the Pacific and onto American shores, people could stop visiting altogether.

"'We've been worried about it and worried about it,' said Zac Adams, head of Bandon Designs construction company. 'We're really concerned about [radiation] affecting the fisheries, the wildlife, the tourism, and most importantly our health.'"

The Statesman Journal reported that Adams took part in a citizen-science project to crowd-fund local citizens in order to test samples from the Oregon coastline to check for dangerous levels of radiation.

The following chart shows various recommended levels of radiation for humans per year, as well as levels found in various locations across the globe.

Recorded levels of radiation across the globe.

Another effort to check for Fukushima contamination is being enacted by the Tillamook Estuaries Partnership. The group began taking water samples from the ocean at Pacific City to determine if there was any amount of radiation present from the Fukushima meltdown.

"'The predicted modeling shows that we should start to see it coming along our coastline at very low levels,' said Lisa Phipps, executive director of the Tillamook Estuaries Partnership. 'When we took this on, it wasn't to incite any kind of fear in people. It is a data collection effort... Over the last year-and-a-half, it's been an issue that's been raising in prominence along the coastline. In our area, there have been groups that have been coming together to talk about what is happening in the ocean.'"

According to WebProNews, Phipps has partnered with a chemical oceanographer at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution named Ken Buesseler to start the project "How Radioactive is Our Ocean?" The project will crowd-source funds to collect samples along the coast to test for radiation. Each test costs $550 to $600, but Buesseler and Phipps believe it is worth every penny.

"'There's a dismissive argument that well, the levels [of radiation] are pretty low, so why bother,' said Buesseler. 'The counter to that is it's good to confirm low numbers. You build public confidence. And we can use the data to model ocean currents for the next time.'"