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Kelp Watch Project Concludes

Published: September 19, 2016

Based on recent samplings of kelp from sites from Alaska to San Diego and locally from Long Beach, researchers from Kelp Watch have confirmed that no detectable Fukushima radiation entered the kelp ecosystem along the West Coast.

“Results from our fifth sampling period from March through June of this year were very similar to the previous sampling periods obtained over the past two years and demonstrate no detectable amounts of Cesium 134 or elevated Cesium 137 levels in kelp that could be attributed to the Fukushima disaster,” said Steven Manley a professor from CSULB’s Department of Biological Sciences.

Manley and his colleague, Kai Vetter from the University of California, Berkeley’s Department of Nuclear Engineering, began Kelp Watch in 2014 to use coastal Giant and Bull kelp beds as detectors of radioactive seawater arriving from Fukushima via the North Pacific Coast. The researchers chose kelp because it tends to concentrate these radioisotopes. Over the past two years, they examined kelp samplings obtained along the West Coast from as far north as Alaska and down to Baja Mexico in an attempt to detect the presence of Cesium 134 (Cs-134), a radioactive isotope that is relatively easy to detect and which was released into the environment as a result of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant disaster. Cs-134 in any kelp samplings would have indicated the presence of Fukushima-derived radiation.

All kelp samples taken over the entirety of the project from the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles contained low amounts of Iodine-131 which could not have arrived via the atmosphere or ocean currents from Fukushima. Its presence is due to a persistent local source, most likely a small waste water treatment plant. After the latest findings, Manley and Vetter have now concluded the Kelp Watch studies.

 Kelp samples