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Experts Discuss Fukushima and Radioactivity in the Ocean


March 11, 2015

The Aquarium hosted a live webcast and debuted a new show about Fukushima and ocean radiation on March 11, the fourth anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan that damaged the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The subsequent meltdown and explosions at the plant caused the largest accidental release of radioactivity into the ocean in history. In the webcast, experts discussed naturally occurring radiation present in the environment to give context to the amount of radiation present since Fukushima.

Dr. Ken Buesseler, a senior scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, served as an expert spokesperson during the webcast, providing updates on ocean radiation levels and safety. He was also the key collaborator for the Aquarium’s new show, Fukushima and Our Radioactive Ocean. The show, created for display on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Science on a Sphere®, will now play daily in the Aquarium’s Ocean Science Center. Dr. Buesseler organized the first oceanographic expedition to the region following the Fukushima disaster and has done subsequent field work in the area. He is also the creator of OurRadioactiveOcean.org, which documents the efforts of citizen scientists collecting ocean water samples along the U.S. West Coast for analysis at Woods Hole.

Dr. Buesseler described ongoing monitoring efforts in Japan and the United States to measure radioactive isotopes present in ocean water and fish since the Fukushima disaster. He stated that levels of radioactivity in the ocean off the U.S. West Coast and Hawaii as well as in seafood reaching the U.S. since Fukushima are not a threat to public health. The amount of radiation someone on the U.S. West Coast would be exposed to by swimming in the ocean every day is still one thousand times less than what you would be exposed to by getting X-rays taken at the dentist’s office, according to Dr. Buesseler. Any Japanese fisheries found to be contaminated with radioactivity have been closed, preventing them from reaching market, and radioactive isotopes found in species of fish that migrate between Japan and the U.S. have been flushed out during the 5,000-mile journey across the Pacific Ocean, he said.

Video of the full webcast is available for viewing here: