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Fukushima Fallout: San Diego State Researchers Monitoring Sea Kelp for Radiation Exposure

Evening Edition

Aired 2/13/14 on KPBS Midday Edition.

GUESTS:

Matthew Edwards, Professor of Biology, SDSU

Todd Anderson, Director, SDSU's Coastal and Marine Institute

Transcript

It's been nearly three years since the devastating 9.0 earthquake and destructive tsunami in Japan that caused a meltdown at the Fukishima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Among the environmental disasters that resulted from that meltdown was the leak of radioactive material into the Pacific Ocean. One big question that scientists have been asking is: Will that radioactivity reach our coast and enter our ecosystem?

Now San Diego State University researchers will be joining in a new program to monitor one of the most vulnerable areas of the marine environment —kelp beds — for radioactive isotopes.

"The root reason for this study is there's a nuclear disaster and the waters around Fukushima are heavily contaminated," said Matthew Edwards, professor of biology at SDSU, who is part of the research team, "...we know there's a major impact there (Japan)...the question becomes: Is it going to impact other ecosystems?"

As part of "Project Kelp Watch 2014," some 50 scientists will be taking kelp samples from more than 30 locations off the California coast, including Point Loma and North County.

In addition, researchers from all along the western seaboard will be looking at kelp beds from Alaska to Mexico to determine any radiation exposure.

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