Japanese radiation reaches North Shore
Researchers from Simon Fraser University have found radiation in seaweed near North Vancouver’s Seabus Terminal, but say the discovery doesn’t pose any health risks to the public.
On Monday the team announced it had detected increased levels of the radioisotope iodine-131 in the seaweed. It was also found in rainwater samples collected last week in Burnaby and Vancouver.
The radiation, said SFU nuclear scientist Kris Starosta, is almost certainly a result of recent earthquake damage to the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear reactor in Japan.
“The only possible source of iodine-131 in the atmosphere is a release from a nuclear fission,” said Starosta in a press release Monday. “Iodine-131 has a half life of eight days, thus we conclude the only possible release which could happen is from the Fukushima incident.”
Starosta said the radiation has travelled across the ocean by way of a high-speed, high-altitude air current known as a jet stream.
Most of the radiation likely dispersed over the Pacific Ocean, but some has reached the west coast and is now falling with rain and mixing with seawater.
“As of now, the levels we’re seeing are not harmful to humans. We’re basing this on Japanese studies following the Chernobyl incident in 1986 where levels of iodine-131 were four times higher than what we’ve detected in our rainwater so far,” said Starosta.
“Studies of nuclear incidents and exposures are used to define radiation levels at which the increase in cancer risk is statistically significant. When compared to the information we have today, we have not reached levels of elevated risk.”
Starosta said his team will continue monitoring iodine-131 levels in the coming weeks, and noted they have expanded their sampling to the west coast of Vancouver Island as well.
He predicts iodine-131 will be detectable in B.C. for up to four weeks after the Japanese reactor stops releasing radioactivity.