Fukushima fallout, what can Seward do?

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A report from the American Geophysical Union, Ocean Sciences Section, was released earlier this week. Current findings show that water-borne plume of “radiation from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster may reach the U.S. West Coast within weeks”. The cesium-134 laced fallout has steadily made its way across the Pacific Ocean via the Kuroshio current. Once it reaches North America, the plume will first travel along our Alaska coast and then down to British Columbia. It will continue down to California and out to Hawaii.

As of right now there is little data available to forecast whether this radioactive plume is hazardous enough to cause human or environmental harm to Pacific costal habitats. This data shortage is partially due to federal and state government agencies lacking the initiative to go out and monitor the situation. Dr. Ken Buesseler, a chemical oceanographer at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute summed up the situation in a recent interview. “The U.S. government should really be doing this kind of work but they’re not. We’ve gone to Washington, D.C. We talked to NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), but they don’t do radioactivity work. The Department of Energy has excellent facilities for radioactivity work, but they don’t study the ocean. So the only way this was getting done is if we went out there and did it.”

In mid January of this year Dr. Buesseler launched a citizen fueled research project How Radioactive Is Our Ocean. This project collects marine water samples along the Pacific coast from Alaska to California and analyzes them for the amounts of Fukushima radioisotope contaminants present. The study aims to generate hard data about the concentration and movement of the radioactive plume. This information can then be used to assess the health and environmental risks to communities in the fallout path.

This month Resurrection Bay Conservation Alliance (RBCA) joined in a partnership with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, Center for Marine and Environmental Radioactivity (CMER) to be part of this data collection project. So far it is one of three Alaska locations along with Kodiak Island and the Gulf of Alaska to do so. The project will comprise of three stages. First a five gallon water sample will be collected in or around Resurrection Bay. It will then be shipped to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts. There it will be analyzed for traces of Cesium-134 and Cesium-137. Results of the analysis will be posted on the program website along with the results of other participating locations.

Since this is an independent research project it is not getting any funding from government entities. The costs of sample shipping and analysis are paid by raising money from local communities and citizens who are interested in getting involved in finding out answers about the effects of the Fukushima radiation leaks. RBCA has already donated one hundred dollars to help cover the total project cost of six hundred dollars. In turn, CMER set up a donation link to raise the remainder of the necessary funding. If you are concerned and interested in the well being of our marine ecosystem here in Seward then please visit the project site listed below. It has lots of useful and interesting information about the project and how radiation potentially interacts with us and the natural environment. There is also a world map with posted results. If you like what you see there, please consider donating to the Seward, Alaska link and help get this project under way. All donations made will go directly to CMER and help complete the funding of the Seward branch project. These donations are fully tax deductible.



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As a thriving sea side Alaska community we all have a stake in the well being of our ocean and all living things in it. In order to sustain this well being, we need accurate information about potential hazards to be able to take a sound course of action when necessary. This project presents an opportunity for each of us to do our part to help keep our little bit of Alaska healthy and beautiful. We all need to help out and not wait for someone else to do it for us.

By: J. Bukac

9 Comments

  1. It’s a bit harsh to criticize the hard working people of the Federal Government as “lacking the initiative to go out and monitor the situation.” This paints the picture of public servants sitting back in their office and shrugging their shoulders when asked to help. This is unfair, the author should know better, and offer an apology to those who dedicate themselves to public service. These people do not work not for some big faceless bureaucratic machine but rather they work for all of us, including you bullwinkle97. Many of them are your neighbors right here in Seward and they deserve better from you.

    The actual problem, which bullwinkle97 defines later in the very same paragraph, is not one of gumption it is a lack of mandate. If the agency these public servants work for does not have the power or directive to do this kind of work it is not something they are justified to do. If this is an unsatisfactory situation for bullwinkle97 and their friends at Woods Hole, and it seems as if it is, then they have the power to change it. Simply, write their elected officials and ask them to change the legislation that governs these agencies. If that doesn’t work bullwinkle97 has the ultimate weapon, the ballot.

  2. Thank you RBCA for taking on this project. Thanks for caring about the health of Resurrection Bay and the folks that live here.

  3. bullwinkle97 says:

    On behalf of RBCA you are welcome Summer :)

  4. What can you do????Tuck your head between your legs and pray!

    • Praying might not hurt, it really depends on who you are. But if we find out there is increased radiation in our waters; then people who are more fragile to environmental poisons (pregnant women and growing children) may want to avoid eating anything caught in those waters.

      We need to know to what we are being exposed. Not having that knowledge is like tucking and praying.

  5. I am not normally a fan of RBCA. When a group of people do the right thing they must be applauded. Hats of to you sir (or madam). Fukushima is arguably the worst environmental catastrophe of our time. Independent groups of caring individuals have led the way to try to warn us of the danger. Governments have done nothing thus far. Japan and the United States seem to ignore the problem in hopes that it will disappear. I don’t think this article was meant to attack our public servants. But rather point out that nothing is being done. It makes me proud to see people take action to solve our problems. Before movie stars and athletes, people who took action were our heroes. When we all realized how much power we have as individuals we will live in a more peaceful and prosperous world. Thanks to people worldwide who are working on this tragedy.

  6. Pingback: Fukushima Monitoring Project off to Good Start!

  7. bullwinkle97 says:

    Thank you everyone in Seward who has taken an interest and generously helped out with the Fukushima Project. The project has received a lot of attention and interest about the well being of Resurrection Bay. So far, over half of the funding necessary has been raised for the proposed water sampling analysis. In addition, several new Alaska communities have decided to also register their local waters for this study. This will ultimately result in gathering more viable data to better assess any possible threat from radioisotope contamination of our local waters. The Resurrection Bay Conservation Alliance is aiming to perform a water sampling sometime in the in the near future. The resulting project data will be available through RBCA and also through the Center of Marine and Environmental Radiation. Again a big Thank You to everyone who is interested in and supporting this project !

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