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In an age when the ocean currents are as well mapped as river systems on land there has never been any doubt that radiation flowing into the ocean at Fukushima would eventually arrive at the west coast of North America on the Kuroshio Current. It was just a question of time and what the risks might be once they arrived.
Canada was going to be the canary in the coal mine. The Kuroshio Current arrives there first and then branches down along the coast of the US. In February 2014 the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada reported at the meeting of the American Geophysical Union in Hawaii that they detected the radioactive signal as early as June of 2013.
Ken Buesseler from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts, whose initiative and fundraising sent a research vessel into the waters off Fukushima only 12 weeks after the accident in 2011, has made an appeal to federal institutions to take on the monitoring of water off the West Coast. He made proposals to NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, to the EPA, to the Department of Energy, to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and even NIST, the National Institute for Standards and Technology. They all declined, stating that this was not their responsibility.
The testing that has begun in February/March 2014 is a combination of crowd sourcing and academic work. Woods Hole does water testing along the Canadian and US west coast and scientists at San Diego State University in conjunction with the Applied Nuclear Physics program at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have begun testing kelp for cesium 134 and 137, the signature isotopes of the Fukushima accident. They all rely on dedicated volunteer efforts to help fund and collect kelp and water samples. The results will be published on their respective web sites under Our Radioactive Ocean and Kelpwatch 2014.