Two IAEA experts examine recovery work on top of Unit 4 of TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station two years after the disaster as part of a mission to review Japan’s plans to decommission the facility. (Greg Webb/IAEA)

Study finds no environmental harm from Fukushima

Another study has shown the B.C. coast has not suffered any adverse effects from the 2011 Fukushina nuclear disaster in Japan.

Krzysztof Starosta, a chemist at Simon Fraser University’s nuclear science lab, led a study looking for radioactive isotopes Cesium 134 and 137 in soil and salmon collected from rivers near Quesnel and Harrison. The isotopes are not found in nature, and act as signatures of a nuclear reaction.

While the team did find traces of both isotopes in soil and salmon, Starosta said the levels were very low. Most of the Cesium 137 actually dated from 1960s nuclear weapons tests and the 1986 Chernobyl explosion, not the Fukushima disaster.

“The levels found in both the salmon and soil samples remained below Canada’s safety guidelines, posing minimal health risk to B.C.’s salmon and human populations,” Starosta said in a press release.

“Our findings that the environmental impact of the Fukushima accident in Western Canada was insignificant is a relief, and these results add to a knowledge base that will be useful for future research.”

The study was published in the Canadian Journal of Chemistry, and won the journal’s 2018 Best Paper Award.

An earlier study by University of Victoria oceanographer Jay Cullen reached a similar conclusion based on samples that included the waters around Haida Gwaii.

On March 11, 2011, a powerful tsunami caused a power outage at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Japan, which led to partial meltdowns in three reactors.

Starosta said after the disaster, researchers have learned more about how wind and weather can transport radioactive particles, and also how their levels can build up over time in animals.

Japan held a memorial ceremony in Tokyo on Sunday to remember the over 18,000 people who died in the tsunami. Another 70,000 people were forced to leave their homes.

With files from the Canadian Press

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