Radioactive Contaminants From Fukushima Found As Far North As Alaska’s Bering Straits

Natural disasters can happen anytime, there is no choice but to deal with the aftermath. Even scarier is that many of them happen suddenly without warning. Some disasters are the worst things where Mother Nature has to offer. As an example, when a tsunami hit a nuclear power plant back in 2011. Eight years on and the effects are still being felt, even in a place far away from where it happened.

The Tsunami’s Long Lasting Effects

The Great East Japan Earthquake of magnitude 9.0 at 2.46 pm on Friday 11 March 2011 did considerable damage in the region, and the large tsunami it created caused very much more. The earthquake was centered 130 km offshore the city of Sendai in Miyagi prefecture on the eastern coast of Honshu. Japan moved a few meters east and the local coastline subsided half a meter. The tsunami inundated about 560 sq km and resulted in a human death toll of about 19,000 and much damage to coastal ports and towns, with over a million buildings destroyed or partly collapsed.

However, due to The 9.0-magnitude quake and tsunami triggered meltdowns at three of the Fukushima Daiichi plant’s six reactors, spewing radiation into the air, soil, and ocean and forcing 160,000 residents to flee. Now it has been found that these substances have in fact drifted as far north as waters off a remote Alaska island in the Bering Strait.
After examining seawater that was collected last year close to St. Lawrence Island, experts have exposed a minor elevation in levels of radioactive cesium-137 which is attributable to the Fukushima disaster, says the University of Alaska Fairbanks Sea Grant program.

Bering Strait Land Bridge
Bering Strait Land Bridge

Isn’t that unsafe?

Even though the cesium is elevated for the area, the recently detected Fukushima radiation was little. The level of cesium-137, that is a byproduct of nuclear fission, in the seawater was just four-tenths as high as traces of the isotope which are obviously found in the Pacific Ocean. Such levels have no health risk according to authorities, which is a significant point for people living on the Bering Sea coast who live purely on food caught in the ocean.
So how safe is this isotope?

According toU.S. Environmental Protection Agency, drinking water standards, cesium-137 levels some 3,000 times higher than those found in the Bering Sea are considered safe for human consumption.

Long Term Study

According to REUTERS, Throughout this study, water has been tested for more than a few years by Eddie Ungott, a resident of Gambell village on the northwestern tip of St. Lawrence Island. While the island is technically part of the state of Alaska, it is physically nearer to Russia than to the Alaska mainland and many residents are mostly Siberian Yupik with relatives in Russia.

Recently, St. Lawrence Island sample of water was tested by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the only other known indication of Fukushima radiation in the Bering Sea was detected in 2014 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

White Orcas in the Bering Sea.
White Orcas in the Bering Sea.

Scientists found trace amounts of Fukushima radiation in muscle tissue of fur seals on Alaska’s St. Paul Island in the southern Bering Sea. That time, there was no testing of the water there, only the animals.

Citizens in St. Lawrence Island, had expected Fukushima radionuclides to arrive finally. Due to the way the currents work, the water from the south is finally brought up and it occurred to bring the radiation with it.

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