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Radioactive Fukushima Water Headed for US West Coast

As nuclear industry and allies in government play down risk, scientists warn there is no such thing as safe radiation

- Common Dreams staff

Big Sur Coast in Central California (Photo: Joseph Plotz / Wikimedia Creative Commons)Radioactive water contaminated by Japan's ravaged Fukushima nuclear plant will soon reach the west coast of the United States, according to Chairwoman of U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Allison Macfarlane, Bloomberg reports.

As the nuclear industry and its allies in government attempt to play down the danger of the contaminated ocean waters, scientists warn there is no such thing as safe radiation.

“The highest amount of radiation that will reach the U.S. is two orders of magnitude — 100 times — less than the drinking water standard," Macfarlane told Bloomberg. "So, if you could drink the salt water, which you won’t be able to do, it’s still fairly low.”

Her claims of safety come on the heels of repeated efforts by TEPCO, the nuclear industry and the Japanese government to cover up and play down the spiraling Fukushima nuclear crisis.

Yet, scientists warn that claims that radiation is not harmful are deceptive.

Over 800 people across the world will get cancer from consuming fish that were contaminated with Fukushima radiation in Japanese waters by mid-July, 2013, according to newspaper Georgia Straight calculations based on a cancer risk formula developed by the Environmental Protection Agency and radiation levels in fish tested by the Japanese Fisheries Agency.

"This is not a one time wave that washes the shore and goes away. Fukushima is continuing to pollute the ocean."—Arnie GundersenThis is likely only the tip of the iceberg, explained Daniel Hirsch, a nuclear-policy lecturer at the University of California at Santa Cruz, in an interview with Georgia Straight. The number 800 does not account for future fish consumption, unmonitored damaged isotopes released by the Fukushima disaster and a host of other factors that could drastically increase cancer rates, he explained.

Scientists note it is difficult to predict the cancer rates for those on North America's west coast, and that these cancer statistics do not include a host of other potential ill health effects, including heart disease and genetic damage.

"All radiation is unsafe," said Arnie Gundersen, former nuclear industry executive turned whistleblower, in an interview with Common Dreams. "There is no non-harmful level."

Meanwhile, west coast cities are growing nervous. The San Francisco Bay area city of Fairfax, California passed a resolution earlier this week calling for increased testing of coastal seafood and a reduction of radiation emissions from Fukushima.

Gundersen warned that the danger will only increase from here. "The faucet is still on. The Pacific is still becoming more contaminated," he said. "This is not a one time wave that washes the shore and goes away. Fukushima is continuing to pollute the ocean."

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