CORVALLIS, Ore. – Researchers at Oregon State University say two and a half years after the Fukushima nuclear spill, they are not seeing any negative effects on the West Coast.
Kathryn Higley, a professor and the Department Head of Nuclear Engineering and Radiation Health Physics at Oregon State University says her team has been monitoring the radiation levels not only in Japan but also in Oregon, Washington, Canada, and Australia.
“Immediately following the accident, right along the coast of Japan, right next to the plant, there were some elevated concentrations,” Higley said.
She says though studies in Japan are continuing to examine the effects on species living at the plant site, she says other species surrounding the plant likely will not be affected. Within the last few years, Higley says the radioactive material Cesium-137 has been seeping into the ocean, but it is chemically similar to sodium. She says once it is in the ocean, it dilutes and diminishes pretty quickly.
“We don’t expect any adverse consequences,” she said. “To the animals, to the marine species, to people consuming those species from the releases at Fukushima.”
Even in Japan, she says she is not anticipating any health consequences of the spill.
“Epidemiologists are saying that they don’t think they’ll ever be able to see an uptick in cancer in the population attributed to Fukushima.”
She says workers at the plant had more exposure to the radioactive material, but that their chances of cancer are only a small percentage higher. Thousands of miles across the coast, she expects the same.
“On the West Coast, no, there’s not going to be any negative effects,” she said.
Though Higley does not believe there will be negative health effects of the spill, she says the Fukushima spill is still an important one to learn from.
“It’s important for us to continue to understand how these accidents could progress to be able to respond to any sort of mixtures of radionuclides and continue to refine the designs so that the possibility of an accident is very, very, very, very, very, very, very unlikely.”
The research is ongoing. Higley says scientists will continue to test areas in Japan and in areas around the world.