levels of radiation from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster have
been detected off the West Coast of the United States, while energy
experts say America is “woefully” unprepared to deal with a
similar crisis within its borders.
years ago today, in March 2011, a large earthquake and massive
tsunami caused a meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power
plant. More than 30 million Japanese were exposed to the radioactive
fallout, while more than 150,000 people evacuated their homes as a
late 2014, scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
(WHOI) first detected radiation had reached the California coast. In
April of last year, the team recorded the first traces of radiation
along the actual shoreline of Vancouver Island in British Columbia,
marine radiochemist Ken Buesseler and his team have
highest level to date, roughly 1,600 miles west of San Francisco. The
samples are 50 percent more radioactive than other samples collected
WHOI stressed that this “is
still more than 500 times lower than US government safety limits for
drinking water, and well below limits of concern for direct exposure
while swimming, boating, or other recreational activities.”
Buesseler added that even though this is the case, “the
changing values underscore the need to more closely monitor
contamination levels across the Pacific.”
Buesseler said radiation levels near Fukushima itself continue to be
elevated. They are roughly 10 to 100 times higher than the levels his
team is recording off the North American West Coast, and scientists
are still trying to determine how much Fukushima continues to leak.
today off Japan are thousands of times lower than during the peak
releases in 2011. That said, finding values that are still elevated
off Fukushima confirms that there is continued release from the
at the anti-nuclear watchdog Beyond Nuclear said
the US still lacks a “reasonable” plan
to prevent a similar event in the US and protect Americans in the
event one occurs. The group said 30 GE boiling reactors identical to
the ones used in Fukushima – the kind “most
vulnerable to catastrophic failure” –
are still operating in the US.
the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has tried to require
plants to employ radiation filters that can reduce public exposure in
the event of an emergency, the industry has successfully been able to
lobby against the mandate.
only is there no Plan B for what to do if and when a Fukushima-style
disaster happens in the US, there is no Plan A to prevent one
Cindy Folkers, radiation and health specialist at Beyond Nuclear.
added that public health is “woefully
that the distribution of potassium-iodide, which helps protect the
thyroid from radiation, is not required in the US.
this week, NRC Commissioner William C. Ostendorff said the
agency has “thoroughly
causes of the Fukushima incident. He said that he has visited 48
reactor sites, and that the plants have invested “tens
of millions of dollars” in
to the NRC, all but three of America’s 99 commercial nuclear plants
were in the two highest performance categories.
addition to ensuring that the nation’s nuclear power plants are
safe by inspecting them, the NRC continuously assesses
Bill Dean, director of the Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation, in
a statement. “The
purpose of these assessment letters is to ensure that all of our
stakeholders clearly understand the basis for our assessments of
plant performance and the actions we are taking to address any
identified performance deficiencies.”
Friday, though, the Disaster Accountability Project also issued a
report stating that emergency and evacuation planning related to
nuclear emergencies is “dangerously
group noted that more than 117 million Americans live within 50 miles
of a nuclear power plant.
seven out of 18 jurisdictions within 10 miles of a nuclear power
plant could provide any shadow evacuation planning, the group found.
Just one out of 92 jurisdictions between 10 and 50 miles could do the
same. Less than nine percent of jurisdictions between 10 and 50 miles
of the plants could satisfactorily provide any emergency plans
specific to nearby nuclear power plants.
should learn the lessons of past disasters and not repeat them,” said
Ben Smilowitz, executive director of Disaster Accountability
the five years since Fukushima, we had an opportunity to prepare
communities for the unexpected. More than 100 million Americans are
at risk because local authorities have failed to plan accordingly.”