Friday, March 25, 2011

Trace Radiation Found Aboard Cargo Ship at Tacoma Port

Low, non-life threatening levels of radiation were detected Wednesday aboard a cargo ship tied up at the Port of Tacoma, according to the United States Coast Guard.

The radiation was detected in the engine room air filters of the Hyundai Oakland, which arrived Tuesday at the port. It is the first ship to arrive at the port from Asia since the post-earthquake/tsunami problems at Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant arose, including reported releases of radioactive material. The ship's last call had been Shanghai, however, according to the Coast Guard the ship had not passed within 250 miles of Japan.

The Coast Guard emphasized that the detected levels aboard the ship were not harmful to human health and were confined to the engine room filters.

State health officials told local TV station KIRO 7 that the "finding was expected because of the radiation that has spread from the nuclear plant across the ocean and the enormous size of the filter on the ship."

The US Customs and Border Protection have been screening all cargo arriving from Japan since the earthquake for radiation.

Austrian researchers using a worldwide system of detectors set up to detect clandestine nuclear weapons tests have calculated that iodine-131 is being released from the Japanese facility at daily levels equal to 73 percent of those seen near Chernobyl after that plant's 1986 disaster. The monitors, including detectors in Alaska, Hawaii and Sacramento, California, also indicate that the daily amount of caesium-137 released from the Fukushima plant is around 60 percent of the amount released from Chernobyl.

The researchers pointed out, however, that while Chernobyl spread radioactive particles in the smoke generated by the massive fire at the Ukrainian plant, the majority of the Japanese radiation is localized to the area around the Fukushima power plant.