Recent Transport History of Fukushima Radioactivity in the Northeast Pacific Ocean. Academic Article uri icon


  • The large inventory of radioactivity released during the March, 2011 Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear reactor accident in Japan spread rapidly across the North Pacific Ocean and was first observed at the westernmost station on Line P, an oceanographic sampling line extending 1500 km westward of British Columbia (BC), Canada in June 2012. Here, time series measurements of 134Cs and 137Cs in seawater on Line P and on the CLIVAR-P16N 152°W line reveal the recent transport history of the Fukushima radioactivity tracer plume through the northeast Pacific Ocean. During 2013 and 2014 the Fukushima plume spread onto the Canadian continental shelf and by 2015 and early 2016 it reached 137Cs values of 6-8 Bq/m3 in surface water along Line P. Ocean circulation model simulations that are consistent with the time series measurements of Fukushima 137Cs indicate that the 2015-2016 results represent maximum tracer levels on Line P and that they will begin to decline in 2017-2018. The current elevated Fukushima 137Cs levels in seawater in the eastern North Pacific are equivalent to fallout background levels of 137Cs that prevailed during the 1970s and do not represent a radiological threat to human health or the environment.

publication date

  • September 19, 2017