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How Might Japan’s Nuclear Crisis Affect the Oceans?

Many of you have inquired via Twitter, Facebook and e-mail about how the Japanese nuclear crisis is affecting the oceans and marine life. There are still a lot of question marks, but here’s what our scientists have to say.

How it could affect marine life in general:

The greatest concern for marine life comes from the radiation from cesium, strontium and radioactive iodine entering the oceans via the smoke and water runoff from the damaged facilities. Small doses of radiation will be spread out over the Pacific Ocean, and monitors on the U.S. West Coast have even picked up slight traces of radiation from the smoke.

Although the levels of cesium and radioactive iodine in the immediate vicinity of the plant have increased and very small amounts of radiation have even been detected in local anchovies (1 percent of acceptable levels), it is not clear whether there will be any long-term or significant impacts on marine life off the coast of Japan or out to sea, according to researchers who studied the marine effects of fallout from nuclear weapons tests in the Pacific and the Chernobyl nuclear accident.


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