A New England researcher has discovered radiation from Japan’s Fukushima plant in the United States for the first time since the nuclear disaster in 2011.

A small amount, less than one-thousandth the amount of a dental X-ray, was discovered in samples from Tillamook Bay and Gold Beach off the coast of central Oregon.

Still, the trace amount had to travel from Japan, 5,000 miles away, five years after the accident.

Oceanographic Institution chemical oceanographer Ken Buesseler analyzed seawater samples from the west coast taken in January and February.

He discovered that the samples contained radiation distinct to the Fukushima power plants.

Last week, the Statesman Journal identified Oregon as the source of the tainted samples.

“Not to downplay it, but the levels we are seeing are quite low,” Buesseler told UPI.

He said it is not enough for him to forgo seafood or swimming in the Pacific Ocean.

The radiation was first released in March 2011 after the 9-magnitude earthquake and tsunami caused three power plants in Japan to fail.

Radiation from the air contaminated seawater.

Currently, no U.S. federal agencies monitor the radiation levels in the ocean.

Buesseler’s research was aided by crowd-funding and samples sent to him by supporters of his research across the west coast. Volunteers send samples to his lab in Massachusetts, which allow him to track radiation across the Pacific Ocean.

He has also personally funded seven trips to Japan to further his research.

The recent samples were the first appearance of cesium-134, a ‘fingerprint” of the Japanese plant, was detected on the U.S. coast.

Buessler’s analysis also showed higher levels of cesium-137, another isotope unique to Fukushima that existed in the world’s oceans after nuclear testing in the 1950s and 1960s.

“You can’t ever have a radioactive-free ocean,” he said. “You have nuclear disasters like this one, testing and naturally occurring radioactivity.”

Buesseler is collaborating with the Fukushima InFORM project, led by University of Victoria chemical oceanographer Jay Cullen in Canada.

InFORM detected Cesium-134 for the first time in Canadian salmon.

Buesseler’s team had discovered Cesium-134 in a sample from seawater in Vancouver Island, B.C. in February 2015.

“Even if the levels were twice as high, you could still swim in the ocean for six hours every day for a year and receive a dose more than a thousand times less than a single dental X-ray,” Buesseler told the Statesman Journal at the time. “While that’s not zero, that’s a very low risk.”

Buesseler is less concerned about the levels of radiation, but the distance that the isotopes travel and the time it takes.

“As a scientist, I want to see how quickly ocean current mixes,” he said. “Models are not my specialty.”

His research could help identify the paths by which radiation travels in the event of another nuclear disaster.

Earlier this year, Japan and Russia announced they would combine efforts to study the effects of radiation on DNA.

The Japanese government is in the environmental and economic aftermath of the power plant incident.

Last month, Koyodo News reported that the cost to terminate the nuclear plant nearly doubled about 178.14 billion dollars. Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc.’s compensation payments will increase from 48.1 billion dollars to 71.3 billion dollars.

Reports say that decontamination expenses will double to 44.5 billion.

Featured Image via Flickr/IAEA Imagebank

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