Fukushima Radiation Concerns in Alaska

Since the devastating 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami, which damaged the Fukushima nuclear power plant, there have been concerns about radiation impacts to Alaska. The Division of Environmental Health (DEH) has been coordinating with the Department of Health & Social Services (DHSS) Division of Public Health as well as other state and Federal agencies, the Pacific states, and Canada to continuously assess the situation at the Fukushima nuclear plant and address radiation-related concerns in Alaska.

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is the lead agency on food safety. Both FDA-regulated food products imported from Japan and domestic food products, including U.S. seafood, have been tested. FDA has found no evidence that radionuclides of health concern from the Japanese nuclear power plant disaster are present in the U.S. food supply. Additional information regarding response and testing can be found on their website here.

The safety of fish and shellfish from Alaskan waters and beaches are not affected by the nuclear reactor damage in Japan. However, they are still subject to local toxins, such as paralytic shellfish poisoning.

If you have any questions on the contents of this page or questions regarding radiation, please contact Marlena Brewer at marlena.brewer@alaska.gov or 907-269-1099.

To access more, click on the blue banners below. Fields will expand to reveal more information and links to additional websites.

In the News

2016 Results - No Detection of Fukushima Radionuclides in Alaska Fish

April 2016 Results

May 2016 Results

July & August 2016 Results

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Cal State Long Beach Professors Talk Fukushima Radiation Disaster and Impact on Coastline

Recent samples collected by researchers from Kelp Watch and Cal State Long Beach professors have determined that no detectable radiation has entered the ecosystem along the West Coast since the disaster, which occurred in 2011. Scientists collected samples from sites ranging from Baja Mexico to Alaska, including locations in Long Beach, according to a release.

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Implementing Lessons Learned from Fukushima Daiichi

This presentation discusses the events at Fukushima Dai-ichi and how the US Nuclean Regulatory Commission is applying those lessons learned to plants in the United States. It describes the orders (Mitigating Strategies, Spent Fuel Pool Instrumentation, Severe Accident Capable Hardened Vents), requests for information (seismic and flooding reevaluations), and the related rulemaking and gives a basic understanding of the lessons learned and the US regulatory approach to enhancing safety.

See the YouTube video here.

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Fukushima Daiichi-Derived Radionuclides in the Ocean: Transport, Fate, and Impacts
A review five years later - June 21, 2016

United States, Agencies Work Together in Tracking Fukishima Radiation - July 2, 2016

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U.S. Watches as Fukushima Continues to Leak Radiation

Five years after an accident at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan, some scientists continue to find found small amounts of radioactive material along the West Coast of North America. And some of them say we should expect to see this in the ocean for decades to come. Elevated levels found off the coast of Japan show that the situation is not yet under control, and that the facility is still leaking radiation. But the levels observed near the United States are below — very far below — those set by health and safety standards, and are also far outstripped by naturally occurring radiation.

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Radiation from Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Not Found In B.C. Salmon

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DEC Will Continue to Test Alaska Fish for Fukushima Radionuclides in 2016

In response to Fukushima radiation concerns, the Alaska Departments of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Health and Social Services (DHSS) coordinated with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to analyze Alaska fish species in 2014 and 2015. No Fukushima-related radionuclides were detected in any of the fish samples analyzed. This year the state will participate in a unique pilot project with the FDA to continue monitoring of Alaska fish for radionuclides. Alaska was selected as the first site for implementation of a field deployable gamma-ray analysis system for analyzing fish for radionuclides. The system will we be set up at the DEC Environmental Health Laboratory (EHL) since it meets the ISO quality standards required to run this analytical equipment. The projected time schedule for FDA to deploy the equipment will be the first week of May. Fish samples collected by DEC Food Safety and Sanitation (FSS) staff before this time will be shipped to the FDA/WEAC lab in Manchester, MA for analysis. Once the system has been set up and validated here at the EHL samples will be analyzed in-state allowing us to maintain the capability to monitor Alaska fish.

