First Fukushima radiation detected in Ucluelet waters

A chemical oceanographer with the University of Victoria will be speaking at the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre April 14.

  • Apr. 10, 2015 6:00 p.m.

With scientists detecting the first trace amounts of radioactivity from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear meltdown in the waters off Ucluelet, B.C., public concern over contamination is top of mind, and that’s something Dr. Jay Cullen plans to address this Tuesday.

Cullen, a chemical oceanographer with the University of Victoria’s School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, will be speaking at the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre April 14 about the fallout from Fukushima, marine food source contamination and the expected arrival of the radioactive plume of seawater.

“Most of the members of the public that I speak with directly or through writing are concerned about the radio nucleotides in food,” said Cullen. “People are concerned about levels in the marine organisms that we eat. So far, we haven’t detected Fukushima elements in the fish that we’ve examined.”

The specific element Cullen and other scientists are watching for is cesium-134, the fingerprint of the Fukushima accident. Only found in manmade nuclear incidents, explained Cullen, cesium-134 has a two-year half life, and so traces of it from Chernobyl or weapons testing in earlier decades have long since decayed. Any found now is from the 2011 incident in Japan.

Cullen also heads up the InFORM project, a monitoring effort by academics, citizen scientists, governments and non-governmental organizations that has been collecting samples of seawater along B.C.’s coast since August 2014. InFORM has been working in concert with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Massachusetts to track the arrival of the radioactive seawater plume as it hits the west coast of Canada and the United States, and it was the WHOI that reported the detection of the first radiation levels.

According to the WHOI, the amount of cesium-134 in the Ucluelet waters does not represent any kind of health concern to the public.

In fact, the WHOI stated that even if a person swam in those waters for six hours a day for a year, the radiation would be less than 1/1000 of that of a dental X-ray.

With the public’s ingrained fear around radioactivity, Cullen’s focus is to make sure that the information that gets out is accurate and that’s the aim of his lecture on Tuesday.

“There’s a real demand from the public for quality information,” he said. “People find out all these outlandish claims, and they want to know what the risks are to their family. There are some people who are very attentive to any news coming out of Japan, and are rightly concerned about what the risks are. But overall, most people here are concerned with this contaminated plume of seawater.”

Dr. Cullen’s lecture begins at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 14 at the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre, 9811 Seaport Place in Sidney. Admission is $15 for adults, $8 for youth 7 to 17, and free for members.

For more information on the project, visit fukushimainform.ca.

Just Posted

Ravens Crossing breaks ground on happy Hygge cohousing project

Speeches, music and a blessing as 80 people attend start of Danish-style development

Central Saanich police respond to 419 calls in July, including speeding motorcyclist

Police chase deemed too risky, biker tracked down the next day

‘Listen to your body:’ Saanich woman fights to have breast implants removed

Woman struggles to find doctor to remove Allergan textured implants, recently linked to rare cancer

Sidney salon closes citing persistent lack of staff

Housing, transit continue to affect workers on Saanich Peninsula

Saanich approves new eight- and 11-storey residence buildings for UVic

Residents also supported the environmentally friendly residences

VIDEO: Come along for the ride on Tour de Victoria

Reporter captures video footage of his Tour de Victoria ride

POLL: Should there be a ban on gas-powered leaf blowers?

We’ve all heard them, and most likely cursed them under our breath.… Continue reading

Greater Victoria wanted list for the week of Aug. 23

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Bodies of two missing Surrey men found near Ashcroft

Ryan Provencher and Richard Scurr have been missing since July 17

Pile of wood mulch ‘spontaneously combusts’ at Vancouver Island industrial site

Business owner thanks fire department for quick response

Five hedgehogs quickly adopted after being left at BC SPCA

Lucky new owners picked up their pets from Maple Ridge branch on Aug. 20

B.C. cricket players get interrupted by racist remark

Community has had protocols in place for years to respond to prejudice

Groovy B.C. wedding a throwback to Woodstock ‘69

Couple hosts themed wedding 50 years after legendary festival

Most Read