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Fukushima Pacific Plume Reaches Predicted Levels

A press release from Woods Hole announced today that new radiation readings for the Pacific off the North American coast have reached new post Fukushima highs.

Scientists monitoring the spread of radiation in the ocean from the Fukushima nuclear accident report finding an increased number of sites off the US West Coast showing signs of contamination from Fukushima. This includes the highest detected level to date from a sample collected about 1,600 miles west of San Francisco. The level of radioactive cesium isotopes in the sample, 11 Becquerel’s per cubic meter of seawater (about 264 gallons), is 50 percent higher than other samples collected along the West Coast so far,

The related samples are as follows:

P353 Sample Date: Jun 09, 2015 12:00
Depth: 40 (m)
Cs134: 2.0 ± 0.2Bq/m3
Cs137: 9.4 ± 0.3Bq/m3

P323 Sample Date: Jun 06, 2015 12:00
Depth: 20 (m)
Cs134: 1.9 ± 0.1Bq/m3
Cs137: 9.1 ± 0.2Bq/m3

P293 Sample Date: Jun 04, 2015 12:00
Depth: 30 (m)
Cs134: 1.2 ± 0.2Bq/m3
Cs137: 6.9 ± 0.2Bq/m3

P279 Sample Date: Jun 02, 2015 12:00
Depth: 50 (m)
Cs134: 0.9 ± 0.2Bq/m3
Cs137: 5.0 ± 0.1Bq/m3

Also of note, Woods Hole has restored older radiation testing data to their public site after having previously removed it. 

Woods Hole’s press release cites the “cesium” as being 11 bq/ cubic meter. This appears to be combined cesium 137 and 134.

These numbers are within the potential range predicted by Rossi et al.

Driven by quasi-zonal oceanic jets, shelf waters north of 45 1N experience Cs-137 levels of 10 –30 Bq/m3 between 2014 and 2020, while the Californian coast is projected to see lower concentrations (10–20 Bq/m3) slightly later (2016–2025).

The levels found in July of 2015 were at 9.1 and 9.4 for the two highest cesium 137 readings. Reaching Rossi’s projection of 10-20 Bq/m3 of cesium 137 after the start of 2016 is certainly a distinct possibility.

This is of note as Rossi et al’s projections had been criticized by some as being impossibly high. It is worth noting that the release estimates in Rossi only used cesium 137 releases to the sea over the first month of the disaster. They do not include ongoing releases to the sea or fallout that deposited into the ocean from the air.

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