It's the Three-Year Anniversary of the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster! Can I Eat Sushi Yet?
Today marks the three-year anniversary of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, when the power plant was hit by a tsunami triggered by the T?hoku earthquake. Three of the six Fukushima nuclear reactors suffered meltdowns, spilling radioactive material into the bosom of the Pacific Ocean in what would become the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.
But enough about the world! What about us brave Californians? Can we finally go back to eating sushi?
We asked a few scienticians, and they all basically said the same thing: yes. You can eat sushi, you can go to the beach, you can do anything you hedonistic bastards do all year round while the rest of us are working hard and wearing giant parkas. There is literally nothing to worry about and quite frankly, we're sick of getting these phone calls.
But to make a short story slightly longer, here are some frequently asked questions about the Fukushima fallout situation:
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Q: My Facebook friends keep posting about all this radiation heading toward the West Coast. Are they stupid?
A: No, just ignorant.
For the last three years, bloggers have been warning people about dangerous levels of radiation spreading out from Fukushima, into the bellies and onto the beaches of god-fearing Americans. To wit: 28 Signs That The West Coast Is Being Absolutely Fried With Nuclear Radiation From Fukushima, Something Is Killing Life All Over The Pacific Ocean - Could It Be Fukushima?, and the YouTube sensation, Fukushima radiation hits San Francisco?, which has garnered more than 770,000 page views.
And there's this image, referenced in posts like this one, purporting to show the spread of radioactive fallout outward from Japan and toward the U.S. of A.:
What a difference the right caption makes. Often claimed to be an infographic showing the spread of nuclear radiation, this is actually a map of wave height after the tsunami.
The sad truth is that you can't always trust what you read on the Internet.
Q: So who, or indeed whom, can we trust?
A: How about the California Department of Public Health, which in response to numerous inquiries put out a statement in January saying, "Information from Federal agencies, State programs, as well as the Department's own sampling results, conclude there are no health and safety concerns to California residents."
How about the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, whose spokesman, Scott Burnell, told L.A. Weekly, "There is not anything to suggest that there are any health concerns at all on the West Coast related to Fukushima," citing research by the California Department of Health but also sampling by the Canadian government and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
Or how about Time magazine, which reported yesterday that, while low levels of radiation will hit West Coast waters as early as next month, scientists are predicting that the levels will be "low enough to leave humans and the environment unharmed."
Q: But how do they know?!
A: The Fukushima meltdown has a very specific footprint: Cesium-134, a radioactive isotope released during the disaster. This differs from other isotopes currently found in the Pacific Ocean, such as Cesium-137, which is left over from the nuclear weapons tests of the 1950s and '60s.
Minuscule levels of Cesium-134 have already been detected in the icy waters off of Vancouver. That'll creep down the West Coast throughout this year, although levels near California probably won't peak for another couple of years, according to Ken Buesseler of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
But even then, Buesseler says, levels of Cesium-134 will be well below the dangerous amount.
Q: But what about eating sushi? Doesn't fish come from all over the Pacific Ocean?
A: You are correct, fish do come from all over the Pacific Ocean.
Q: So should we still not be eating sushi?
A: Actually, you should have been eating sushi this entire time, if you like eating sushi. Here's Scott Burnell again:
"Even in the months shortly after the accident in 2011, when researchers looked at tuna that migrate across the Pacific, they sampled that tuna and were only able to detect very small amounts of radioactive contamination. With the passage of time, radiation levels have spread out and become even fainter ... Pacific-caught fish is acceptable for human consumption. There's nothing in there that even remotely approaches levels that might require action."
Q: But better to be safe than sorry, right?
A: Uh, I guess. But remember - radiation is everywhere. You get it from the sun, from the ground, from flying in an airplane, even from eating delicious bananas, which contain potassium.
"Any dose that a member of the public on the West Coast might conceivably get from Fukushima is dwarfed by the everyday radiation from all sorts of natural sources," says Burnell.
Q: But aren't you just part of the mainstream media conspiracy?