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Fukushima Radiation: None Detected Yet on California Coast

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Steven Manley a marine biology professor at California State University, Long Beach, is one of the founders of Kelp Watch 2014.

Steven Manley, a marine biology professor at California State University, Long Beach, is one of the founders of Kelp Watch 2014. (CSU Long Beach)

Radiation from the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan has not reached the California coastline, according to new results from tests on kelp. Scientists monitoring kelp forests on the West Coast announced the results on Wednesday.

Kelp forests in the ocean are like sponges. They suck up what’s in the water around them. So scientists with a project called Kelp Watch 2014 are testing kelp from Baja California up to Alaska for cesium-134, one of the radioactive isotopes from Fukushima.

And so far, says Kai Vetter, a nuclear scientist at the University of California, Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, there’s no cesium-134. He just got the results back from kelp collected in February and March.

“But the expectation is even if we find cesium or other isotopes that we can associate to Fukushima, the concentration we expect, again, will be extremely small,” he said.

In his tests, Vetter did find cesium-137, another radioactive isotope. That, he says, was left behind after atmospheric weapons tests. Scientists expect to eventually see cesium-137 from Fukushima, too, but that Cs-137 wouldn’t be here without the Cs-134, Vetter explained.

The Kelp Watch 2014 team will continue gathering kelp to test for radiation. In addition to being a public service, Vetter said, the study presents the possibility of learning more about ocean currents.

Vetter said once the radiation does get here, it will not pose a threat to people, plants or animals. Scientists expect the radiation to arrive sometime this spring or summer.

Vetter also posts air monitoring information on radiation from sensors in Berkeley. And the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute has a program to test ocean water for Fukushima radiation.

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Category: Environment, News, Physics

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About the Author ()

Molly Samuel joined KQED as an intern in 2007, and since then has worked here as a reporter, producer, director and blogger. Before becoming KQED Science’s Multimedia Producer, she was a producer for Climate Watch. Molly has also reported for NPR, KALW and High Country News, and has produced audio stories for The Encyclopedia of Life and the Oakland Museum of California. She was a fellow with the Middlebury Fellowships in Environmental Journalism and a journalist-in-residence at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center. Molly has a degree in Ancient Greek from Oberlin College and is a co-founder of the record label True Panther Sounds.
  • Barry

    I find this VERY hard to believe since its already been reported multiple times that radiation is being detected in both kelp and pacific ocean fish and other seafood! I recommend that anyone concerned about the pacific fish they have been eating to consider doing a radiation detox with the detox mineral called zeolite that has been proven and used to remove both radiation and heavy metals from the human body with great success! For more information on how this detox works do an online search for the single word Zeolite.

    • Bruce

      Apparently, dandelion is also a powerful heavy metal chelater – gets rid of heavy metals in the system. Worth looking into (also an effective liver cleanser, among other things).

      • Barry

        Yes I have heard about Dandelions being a detox. However Zeolite holds onto the heavy metals all the way out of the body without releasing any toxins back into the body as plant and clay detoxes do!

        • Bruce

          Thanks for that Barry. I actually have a bottle of Zeolite, but I haven’t used it yet. Dandelion is supposed to be the fourth most nutritious food in the world, but who knows.

          Cheers.

    • Mike O’Brien

      Where is this proof Borey? It sure isn’t on your website where you sell zeolite.
      And you do realize that radioactive material is ALWAYS in seafood and kelp. It has been there since the first kelp plant and the first sea creature millions of years ago.

  • Chernobyl Children Fukushima C

    Soil samples taken? Where? How deep? How often? How much? Beta Gamma Activity Monitors used? Range? Up to 20 Bq / Kg or 1,000,000 Bq per Kg? Phoswich used for Alpha? You can not talk about Atoms so simple. They know no borders. And Cesium 137 a Beta AND Gamma emitters, with a full biological decay time of over 300 years (= 10 Generations) is WATER SOLUBLE. Do not trust the University of California, Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. They are basically paid by the Nuke Industry. Take Soil Samples and measure on your own. They media is irradiated to it’s head.

  • Kuro Neko

    wow the tuna of the coast is radioactive but nothing else is XD talk about cover up… there’s radiation from fukushima in Europe still they claim none in California, please. -_-

  • Bruce

    I’m afraid this story has done nothing else but set off the bullshit detectors with flashing red lights. Iodine-131 was detected in Burnaby, B.C. about a week after Fukushima blew. Plutonium has been detected on the West Coast. Why just test for Cs-137? What about the other known killers: Strontium-89 and 90 (bone-seekers), Cobalt-60, Americium-241, Uranium-235, Plutonium-239 and the hundreds of other highly-dangerous isotopes? Seals and starfish and whales are dying in huge numbers.

    Please don’t take us for fools. People are getting VERY angry about this kind of disinformation – it doesn’t serve anyone (except the psycopathic killers who benefit from it – Forbes.com being one of them).

    • Mike O’Brien

      And that I-131 all decayed away 2 years ago. Looks like you need to get yoru bullshit detector adjusted.

  • Gulf Disaster Relief

    this writer is SO full of crap! Hey I want to see Molly eat some kelp in a fresh-salmon roll. Seriously, if you actually the manure you are peddling, then post a picture of that!

  • A man with no name

    lies by our mainstream media liars.

  • tre babauta

    I don’t trust these scientists in saying that radiation is safe. Since when is radiation safe for us? Knowing that it’s coming to our coastline, why let people keep going into the water? Even though it’s not here yet, it’d be smart and safer to keep people out of the ocean until it’s absolutely safe. I’m not sure if I can trust these “scientists”. It’s hard to believe that radiation isn’t harmful to us. I’ll be sure to tell my family to stay out of the ocean because of this article and articles before.

  • Alexis Rodriguez Salcedo

    It is good that we are doing something about this situation. It was smart that the scientist checked the kelp. I’m glad we are doing something about this problem. I’m thinking about becoming a biologist so this is good research for me. Maybe one day I’ll be working on this. Good thing that the radiation isn’t too strong. It’s good that we won’t be affected. Not on a large scale. Hopefully it won’t affect our ecosystem. Hopefully it won’t spread. We need to prevent things like this in the future. We have the technology and brain power to achieve this.

  • Diana Custodio

    It’s really interesting to read that we are relying on kelp to tell us if we are going to be radiation free. I agree with previous comments, we can’t talk about atoms so simply. Also we haven’t found it YET? maybe we are looking in the wrong places? Or not looking well enough. Are the tests of these kelp samples trustworthy? Shouldn’t we be also testing fishes or other things in the sea? Also why are we so sure that it wouldn’t be so harmful when it does reach us?? I think it’s a smart idea that they are testing the kelp but I just don’t feel as if it’s enough. Radiation could be the downfall of us so I don’t see why we shouldn’t panic.

  • Justin David

    So if the radiation will in spring, then people are in danger. Spring is a warm season that make people want to go out to the beach and do water activities. Now people who are active in the water will get radiation in the their body. Also with the kelp, fish eat kelp and we eat fish.So what this means is that we are eating contaminated fish.Who knows what this will do to us. The person may get sick, disease, mutate, or even get cancer. This situation is a life deciding one.Its life threatening. Once it does hit the coast,people aren’t allowed to go near a beach or they will get contaminated. So in spring or in summer, STAY AWAY FROM BEACHES!!

  • Leo Bautista

    We shouldn’t be afraid of going into the water. We should be able to go swimming in the ocean without having to word about radiation. If the radiation reaches the coast, we can be in big trouble. A lot of people can be harmed by this. People could even get cancer from the radiation. The fish that we eat can be contaminated with radiation. The scientist say the radiation will not harm us. Even though that might be true, the radiation could get to a higher level over time. I think it was a good idea to test the kelp. Since kelp absorbs the things in the ocean, they can see how much radiation there is. I think it was a good idea for the scientists to do this. The radiation problem should be stopped!

