British Columbia

Fukushima nuclear pollution hasn't hit B.C. shore, says researcher Jay Cullen

Four years after a huge earthquake hit Japan creating a nuclear disaster in Fukushima, research shows nuclear pollution is making its way towards B.C., but isn't affecting fish.

Cullen expects nuclear pollution from Fukushima will hit B.C.'s beaches eventually

Ocean currents act as a conveyor, carrying debris and radiation-contaminated water from Japan towards North America. (NOAA)

Four years after a massive earthquake struck Japan, creating a nuclear disaster in Fukushima, research shows nuclear pollution is making its way towards B.C., but isn't affecting fish.

"According to all the measurements that we've made thus far, and with our partner Health Canada who have been making measurements of fish since 2011, we've yet to detect that marker isotope for fish caught along the coast," Jay Cullen, a University of Victoria professor, told Daybreak North's Carolina de Ryk.

The earthquake that struck off the coast of the Tohoku region in northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011, set off a monster wave, up to seven metres high, that crashed over the coast, causing massive damage.

The seawater from the tsunami breached the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, disabling its cooling system, causing a nuclear meltdown that the country is still trying to clean up. Altogether, the disaster killed 19,000 people and displaced more than 300,000.

Cullen, who leads a network to monitor the impact of the nuclear pollution caused by the disastersaid his team is looking for two specific cesium isotopes released from Fukushima.

“Atmospheric fallout reached the BC coast in the weeks following the meltdowns according to Health Canada monitoring stations. Transport by prevailing ocean currents was detected as early as 2012 about 1,500 kilometres offshore, and in 2014 we were detecting that contamination — fingerprint element that could only come from Fukushima on the continental shelf of British Columbia," he said.

The team he works with is also analyzing samples sent in by residents along B.C.'s coast, which he said haven't turned up any trace of Fukushima radiation.

He expects the nuclear pollution will hit B.C.'s beaches eventually, and he said researchers like himself will continue to monitor the impact that will have.

To hear the full interview with Jay Cullen, click the audio labelled: Fukushima radiation hasn't hit B.C. shore.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?