The samples will be evaluated in a portable gamma-ray analysis system and the digital data will be transmitted to FDA/WEAC lab for interpretation and reporting. This collaborative effort will provide the state with the capability to evaluate surveillance samples in-state for Fukushima radiation. A total of 26 samples of fish are proposed for analysis in 2016. This will include a number of species of fish (Pollock, Pacific Cod, Sablefish, Herring and Salmon) from the Bering Sea, Aleutian Islands, Bristol Bay, Gulf of Alaska and Southeast. Results will be posted to the Fukushima Radiation Concerns in Alaska webpage as they become available.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Where can I find more information about the potential health impacts of radiation in Alaska?

 

How is the radiation from Japan affecting the waters in Alaska?

  • No levels of public health concern are expected here in Alaska. The great quantity of water in the Pacific Ocean rapidly and effectively dilutes radioactive material. Ocean water testing performed by the Division of Public Health in 2012 showed no levels of radiation that would pose a health risk for bathing or drinking purposes.
  • DEC requires ongoing testing of drinking water for all community water systems. Moreover, EPA's RadNet Program has been monitoring drinking water for radiation at three locations in Alaska since 1979. The results from this testing through December 2012 have shown no radiation levels in drinking water of public health concern. EPA continues to monitor water for radiation and shares monitoring data with the public on their RadNet website.

 

Is it safe to consume Alaskan fish and shellfish?

  • Yes. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is the lead agency on food safety. The FDA has found no levels of public health concern in the U.S. food supply and is not advising consumers to alter their consumption of specific foods imported from Japan, or domestically produced foods, including seafood.

 

How do I report or learn more about marine debris from the tsunami in Japan?

 

Federal Resources

Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

FDA is responsible for food safety and has been monitoring radionuclides in domestic and imported food. FDA has posted “FDA Response to the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Facility”, updated through March 2014. This page includes a link to FDA’s Total Diet Study and information regarding testing for radionuclide contamination.

For inquiries about radiation and food safety please contact:
Theresa Eisenman
FDA Office of Media Affairs
Office: 301-796-2805
theresa.eisenman@fda.hhs.gov

 

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

EPA’s RADNet network is national monitoring network that measures radiation in air, precipitation, drinking water, and milk.

The EPA uses stationary (fixed) and mobile air monitoring units to measure radiation levels in air. After the March 2011 incident, EPA increased their monitoring efforts. Although detectable levels of Fukushima-related radiation were found in Alaska shortly after the disaster, they were well-below levels of public health concern. On May 3, 2011, EPA returned to their routine RadNet monitoring and removed their mobile air monitoring units from Alaska.

Additional air monitoring data were also obtained through EPA's Mercury Deposition Network (MDN) where some wet deposition samples were collected in Unalaska and Kodiak. Results are available from the USGS and published in Environmental Science and Technology.

For inquires about radiation and safety of ocean water please contact:
Julia Valentine
EPA Public Affairs
Office: (202) 564-0496
valentine.julia@epa.gov

 

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

NOAA leads the efforts in monitoring for Japanese tsunami debris and working with federal, state, and local partners to reduce the possible impacts. Although it is highly unlikely that any tsunami marine debris is radioactive, it is being screened. Results have shown no increased levels of radiation that would pose a potential threat to public health.

Information about tsunami marine debris can be found at the NOAA Tsunami Marine Debris website at: http://marinedebris.noaa.gov/tsunami debris/.

The primary point of contact for radiation concerns is:
Scott Smullen
NOAA Deputy Director Communications & External Affairs
Office: 202) 482-6090
scott.smullen@noaa.gov

For tsunami debris concerns, the NOAA contact is:
Peter Murphy
NOAA Marine Debris Division
Office: (206) 526-4661
peter.murphy@noaa.gov

 

Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)

The U.S. NRC is an independent agency created by Congress whose mission is to license and regulate the Nation’s civilian use of byproduct, source, and special nuclear materials to assure the protection of human health and safety, promote common defense and security, and protect the environment. NRC also participates in international programs such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA), and the European Union to enhance nuclear safety and security throughout the world.

