Minute Traces Of Japan Reactor Meltdown Found In Pacific Tuna

Oct 25, 2012

Researchers with Oregon State University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say they’ve detected minute amounts of radioactivity from the Fukushima reactor meltdown in albacore tuna caught along the West Coast.  But it's not considered a health threat at all.

Delvan Neville, a graduate researcher with OSU's Radiation Health Physics program, marks samples of albacore being tested for radioactivity.
Credit OSU Radiation Health Physics program

Fisheries researchers in Oregon compared albacore tuna caught before last year's nuclear reactor meltdown in northeast Japan with fresh samples hooked off our coast afterwards, mainly this past summer. The team looked for what they call the nuclear "fingerprint" of the Fukushima reactor -- a combination of two isotopes of cesium.

OSU radiation health physicist Delvan Neville says preliminary tests show some of the recently caught tuna showed barely detectable levels of Fukushima radiation. He emphasizes the readings are far, far below any threshold of health concern.

"Tuna actually was the initial sushi that I tried and loved," Neville says. "It's been one of my favorites for a long time. And I still eat albacore now."

Ultimately, the aspect of this study that may prove most important is evidence that some of the Pacific tuna fished locally migrate all the way across the ocean.

To add context, Neville explained that consumers would have to gorge themselves on tuna to have any noticeable radiation effect. “To increase their normal annual dosage of radiation by just 1 percent, a person would have to eat more than 4,000 pounds of the highest (radiation) level albacore we've seen,” he said.

"I guarantee you no one is going to eat that amount," was the reaction from Nancy Fitzpatrick, the executive director of the Oregon Albacore Commission. "I'm pleased that OSU did this and put all of our worries to rest," she said.

Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network