Traces of radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant meltdown will be detectable at the Pacific coast, in April 2014.
According to a scientific model developed by Vincent Rossi, a post-doctoral research associate at the Institute for Cross-Disciplinary Physics and Complex Systems in Spain, traces of Fukushima's radiation will reach Alaska and coastal Canada first.
This will happen because of the trajectory of the powerful Kuroshio Current that flows from Japan across the Pacific. The plume will continue to circulate down the coast of North America and back towards Hawaii.
The concentration of contaminants is expected to be well below limits set by the US EPA for cesium-137 in drinking water (7,400 Bq/m3) or even the highest level recorded in the Baltic Sea after Chernobyl (1,000 Bq/m3).
"The reason why we see such low levels of radiation in these samples is because the plume is not here yet. But it’s coming. And we'll actually be able to see its arrival," says Ken Buesseler, marine chemist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI).
Funds have kickstarted the marine radiation analysis campaigns at 16 unique coastal locations. Five locations - Ocean Shores, Mendocino, Point Reyes, Santa Monica, and La Jolla - have raised enough funds, a minimum of $550 per sample, to begin the collection and radiation analysis of their ocean water.
No US government or international agency is monitoring the spread of low levels of radiation from Fukushima along the West Coast of North America and around the Hawaiian Islands.