I. Rainwater tests near Vancouver BC were already revealing highly elevated levels of iodine-131 in samples of rainwater and sea vegetables in late March. At that time, Simon Fraser nuclear scientist, Kris Sarostra, announced at a press conference and in a press release:
“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,” Starosta explains. “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.” The jet stream is carrying the radiation from Japan to North America. Most of the radioactivity disperses in the atmosphere and falls over the Pacific Ocean on its way over, but some of it has now reached the west coast, falling down with rain, and mixing with seawater. It’s also accumulating in seaweed. The rainwater tested was collected at SFU’s campus on Burnaby Mountain and in downtown Vancouver, while seaweed samples were collected in North Vancouver near the Seabus terminal. Researchers began monitoring rainwater earlier this month but did not see the signature for iodine-131 in samples taken March 16 and March 18. However, they did detect the radioisotope’s signature in samples from March 19, 20 and 25. Here are the results from the tests (measured in decays of iodine-131 per second per litre of rainwater – Bq/l):All of that concern was before the two more recent waves of heavier concentrations of radiation wafted over the North Pacific in early April, and this week. I can't find any information in the media or at government web sites about current concerns on radiation levels in Alaska. I'll update if or when I do. II. Meanwhile, the earthquake, tsunami and disruption in Japan will be the lead topic at the 2011 ComFish Alaska trade show in Kodiak:
“The only possible source of iodine-131 in the atmosphere is a release from a nuclear fission,” says Starosta. “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 and his team of SFU researchers – Rachel Ashley, Aaron Chester, Svetlana Avramova and Ken Myrtle – will continue monitoring iodine-131 levels. Seaweed samples taken from Barkley Sound on Vancouver Island’s west coast are also being tested. Starosta predicts iodine-131 will be detected in B.C. 3-4 weeks after the Fukushima nuclear reactor stops releasing radioactivity into the atmosphere.
- March 18: 0 (2) Bq/l
- March 19: 9 (2) Bq/l
- March 20: 12 (2) Bq/l
- March 25: 11 (2) Bq/l
The tragedy in Japan will likely be the talk of Alaska's fishing capital April 14 to April 16 as Kodiak hosts the annual ComFish Alaska trade show. The March 11 quake devastated Japan's northeast coast, killing thousands of people and destroying the major infrastructure in and around the fishing hub of Sendai. Radiation fears continue as the nuclear crisis at Fukushima has yet to be contained. Alaska's herring roe season is just under way, and the pollock fleet is harvesting a quota that is 50 percent higher than last year, at more than 1.2 million metric tons. Japan imports nearly all of Alaska's herring roe, 50 percent of its pollock roe and is a major market for surimi, produced in blocks from pollock and used for a variety of items such as imitation crab legs. There is still tremendous uncertainty about the logistics of delivering to Japanese ports, whether the reprocessing facilities are operating and if demand for higher-end products like herring roe and king crab will be affected. The yen also has come off its 16-year high against the dollar and was at a six-month low as of April 6, which still gives the Japanese good buying power for now. However, if the trend continues and the yen further weakens, that will mean lower prices to Alaska fishermen who enjoyed high prices for salmon last year and a near-record price of $7.25 per pound of king crab. The Japanese crisis and its affect on the Alaska economy will be one of several fishing forums, including a visit from U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, at the Best Western Harbor Room taking place alongside the trade show across the street at the Harbor Convention Center.