Immediately after the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, NRC got involved not only in monitoring efforts in the US, but also provided expert advice to assist the Japanese in assessing the situation. NRC has also evaluated the event and made recommendations from their lessons learned.

NRC provides an educational program, Science 101 - Different Types of Radiation

Pacific States

Washington

 

Oregon

 

California

 

Hawaii

 

International Resources

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

The IAEA is the world's center of cooperation in the nuclear field. It was set up as the world's "Atoms of Peace" organization in 1957 within the United Nations family. The Agency works with its Member States and multiple partners worldwide to promote safe, secure, and peaceful nuclear technologies.

The IAEA actively monitors and communicates with Japanese officials on the radiation concerns. Information is regularly updated and posted on their website.

 

World Nuclear News

The World Nuclear News website is hosted by the World Nuclear Association, which is an international organization that promotes nuclear energy. This web page provides the latest news on Fukushima.

 

Health Canada

Health Canada is the Federal department responsible for helping Canadians maintain and improve their health, while respecting individual choices and circumstances.

The Environmental Radiation web page provides information on the potential health effects of natural and technological sources of environmental radioactivity as well as their programs.

 

Japan

Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare Website - Inspections on Export Food

Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA): Fukushima Daiichi NPS Issues - Sea area monitoring results

Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) - Measures and requests in response to the Great East Japan Earthquake

 

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO)

 Current situation of Fukushima nuclear power station

 

Additional Studies

Latest Monitoring Shows Fukushima Cesium Detected Offshore US West Coast - 500 Times Lower than US Government Safety Limits for Drinking Water

From Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution: "Scientists monitoring the spread of radiation in the ocean from the Fukushima nuclear accident report finding an increased number of sites off the US West Coast showing signs of contamination from Fukushima. This includes the highest detected level to date from a sample collected about 1,600 miles west of San Francisco. The level of radioactive cesium isotopes in the sample, 11 Becquerel's per cubic meter of seawater (about 264 gallons), is 50 percent higher than other samples collected along the West Coast so far, but is still more than 500 times lower than US government safety limits for drinking water, and well below limits of concern for direct exposure while swimming, boating, or other recreational activities."

Radiocesium in Pacific Bluefin Tuna Thunnus Orientalis in 2012 Validates New Tracer Technique

Pacific bluefin tuna transport Fukushima-derived radionuclides from Japan to California

Evaluation of radiation doses and associated risk from the Fukushima nuclear accident to marine biota and human consumers of seafood

Department of Energy Amchitka Island, Alaska Site Long-term Monitoring Study

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) 2011 Northern Pinnipeds Unusual Mortality Event Preliminary Assessment of Radionuclide Exposure

USGS Fission Products in National Atmospheric Deposition Program - Wet Deposition Samples Prior to and Following the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant Incident, March 8-April 5, 2011

Fukushima Medical University Fukushima Radiation Health Risk Management

Archived News Articles

This section contains archived news articles. Most recent news articles are located under the tab, "In the News".

FDA Sampling of Alaska Fish -- All Results from 2015 Sampling Season

All Sample Results are Non-Detect (ND) for Fukushima Related Radiation

FDA Food Testing Protocol

Laboratory Procedure: High-Purity Germanium Spectrometry

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NRC Implements Lessons Learned from Fukushima to Make Reactors in the U.S. Safer
April 28, 2015

The NRC’s technical staff, industry executives and a public interest group will brief the Commissioners Thursday on the agency’s efforts to implement what we’ve learned from the Fukushima nuclear accident. The bottom line is the NRC is ahead of schedule on several fronts.

