Experts have been worrying about the global effects of radiation leaked from a nuclear plant in Fukushima since the 2011 disaster and these fears may finally be coming true. A team of scientists will be gathering kelp samples across the coast of California and they fear finding evidence to suggest that the radiation may have reached American shores.
During the 2011 Tohoku quake, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was damaged and started leaking radioactive materials into the surrounding regions. The incident was caused by a massive tsunami damaging the Fukushima 1 Nuclear Power plant, becoming that largest nuclear accident since the Chernobyl disaster back in 1986.
A 50-man team of scientists from different parts of North and South America will collect samples of kelp from the West Coast to look for evidence of radiation contamination. Once the samples are gathered, the team will run a number of tests to look for evidence of cesium-134 and cesium-137 isotopes. These isotopes are telltale signs of radiation contamination.
"We don't know if we're going to find a signal of the radiation," said San Diego State University Matt Edwards in a statement to a local San Diego news agency. "And I personally don't believe it'll represent a health threat if there is one. But it's worth asking whether there's a reason to be concerned about a disaster that occurred on the other side of the planet some time ago."
While the presence of cesium-134 and cesium-137 isotopes may be evidence that radiation from Fukushima, small amounts of these isotopes are known to be present in the ocean, so the exact amount of these isotopes will need to be monitored. Numerous nuclear power plants from around the world regularly release small amounts of these isotopes in the ocean. So a positive result should not be surprising. While there are many other isotopes associated with nuclear radiation, cesium isotopes are particularly dangerous because they can emit gamma rays that can pass through human skin. For now, scientists are cautiously awaiting the results of the study and the findings will dictate what course of action the US government will take to minimize the effects of radiation.