Volunteers across British Columbia, including in Prince Rupert, are working together to estimate public health risks associated with radioactive isotopes drifting from the Fukushima nuclear power plant.
In March of 2011, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake caused three of six nuclear reactors at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan to meltdown, resulting in the release of radioisotopes into the Pacific Ocean.
Models of ocean circulation and mixing have predicted North Pacific currents will transport a contaminated plume to Canadian waters that, when present in elevated concentrations, could potentially cause environmental and public health concerns on Canada’s West and Arctic coasts.
While researchers have stated the impact to Canada isn’t likely to be significant, sufficient monitoring hasn’t been performed to adequately quantify the risks.
This is why Fukushima InFORM, a collaborative radiation monitoring network consisting of academic, government and non-government organizations, along with citizen scientists, formed. InFORM will gather data in order to determine the environmental risks and will disseminate this information to the public so people can minimize exposure to potentially harmful levels of radiation.
Prince Rupert’s Cheryl Paavola, a science lab technician and instructor at Northwest Community College, got involved with the network through Citizen Scientists, a volunteer group, leading sample collection duties in the community.
On Friday, Paavola and a group of volunteers from Northwest Community College retrieved water samples from the Yacht Club dock, a task that will be repeated indefinitely.
“The idea is to collect samples once a month roughly to monitor when the radiation from the Fukushima reactor meltdown hits the West Coast [and at what levels],” Paavola explained.
“We’re expecting the radiation to hit the coast sometime in 2015.”
After the samples have been collected they will be sent to the University of Victoria, which is part of the InFORM partnership, to be tested. The results will be shared online.
Paavola will be taking samples every month and encourages anyone that would like to volunteer for the project to visit informcitizenscience.freeforums.net and click on the Prince Rupert community board.