Hawaii researchers monitor impacts from Fukushima radiation

Hawaii researchers monitor impacts from Fukushima radiation
Published: Sep. 4, 2013 at 3:03 AM HST|Updated: Sep. 4, 2013 at 3:33 AM HST
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Henrieta Dulaiova
Henrieta Dulaiova

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The operator of a stricken nuclear power plant in Japan said on Tuesday that radiation readings near storage tanks holding contaminated water reached a record high. According to experts in Hawaii, there is currently no major health threat to the state, but they are monitoring the developments.

Tokyo Electric Power Company revealed the new measurement levels as it struggles to deal with leaks at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Henrieta Dulaiova has been studying the radiation released into the Pacific Ocean since the 2011 disaster in Japan.

"The radiation that we have identified that came from Fukushima between Japan and Hawaii was very much diluted, almost a million times, more than a million times diluted, in comparison to its original concentration," said Dulaiova, and assistant professor in UH's Department of Geology and Geophysics.

The ocean samples that Dulaiova has been analyzing are collected at Station Aloha which is 100 miles north of Oahu. She said her research shows the radiation is dispersing, which contradicts recent reports indicating that it's becoming more concentrated as it crosses the Pacific.

"The radionuclides are dissolved in the water, and if you mix two water masses as happens in the ocean when currents meet, you can't physically make the concentration higher," explained Dulaiova. "It's really not possible that the concentration would get higher unless there is another source on the way which we don't know about," she said.

The Japanese government will be intervening and spending about $470 million to construct a contamination shield around the crippled facility and replace the leaking storage tanks with more durable ones. Most of the money is for a difficult project to freeze the ground surrounding the reactors to stop groundwater from entering the facility and leaking out with radioactive particles.

"I'm very concerned for the people that live there and have to actually deal with this situation," said Dulaiova. "In contrast to their situation, our fear in Hawaii from contamination is not really justified."

Dulaiova also has an ongoing study that involves testing mushrooms in Hawaii that bioaccumulate cesium. The goal is to learn more about the atmospheric fallout from the disaster.

Officials from Hawaii's health department also said that there is no significant threat to the state right now. Workers continue to monitor the air, rain, drinking water, milk, and tsunami debris for elevated radiation levels. According to state health officials, federal experts do not anticipate contamination of seafood in U.S. waters at this time.

"I would say you'll be safe. Just this is an educated guess depending on how soon the plume gets here and based on the measurements that we have done on the edge of the plume," Dulaiova said.

Dulaiova said it's difficult to predict the radiation plume's location since there are several different ocean models. According to her, the plume is likely to hit the west coast and then possibly reach Hawaii at low levels in 2015.

For the latest update from Hawaii's health department, go to: http://health.hawaii.gov/about/files/2013/06/aug2013.pdf