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The release of radioactive contaminants from Fukushima remains an unprecedented event for the people of Japan and the Pacific Ocean. Help scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution understand the ongoing spread of radiation across the Pacific and its evolving impacts on the ocean.


There currently is no U.S. or international agency monitoring the arrival of radioactive water from Fukushima along the West Coast. As well, no organizations monitor water around nuclear power plants once it reaches the ocean. Although we don't expect levels to be dangerously high in the ocean or in our seafood as the plume spreads across the Pacific, or away from other nuclear discharge, this evolving situation demands careful, consistent monitoring to make sure predictions of contaminant dispersal are true.

We at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution already have dozens of seawater samples from the coast of Japan out to the middle of the Pacific, but now we need new samples—from up and down the West Coast of North America and anywhere else we can get them. The trouble is, these samples are expensive to collect and analyze. That is why we are turning to you, your community, and your social network for help.

We hope to have a good distribution of sample sites around the Pacific and over time.

If you want to propose a sampling location near you, all you have to do is raise the cost of testing and shipping (U.S. tax deductible donation of $550 to $600 depending on location) and we will send you a sampling kit with everything you need. We'll also help by setting up a fundraising webpage that you can email to your friends or post on your favorite social media site that will allow you to spread the word and track your progress.

Once you have your kit, sampling is easy (see video below). When we get your sample, it takes a few days to process followed by 48 or more hours just to measure the radiation in a sample after processing. On average it takes about a month before we send you an email with the results and post your data on our interactive map.

See our page Take A Sample for more information and to watch the video.

If you're still interested, contact us with the details of your location and how to reach you so we can begin talking about how you can help.


Help us by mobilizing your community, school, or social networks to raise the money it takes to analyze 20 liters (about 5 gallons) of seawater for signs of radiation from Fukushima. We'll send you everything you need to take a sample and return it to us.



Please consider supporting our ongoing effort to analyze samples from throughout the Pacific for radionuclides. You can do this by supporting one of the sites below with their effort, OR by proposing your own site. All donations to this campaign are tax deductible in the U.S.


Bodega Head

Point Reyes


San Luis Obispo

San Onofre




Photos submitted to us by support teams.

Many thanks to the organizations associated with this project:

Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium

Alaska Ocean Observing System

Alaska SeaGrant

Bamfield Marine Science Centre

Bandon Designs

Bing Gong

California Marine Sanctuary Foundation

Cook Inlet Keeper

Dearbrook Charitable Trust

Dominical Real Estate

European Commissions Joint Research Centre in Geel, Belgium

Friends of French Creek Conservation Society

Gitksan Watershed Authorities

Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation

Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve

Hopkins Marine Station

Humboldt State University Marine Lab

Idaho Section of the American Nuclear Society

Institute for Building Biology and Ecology

Integrated Fukushima Ocean Radionuclide Monitoring (InFORM) Network

International Medcom

Lush Cosmetics

Norton Sound Economic Corporation

Nuxalk Nation

Onset Computer

Paul & Janet Sherman

Peaceroots Alliance

PFx, a Picture Farm Company

Point Blue Conservation Science

Prince William Sound Science Center

Resurrection Bay Conservation Alliance

Samuel Lawrence Foundation

San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace

Santa Barbara Channel Keeper

Say Yes! to Life Swims LLC

Scripps Institute of Oceanography

Southwest Alaska Inventory and Monitoring Program, National Park Service

St. Mary's School

Surfrider Foundation

The David Suzuki Foundation

The Guacamole Fund

The Pacific Blue Foundation

Tillamook Estuaries Partnership

UC Davis Bodega Marine Lab

UC Davis Marine Pollution Studies Lab

Ucluelet Aquarium

Umpqua Soil & Water Conservation District

University of Hawaii

West Hills STEM academy

Whale Song Project

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Woods Hole Seagrant

And a special thanks to the more than 450 concerned citizens who have made individual donations.



The ocean contains many small sources of naturally occurring radiation that in most places exceeds the dose provided by radioisotopes released from Fukushima. In addition, the remnants of nuclear weapons testing in the 1960s and 70s are also still detectable around the world. Except for locations on land in Japan and sites near the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, all of these sources combined pose little risk to human health. Read more

To describe the level of radiation in seawater samples, we use Bequerels (Bq), which equal the number of radioactive decay events per second, and report this number per cubic meter (1,000 liters or 264 gallons) of water. A typical sample will likely contain less than 10 Bequerels per cubic meter (Bq/m3) from cesium-137, thousands of times less than the radioactivity produced by naturally occurring isotopes such as potassium-40. By comparing the amount of cesium-137, which has a relatively long 30-year half life, and cesium-134, which has a much shorter, 2-year half life, we can “fingerprint” the contamination from Fukushima and estimate how much was released into the Pacific.

To understand exposure, we need to consider this number as well as the type of radiation produced (alpha particles, beta particles, or gamma rays) and the method of exposure (external or internal). Exposure is reported in Sieverts (Sv) or, more commonly, milli-Sieverts (mSv, or 0.001 Sv). Background radiation—the amount we receive from cosmic rays—amounts to 2 mSv at sea level. A single dental x-ray provides an exposure of as low as 0.005 mSv.


View a guide to natural and man-made sources of radiation in the environment post-Fukushima.



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MAY 9, 2013

Communication in the Fukushima Crisis


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MAY 8, 2013
Radiation Health Risks




More »


The world's oceans contain many of naturally occurring radioactive isotopes, as well as the remnants of nuclear weapons testing in the 1950s and 60s. Starting in 2011, fallout, runoff, and continued leaks from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant added to this baseline and sparked fears of wide-ranging impacts to the marine ecosystem and human health. Despite concerns, there is no U.S. government agency monitoring the spread of low levels of radiation from Fukushima along the West Coast and around the Hawaiian Islands—even though levels are expected to rise over coming years.

Whether you agree with predictions that levels of radiation along the Pacific Coast of North America will be too low to be of human health concern or to impact fisheries and marine life, we can all agree that radiation should be monitored, and we are asking for your help to make that happen.

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution has both the experience and facilities to monitor and track the spread of radionuclides released from Fukushima in the waters of the Pacific Coast of North America. The Institution and the Center for Marine and Environmental Radiation (CMER) are uniquely equipped to provide consistent, accurate assessment of both natural and manmade radiation in marine samples and is hosting this site to make this information readily available to everyone in a timely manner.


- Ken Buesseler, Marine Chemist, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution -