News / USA

    Donors Pay to Test Seawater for Traces of Fukushima Radiation

    FILE - The sun sets down at the Point Vicente Park on the Pacific Ocean in Palos Verdes, Calif. U.S. Enviromental Protection Agency rank the ocean among the most hazardous places in the country.
    FILE - The sun sets down at the Point Vicente Park on the Pacific Ocean in Palos Verdes, Calif. U.S. Enviromental Protection Agency rank the ocean among the most hazardous places in the country.
    Tom Banse

    It has been more than three years since the Fukushima nuclear plant accident resulted in a spill of millions of gallons of radioactive cooling water into the Pacific.  Oceanographers projected it could take until this year for highly diluted traces of that spill to cross the ocean and reach the West Coast of North America. Radiation experts do not believe there is cause for alarm on American shores, but some coastal residents are stepping forward to pay for seawater testing just to be sure.

    The presence or absence of Fukushima radiation in the water can hardly be more personal than it is for open water swimmer Wayne Kinslow of Seattle.

    Testing the waters

    "I just love the water.  I go out, it is great exercise," said Kinslow. He swims about 20 minutes per day in chilly Puget Sound.  So he willingly paid more than $500 for an independent water test.  It did not detect any radiation from the nuclear plant.

    "This was something that was really important to me because I am out there every day and I do not really want to die.  So it is best to test the water and this is my chance.  As soon as we got an opportunity, I just threw all my money at it for the first sample," he explained.

    Kinslow is not the only one willing to pay big bucks for reassurance.  High school art teacher Terry Waldron is raising money to test the waters near her family’s property in Newport, Oregon. "For a while, I thought about not eating fish.  I cannot do that," she said. "But I was so concerned because I could not find information.  I do eat fish, I do.  But I still want that test done."

    Waldron and Kinslow signed on to a crowd-funded radiation monitoring project called Our Radioactive Ocean.  Managed by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, it is collecting donations for testing at about 30 sites from California to Alaska.

    Waldron and Kinslow say it is a lot of work and slow going to get others to contribute to this cause.  That might have something to do with the fact that scientists and government agencies have been consistent in saying not to worry.

    No indication of excessive radiation

    In their monitoring, scientists look for the nuclear "fingerprint" of the Fukushima reactor,  a combination of two isotopes of cesium.

    "With the samples that we have taken along the West Coast, we do not see anything of concern.  We do not expect to see anything," said Kathy Higley. Higley is professor of Radiation Health Physics at Oregon State University.

    "It has diluted.  It has decayed.  It has dispersed.  My husband and I take our kids to the coast all the time.  We are not at all concerned about it.  We eat seafood.  We are not concerned about it," she added.

    She said graduate students in her department are looking for Fukushima radiation, but not out of fear, rather out of academic and scientific interest.  Isotopes released in the accident can be used as tracers to study ocean circulation and fish migration.  This summer, one of Higley's students collected seawater samples and various fish on a research cruise off the Washington state and Oregon coasts.  Delvan Neville is now analyzing them.

    The samples go into a really, really sensitive detector covered in lead bricks.  They have to sit inside the chamber for days to generate a result.

     "It takes a long time to count it - one, because there is so little activity present.  Even in the worst case model, there may be just a few Becquerels [measure of radioactivity] at most of cesium 137 on the detector," Neville stated.

    Normal levels

    For perspective, Neville said it helps to remember we are surrounded by low levels of natural radiation. "Several seconds in a stuffy basement was a larger dose than consuming a year's worth of albacore [tuna].  People are not aware of all the things around them that are radioactive," she said. "They do not consider themselves radioactive."

    State public health agencies are also testing seawater for Fukushima contamination.  Oregon results show nothing abnormal.  Washington's latest results are pending.  But it seems these efforts have not fully penetrated the public consciousness.

    Enough people called marine chemist Ken Buesseler at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute seeking assurances that he started a citizen science testing program.  That is the Our Radioactive Ocean project, which the swimmer and the art teacher we heard from earlier donated to.

    "Given this concern and the numerous requests for information, I just decided if we could do this with crowd-funding, we could do this quickly and get people the information they want and basically let them select their beach - their favorite site - for analysis," stated Buesseler.

    Another project uses seaweed as a radiation detector. Kelp Watch has expanded from its genesis at several California universities to include sampling for cesium off the Washington coast and Canada’s Vancouver Island.  Brown seaweeds are known to concentrate cesium, strontium and iodine into their tissues, but all of the kelp fronds processed to date showed no signs of Fukushima radiation.

    You May Like

    Turkey, US Splits Deepen Over Support for Kurdish Militants

    Ankara summons American ambassador to protest remarks by State Department spokesman who said Washington does not consider Syria's Kurdish Democracy Union Party (PYD) a terrorist organization

    Obama Seeking $19 Billion for National Cybersecurity

    Move, touted as attempt to build broad, cohesive federal response to cyberthreats, calls for increase in cybersecurity spending across all government agencies

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire, who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clownsi
    X
    February 09, 2016 8:04 PM
    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay Prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Middle East Affairs and national security.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.