Alaska’s bountiful seafood harvests continue to be free of any radiation released from the 2011 Japanese tsunami and resultant nuclear power plant meltdown at Fukushima.
In figures released Monday, samples taken during the 2015 summer season showed there was no indication of any of the radionuclides associated with the power plant, such as Iodine-131, Cesium-134 or Cesium-137.
Marlena Brewer, from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation’s Division of Environmental Health, said the results from 2014 suggested testing again this summer.
“From some of the modeling and other efforts, indicated the highest levels of radiation might peak in 2015, so there’s a concern fish in 2015 and continue monitoring. So we were successful in coordinating again with the FDA to do the analysis of the fish from this fishing season," Brewer said. "And again, all of those results were ‘non-detect.’”
Brewer said that it’s possible to tell the age and source of radiation found in samples based on several characteristics.
“There are some that stick around for a very long time, if you will, and there are some that have a very short lifetime and they degrade very rapidly. So you can look for those that are shorter-lived as an indicator of a newer source," she said. "And then also the specific types of radionuclides that are specific to nuclear power versus other sources of radiation.”
As Brewer mentioned, the DEC worked with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on the testing.
“We worked very closely with the FDA for sampling methodologies to make sure that we collected the samples according to their protocols. And the DEC inspectors that were going out for regularly scheduled inspections of seafood processors throughout the state, they collected additional samples during those inspections for the FDA testing," Brewer said. "You know we didn’t have any money, the state didn’t have any additional money to go out and sample specifically for these, so we took the advantage of our regularly scheduled inspections as an opportunity to collect additional samples to send off to the FDA. And then the FDA used the same protocols they use to test all food products with.”
The Alaska fish radiation sampling partnership, including the DEC and the Department of Health and Social Services, received national recognition from the FDA for its work in keeping Alaska’s seafood safe. DEC Commissioner Larry Hartig said the state’s ability to point at the lab analysis in confirming the health of Alaska’s fisheries is important consumers nationally and internationally.
As for next year, Brewer says other testing will go on, but so far probably none for radiation.
“We haven’t discussed, you know, continuing monitoring for the radiation. We do have an on-going fish-monitoring programing. We test for a multitude of environmental contaminants, and we are going to continue with that, of course," she said. "But at this time there haven’t been the discussions about continuing the radiological testing.”
The fish species covered in the testing include all five kinds of salmon, halibut, pollock, sablefish and Pacific cod.