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Fukushima Radiation Helps Scientists Model Future Disasters

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Collecting sea water samples in Santa Cruz.. Photo: Courtesy of http://www.ourradioactiveocean.org/

Collecting sea water samples in Santa Cruz.. Photo: Courtesy of http://www.ourradioactiveocean.org/

By Melissae Fellet | KUSP News

The ocean is calm on the Sunday in April when surfers and activists gather on Pleasure Point to test the water for radiation.One places a plastic case and a 5-gallon jar on the end of his surfboard, paddles out beyond those waiting to catch a wave, and fills the jar with water.

“We’d like to do three to four samples a year,” says Robin Brune, a resident of Felton. “This is just the first one.”

Brune says her heart grew heavy when she learned about the radiation coming from Japan. “Santa Cruz is so much about surfing and [I wondered] what would it be like, what would our lifestyle, what would our city be like if it was not safe to surf,” she says.

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Fukushima in Fish

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"Fish from Ueno market" (in Japan) Photo: Gideon/malias-flickr

“Fish from Ueno market” (in Japan) Photo: Gideon/malias-flickr

By Melissae Fellet | KUSP News

Wind Euler is with the group MamaBears Against Nukes in Arizona. In April, she spoke to a community group in Santa Cruz County about exposure to low levels of radiation. Eating contaminated fish, Euler says, carries more risk than swimming in lightly contaminated water.

“Maybe eating one fish, might not hurt,” she says. “But if you keep on eating fish and keep on eating fish, you get a chronic internal exposure. And that’s where the danger lies.”

Concerns over contaminated seafood arose about five months after the Fukushima disaster, when bluefin tuna caught off the coast of San Diego contained radioactive cesium released during the accident. Ken Buesseler studies marine radiochemistry at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts. He explains how the US Food and Drug Administration sets safety standards for an acceptable amount of radiation in fish destined for market.

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Testing Our Radioactive Coast

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Community activists gather in Live Oak to take the first of what they hope will be several periodic samples of ocean water to monitor radiation from Fukushima. Photo: Melissae Fellet

Community activists gather in Live Oak to take the first of what they hope will be several periodic samples of ocean water to monitor radiation from Fukushima. Photos: Melissae Fellet

By Melissae Fellet | KUSP News

Scientists predict that radioactivity from the Fukushima nuclear disaster three years ago could reach the west coast this year. There’s no government monitoring of radioactivity in the ocean, so researchers are teaming up with citizens and groups along the West coast to do sampling.

As the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant developed, radioactive water streamed into the Pacific Ocean, where it mixed with the Kuroshio Current, a strong current moving from Japan, into the ocean just south of the major releases.

Ken Buesseler studies marine radioactivity at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts. He’s running a program to measure the amount of radiation from Fukushima that reaches the West Coast. That information helps scientists track how ocean currents transport and dilute the radioactive particles.

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