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Science AMA Series: I’m Ken Buesseler, an oceanographer who has been studying the impacts of Fukushima Dai-ichi on the oceans. It’s been 5 years now and I’m still being asked – how radioactive is our ocean? and should I be concerned? AMA.
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I’m Ken Buesseler, an oceanographer who studies marine radioactivity. I’ve looked at radioactive fallout from atmospheric nuclear weapons testing that peaked in the early 1960’s, studied the Black Sea after Chernobyl in 1986, the year of my PhD, and now we are looking at the unprecedented sources of radionuclides from Fukushima Dai-ichi in 2011. I also studying radioactive elements such as thorium that are naturally occurring in the ocean as a technique to study the ocean’s carbon cycle http://cafethorium.whoi.edu Five years ago, images of the devastation in Japan after the March, 11 “Tohoku” earthquake and tsunami were a reminder of nature’s power. Days later, the explosions at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plants, while triggered by nature, were found to be man-made, due to the building of these critical plants on this coast, despite warnings of possible tsunami’s much higher than the 35 foot sea wall built to protect it. More than 80% of the radioactivity ended up in the oceans where I work- more ocean contamination than from Chernobyl. Since June of 2011, we’ve spent many research voyages sampling with Japanese, US and international colleagues trying to piece together the consequences to the ocean. We also launched in in January 2014 “Our Radioactive Ocean”-a campaign using crowd funding and citizen scientist volunteers to sample the N. American west coast and offshore for signs of Fukushima radionuclides that we identify by measuring cesium isotopes. Check out http://OurRadioactiveOcean.org for the participants, results and to learn more. So what do we know after 5 years? This is the reason we are holding this AMA, to explain our results and let you ask the questions. I’ll be back at 1 pm EST (10 am PST, 6 pm UTC) to answer your questions, ask me anything! Thanks to everyone for some great questions today! I’m signing off but will check back tonight. We released some new data today from OurRadioactiveOcean.org Go to that web site to learn more and propose new sites for sampling. We need to continue to monitor our radioactive oceans. Thanks to our moderator today and the many collaborators and supporters we’ve had over these past 5 years, too numerous to list here. More at http://www.whoi.edu/news-release/fukushima-site-still-leaking