Kelp study finds no ocean-borne Fukushima radiation

May 08, 2014 by Rick Gloady
A graduate student in the marine biology program at Cal State Long Beach collects kelp in the waters off of Long Beach during Kelp Watch 2014’s initial collection of samples. Credit: David J. Nelson/Cal State Long Beach

(Phys.org) —Scientists working together on Kelp Watch 2014 announced today that the West Coast shoreline shows no signs of ocean-borne radiation from Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster, following their analysis of the first collection of kelp samples along the western U.S. coastline.

Kelp Watch 2014 is a project that uses coastal kelp beds as detectors of radioactive seawater arriving from Fukushima via the North Pacific Current. It is a collaborative effort led by Steven Manley, marine biology professor at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB), and Kai Vetter, head of applied nuclear physics at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and a nuclear engineering professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

The new results are from samples primarily collected from Feb. 24 through March 14.

During the first phase of the project, samples were taken from 38 of the 44 sites originally identified, and the data being presented comes from an analysis of 28 of the 38 sites represented.

"Our data does not show the presence of Fukushima radioisotopes in West Coast Giant Kelp or Bull Kelp," Manley said. "These results should reassure the public that our coastline is safe, and that we are monitoring it for these materials. At the same time, these results provide us with a baseline for which we can compare samples gathered later in the year."

The samples analyzed to date were gathered from as far north as Kodiak Island, Alaska, to as far south as Baja California. Two sites in the tropics—Hawaii and Guam, where non-kelp brown algae were sampled (kelps are not found in the tropics)—were also negative for Fukushima radiation.

"The samples of greatest concern were those from the north, Alaska to Washington State, where it is thought the radioactive water will first make contact with North America," Manley continued. "The tell-tale isotopic signature of Fukushima, Cs-134, was not seen, even at the incredibly low detection limits provided by Dr. Vetter's group at the Berkeley Lab and UC Berkeley."

Vetter added, "We will also publish results of naturally occurring radiation sources, such as those associated with the decay of uranium and thorium, to help provide context to our findings on radioisotopes Cs-134 and Cs-137 from Fukushima."

Although initiated as a California-centric endeavor with 30 sites, Kelp Watch 2014 has steadily grown to include many sites along the of North America and beyond. Manley noted that the project also has Giant Kelp from Chile in South America that will serve as a reference site, far removed from any potential influence from Fukushima.

Information about the procedures and results, including the results of the first samples' analyses, are available to the public at kelpwatch.berkeley.edu. The researchers will continually update the website for public viewing as more samples arrive and are analyzed, including samples from Canada.

"Because the Pacific Northwest may be ground zero for its arrival, we will be receiving monthly samples from the west and southern coastline of Vancouver Island (Canada)," Manley explained. "One of the goals of Kelp Watch 2014 is to keep the public informed, to let them know we are on top of this event, and to document the amount of Fukushima radiation that enters our kelp forest ecosystem."

The second of the three 2014 sampling periods is scheduled to begin in early July.

Explore further: Researchers launch 'kelp watch' to determine extent of Fukushima contamination

More information: For more photos, and videos of the project, go to: www2.csulb.edu/misc/video/kelpwatch.html

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

How radioactive is our ocean?

Jan 15, 2014

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) marine chemist Ken Buesseler began sampling and analyzing seawater surrounding the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant three months after the 2011 disaster. ...

Scientists expect traces of ocean radiation soon

Mar 15, 2014

Scientists have crowdsourced a network of volunteers taking water samples at beaches along the U.S. West Coast in hopes of capturing a detailed look at low levels of radiation drifting across the ocean since ...

Stop marine pollution to protect kelp forests

Jul 17, 2013

(Phys.org) —University of Adelaide marine biologists have found that reducing nutrient pollution in coastal marine environments should help protect kelp forests from the damaging effects of rising CO2.

Recommended for you

'Shocking' underground water loss in US drought

Jul 24, 2014

A major drought across the western United States has sapped underground water resources, posing a greater threat to the water supply than previously understood, scientists said Thursday.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

barry_cohen_716
not rated yet May 11, 2014
WOW! Other articles said that the radiation did make it to the west coast and that the fish being caught without question had Fukushima radiation in them! Anyone eating Pacific Ocean fish or seafood should consider doing a radiation detox with the detox mineral called Zeolite that has been proven to safely remove both radiation and heavy metals from the human body! For more information do an online search for the single word Zeolite.