Radiation contamination from the Fukushima Daiichi power plant disaster has been discovered in Alaska’s Bering Strait, researchers said on Wednesday.
Scientists analyzed seawater that was gathered near St. Lawrence Island and determined from raised levels of Cesium-137 that they had found the northern edge of the radiation plume that began leaking into the Pacific Ocean after the plant’s nuclear meltdown in 2011, Reuters reported.
The levels, however, are low enough not to cause a health risk to those living on the Bering Sea coast who survive off of food caught in the area, Gay Sheffield, a Sea Grant marine advisory agent based in Nome, Alaska, said.
In addition, officials from the Environmental Protection Agency said that drinking water with Cesium-137 levels that are 3,000 times higher than those discovered in the Alaskan seawater is considered safe for human consumption under EPA standards.
The results come from samples collected by Eddie Ungott, a resident of Gambell, which is located on St. Lawrence Island.
The discovery was not a surprise to residents in the area, who expected the radiation would eventually make its way to them because of how ocean currents flow, Sheffield said.
Cesium-137 is a byproduct of nuclear fission, and exposure to high levels it can cause burns, radiation sickness, and, in some cases, death. Moreover, exposure to the radioisotope can increase the risk for cancer due to high-energy gamma radiation, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In 2016, radiation was detected off the coast of Oregon and in Canadian salmon caught in the area, reported The Statesman Journal. Researchers said the levels were low enough not to pose a threat to the population or the environment.
The Fukushima Daiichi power plant experienced three nuclear meltdowns after a tsunami and subsequent earthquake hit off of Japan’s east coast in 2011. Three reactor buildings exploded, releasing tons of radiated water into the ocean. That water, known as the “Fukushima plume,” has slowly been making its way across the Pacific Ocean. As The Inquisitr reported last year, radiation “signatures” from the meltdown were detected in wines made in California. Levels were low and not considered to be a health hazard.
Airborne contamination was also a concern. Nine days after the disaster, a radioactive cloud made its way to North America, researchers wrote in the Journal of Environmental Monitoring. Radiation was also detected in rain samples, drinking water, grass, and milk, the study reported. Again, researchers noted that all levels of radiation were low and not a health risk to the public.