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

2017 Radiation Test Results

March 2017 Results - Non-Detect in Alaska Fish

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PRESS RELEASE: JANUARY 9, 2017 DEC Continues Fukushima Radiation Testing for Fish

DEC Fish Testing for Radiation

2016 Results - No Detection of Fukushima Radionuclides in Alaska Fish

2015 Results - No Detection of Fukushima Radionuclides in Alaska Fish

2014 Results - No Detection of Fukushima Radionuclides in Alaska Fish

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

Fukushima InFORM

The Integrated Fukushima Ocean Radionuclide Monitoring or InFORM network involves academic, government, non-governmental organizations and citizen scientists working to acquire data, assess radiological risks to Canada’s oceans associated with the Fukushima nuclear disaster and rapidly, appropriately and effectively disseminate this information to the public.

https://fukushimainform.ca/

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

Fukushima Daiichi-Derived Radionuclides in the Ocean: Transport, Fate, and Impacts
A review five years later - January 2017

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Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) report Five Years after the Fukushima Daiichi Accident - 2016

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Cal State Long Beach Professors Talk Fukushima Radiation Disaster and Impact on Coastline - August 30, 2016

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

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Implementing Lessons Learned from Fukushima Daiichi - June 1, 2016

This presentation discusses the events at Fukushima Dai-ichi and how the US Nuclear 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 rule-making 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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U.S. Watches as Fukushima Continues to Leak Radiation - March 10, 2016

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 - February 23, 2016

2015 News Stories

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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NRC 2014 Fukushima Site Visit Report - January 5, 2015


2014 News Stories

Last updated: May 9, 2017