The Raincoast Education Society has partnered with the University of Victoria to carry out radionuclide sampling of sea water in Clayoquot Sound. This project is made possible with support from the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust and MEOPAR. Details of current and past monitoring programs are outlined below:

Overall Project Goals:

1)   Collect baseline data of radionuclides in ocean water in Clayoquot Sound.
2)   Disseminate radioactivity findings from sampling efforts to residents and visitors of the Clayoquot Sound region.
3)   Work with governments and universities to ensure findings from Clayoquot Sound are considered in public health risk assessments, and in ongoing research efforts.


Sea Water Sampling 2014-2016

In partnership with Dr. Jay Cullen at the University of Victoria, and Dr. Ken Buesseler at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the RES will collect monthly seawater samples from a defined location in Clayoquot Sound as part of the Fukushima InFORM Network. All samples are packaged and shipped directly to Dr. Cullen’s lab at the University of Victoria for Cs analysis. Clayoquot Sound will serve as one of six sites on the BC Coast collecting monthly sea water samples for Cs analysis.


 


Kelp Sampling 2014-2015

The Kelp Watch Program, developed and coordinated by Dr. Steven Manley (California State University-Long Beach) and Dr Kai Vetter (UC Berkeley), is an international, monitoring network designed to determine the extent of possible radionuclide contamination (primarily Cesium-137 & -134) of West Coast kelp forest ecosystems from seawater arriving from the FD-NPP (http://kelpwatch.berkeley.edu). The RES has been accepted as one of 3 Canadian participants in the Kelp Watch Program, which includes 37 sampling locations from Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, Mexico, Chile, Hawaii, and Guam. We will sample Giant Kelp (Macrocystis spp.) from Clayoquot Sound during three sampling periods in 2014. Samples will be dried, packed, and shipped directly to Dr Steven Manley’s lab at California State University - Long Beach.

Sampling periods are as follows:
Sample #1: Feb 24 through Mar 5 - RESULTS HERE
Sample #2: May 24 through May 31 - RESULTS HERE
Sample #3: Jul 1 through Jul 10 - RESULTS HERE
Sample #4: Dec1 through Jan 15 - RESULTS HERE


Project Background

On March 11, 2011 the magnitude 9.0 Tohoku earthquake and resulting tsunami led to meltdowns in three of six nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant (FD-NPP). Significant releases of radionuclides to the atmosphere and directly to the Pacific Ocean occurred (Buesseler et al. 2011 & 2012). Some of these radionuclides, when concentrated in seawater or in marine foodstuffs, could potentially pose environmental and public health risks on Canada’s west coast. Recreational and commercial harvesting of marine foodstuffs is central to the livelihoods and traditional rights of residents in the Clayoquot Sound region. With such a high-reliance on marine-derived foods (for personal consumption as well as commercial uses) there is an urgent, end-user demand for quality, timely, monitoring data that can be used to estimate public health risks associated with the presence of FD-NPP derived radionuclides in the marine environment and to minimize exposure of citizens to potentially harmful radiation.

Among the suite of radioactive isotopes released from FD-NPP are 134Cs (half-life 2.1 yr) and 137Cs (half-life 30 yr), which are useful tracers of radionuclide transport in the environment given the large quantities released and relatively conservative behaviour in seawater (Povinec et al. 2013). Due to the short half-life of 134Cs, the presence of 134Cs in an environmental sample is an unambiguous indicator of contamination from Fukushima.

A limited marine monitoring program was established by Fisheries and Oceans Canada shortly after the accident to detect the arrival of Fukushima radioactivity in the water columns of the eastern North Pacific and Arctic Ocean (Personal Communication: Dr Jay Cullen, Jan 2014). In the Pacific, water samples were collected in June, 2011, June, 2012 and June, 2013 along an onshore-offshore transect extending ~1500 km west of Victoria, BC for the extraction and detection of artificial radioactivity. While 137Cs concentrations were similar to background from 20th century atmospheric weapons tests, Cs measurements on water samples collected in June, 2012 at the most westward station showed the presence of 134Cs at 0 m and 50 m at levels (0.2 Bq m-3) indicating the presence of contamination from the Fukushima nuclear reactor accident. In June 2013, the presence of Fukushima 134Cs was observed along the entire length of the transect including waters on the Canadian continental shelf.

References

Buesseler, K., Aoyama, M. & Fukasawa, M. Impacts of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plants on Marine Radioactivity. Environmental Science & Technology 45, 9931-9935, doi:10.1021/es202816c (2011).

Buesseler, K. O. et al. Fukushima-derived radionuclides in the ocean and biota off Japan. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 109, 5984-5988, doi:10.1073/pnas.1120794109 (2012).

Povinec, P. P. et al. Cesium, iodine and tritium in NW Pacific waters; a comparison of the Fukushima impact with global fallout. Biogeosciences 10, 5481-5496, doi:10.5194/bg-10-5481-2013 (2013).