  • Arelina Centeno

    My main concern is that if it doesn’t cause radiation or harm when it gets here how will we know that it won’t later on in the future? Can we just assume the water will be non harmful forever. I find that hard to believe. This radiation could potentially lead to cancer or something even unknown of. I believe some really careful research should be done in this.

  • Berenice Leon

    I’m glad scientist are actually doing something about this problem. I find the kelp project to be very useful and a smart idea. But this still leaves me with a question. How do they know it won’t affect later on in the future? Yes, it might be a small amount of radiation but what if more starts coming towards the west coast. Scientist should find a way to get all the radiation out the water because it’s still dangerous regardless the amount. The ocean should be a fun place to spend time or go swimming. But now with radiation in the water, people are going to distance themselves from it. There not going to put there lives at risk of contaminating radiation. If these scientist were expecting the radiation to arrive this spring or summer of 2014, they should know by now. This radiation problem should be stopped now, before it gets out of hand.

  • lester lavaro

    The kelp is a great idea. Using the kelp to suck in the radiation in the water is cery smart. If anything, if theres no mire kelp, use cotton or something. I don’t wanna yet. Im pretty sure everyone doesn’t wanna die yet also. And dieing from radiation is boring. The kelp will surely help in our favor. If the radition poses no threat then just let it go. If we were ment to die then we die. The scientist are using the kelp’s life to replace it with radiation is fine. I think we should use humans too. We’re pretty overpopulated. We should sacrafice some people so everyone gets a chance.

  • Estrella Estrada

    I find it very smart how they are using the kelp to help them detect the radiation in the California Coast. But yet i do not feel safe going into the water reading about how radiation has been detected in other places. I believe that we should test other things like the fishes or any other thig under the ocean or sea to be even more sure. I do think that the radiation will reach it some time in the future. It might not be now but it will be later. Eventhough we have a lot of great scientist out there i still do not feel safe about this situation. I think that the scientist should start looking way more into it to stop this problem before it is to late and has spread everywhere because imagine how devastated childrens would be not being able to have fun in the oceans. We should bring this to an end.

  • April Magbual

    It’s good that scientist are using kelp to test radiation. It’s really smart because kelps are use to suck up whats around the water and its a good way to test if radiation occured in that area. Kelps aren’t even really use by people so its really smart how scientist use them. As I said in the other article, scientist should think about on what they use to test things especially if they are dangerous. Some scientist only really cares about what their testing and the results, They dont think about the problems or the effects of it. Scientist shouldnt just use kelps because what if fishes need them?

  • Guadalupe Ochoa

    I like how kelp forests are like sponges. I like that the scientists are using the kelp to check if there is any radiation in the ocean. Even though they didn’t find any cesium-134, they did find cesium-137. Nuclear scientist Kai Vetter said that cesium-137 wouldn’t be here without cesium-134. I’m not sure I quite understand that statement. To me it seems that there IS cesium-134 in the oceans. Maybe they haven’t really realized that. It’s probably hard to detect. I believe that these scientists should continue on with their investigations on this current issue. They say this study will also benefit them in learning more about oceans. That’s pretty cool. Perhaps they will find something amazing. An outstanding discovery.

  • Ricardo Nol

    leo bautista ,in your paragraph i agree in some parts , but in some i dont such as when you say we don’t have to be afraid of water !!!!!! i agree in what you say, but i think its not safe to go on the water because if the radiation attaches to you you will get cancer.if you think it this way the radiation is still going to mix with the water.this radiation is a threat to animals like birds and fishes and maybe other sea animals .we need to stop this by purifying all the contaminated areas .You are right in the way you say we need to stop this NOW because if we don’t stop it we will get cancer just by eating any other fish like the tuna .They should use the kelp method to clean the dirty water thought harming any sea creatures. in my perspective, if america wants to stay cleaned they should do more work than usual working on this problem . I am happy in the way the scientists invented the kelp theory because without it ,it can cause other incurable diseases.in your perspective, they should stop this problem .the people who did this mistake can go to jail for a long time just for an accident that can cause 1000s of deaths .i hope californias coast doesent get polluted and i thin they shuld stop it .leo bautista , all in all your comment says true things talking about this problem.