Some of the best news involves U.S. reactors meeting requirements from two of the NRC’s Fukushima-related Orders issued in March 2012. By the end of this spring, almost a quarter of the U.S. fleet will comply with the Mitigation Strategies and Spent Fuel Pool Instrumentation Orders. We expect more than half the fleet will meet those Orders by the end of December, which is a full year before the Orders’ deadline.

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Trace Amounts of Fukushima Radioactivity Detected Along Shoreline of British Columbia of No Public Health Concern
April 10, 2015

These trace amounts are thousands of times lower than what the US Environmental Protection Agency considers safe for drinking water.

Scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) have for the first time detected the presence of small amounts of radioactivity from the 2011 Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant accident in a seawater sample from the shoreline of North America. The sample, which was collected on February 19 in Ucluelet, British Columbia, with the assistance of the Ucluelet Aquarium, contained trace amounts of cesium (Cs) -134 and -137, well below internationally established levels of concern to humans and marine life.

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New Museum Program Focuses on Impacts of Fukushima on the Ocean
March 2, 2015

On the fourth anniversary of the disaster, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and the Long Beach, CA-based Aquarium of the Pacific will debut a new program about ocean radioactivity motivated by the Fukushima nuclear accident. The program will be projected daily in the Aquarium’s Ocean Science Center on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Science on a Sphere® and will be made available to more than 100 institutions around the world through NOAA’s SOS Network with a capacity to reach over 50 million combined visitors.

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DEC to Continue Monitoring Efforts with FDA to Evaluate Alaskan Fish for Fukushima-Related Radiation in 2015
February 17, 2015

The results of testing conducted on Alaskan fish in 2014 results showed no detection of radionuclides from Fukushima. However, scientists predict that the peak concentrations of radionuclides in water will reach the North Pacific in 2015, which has prompted more questions about continued sampling of fish in Alaskan waters. DEC, through the Division of Environmental Health Fish Monitoring and Food Safety and Sanitation Programs, will again coordinate with the FDA in 2015 to test fish collected across Alaska from various commercial fisheries. Fish samples will be collected using the same FDA statistical protocols as used for the 2014 testing. Each 4 pound sample will be a composite of between 4 to 10 individual fish. Samples will be shipped to the FDA’s Winchester Engineering Analytical Center for analysis. The plan is to collect 23 samples across Alaska over the entire 2015 fishing season. Collection sites will range from the Bering Sea to the Southeast to include 6 species of fish: Halibut, Cod, Pollock, Salmon (Chinook, Chum, Sockeye, Pink), Sablefish and Herring. DHSS and DEC will continue to do public outreach and post updates from other federal and state agencies as well as the results of the fish monitoring sampling on this page.

For information about the 2014 test results, see the summary linked here.

NRC 2014 Fukushima Site Visit Report
January 5, 2015

Sockeye, Inshore Waters Test Fukushima-Free
December 22, 2014

Fish Sampling Conducted in Aleutian/Bering Sea, Bristol Bay, Gulf of Alaska, and Southeast

Fish Testing Map

Summary of FDA Testing Results of Alaska Seafood for 2014 pdf icon

Alaska Fish Sample Lab Results posted to FDA Reading Room – November 17, 2014

Press Release: Inletkeeper Testing Finds No Fukushima Radiation in Lower Cook Inlet Waters - November 10, 2014

The United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation(UNSCEAR) recently released a detailed report on their assessment of Fukushima radiation doses and associated effects on health and the environment. This report is available on their website at http://www.unscear.org/unscear/en/fukushima.html

Release of Pu Isotopes from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant Accident to the Marine Environment Was Negligible - July 22, 2014

NRC Science 101: Different Types of Radiation - April 14, 2014

Fried by Fukushima - Misunderstanding, Misinformation, and Misapprehension - March 2014

DEC says Alaska fish is safe to eat - January 23, 2014

No Elevated Levels of Radiation Found in North Pacific Salmon Sample - January 7, 2014

Last updated: August 31, 2016