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Cash wanted to help monitor Fukushima ocean radioactivity

Ken Buesseler on a boat off the Fukushima Daiichi plant, after the 2011 tsunami caused meltdowns at three of its reactors.

Ken Buesseler was one of the first scientists to analyse the sea water off the coast of Fukushima, Japan, after the nuclear meltdowns that followed a devastating tsunami there in March 2011.

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This week, the marine chemist, based at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, launched How Radioactive Is Our Ocean?, a crowd-funding website that urges people to support the collection and analysis of seawater samples along the west coast of the United States.

Although larger, wind-blown debris from the Japanese tsunami began to be spotted on North American shores shortly after the disaster, and migratory fish such as bluefin tuna have already shown up off California carrying radioactive isotopes from the spill, oceanic currents move much slower. The Fukushima spill therefore is unlikely to have anything to do with reports such as the mysterious die-off of sea stars in California. Now, however, contaminated sea water is finally due to arrive on the eastern side of the Pacific, and so it is time to start keeping watch.


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