Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Ocean Sciences Day 1: Fukashima Radiation in the Ocean

Like most people who frequent science conferences, I have a love/hate relationship with them. You trade hours of sitting in dark rooms, staring at power point slides, drinking too much coffee and eating too many pastries, and wandering through vast oceans of posters for brief flashes of inspiration that can lead you to yhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifour next great thing. I arrived todahttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gify at the Ocean Sciences conference in Salt Lake City and immediately found two more down-sides: a horrible latte that ran me $4.50 and a HUGE conference hall that left my soccer-sprained ankle screaming just to get across it.

Even before entering the hall to register and hang my poster, though, reports were coming out about some very cool and appropriate research given the discussions we've been having on marine debris. I was struck to see popular reporting of Ken Buesseler's talk on results of a June 2011 cruise that sampled sea water for radiation up to 400 miles off of the coast of Japan.

And what did they find? They did find above background levels of cesium-137, a relatively short-lived but highly radioactive radioisotope created by nuclear fission. But even the highest levels detected in sea-water nearest to shore didn't exceed common environmental standards. Even 20 miles off-shore, where radiation levels in seawater were ~1000x above background, the water was still well below the level that we use in this country to define safe drinking water. In other words, your tapwater might be more radioactive than the seawater off of Fukishima just 3 months after the plant failed.

More to come on this and other topics - the Ocean Sciences conference this year has a lot on the 3-11 tsunami, climate change and acidification and even shoreline erosion...

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