DEC to expand testing for gamma radiation in seafood

State environmental officials plan expanded testing for gamma radiation in Alaska seafood, prompted by Japan’s decision to release treated radioactive water from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in two years.

“To date, we have not detected any radionuclides associated with Fukushima, and going forward we will be expanding radiation testing to further ensure these products are safe,” said Dr. Bob Gerlach, Alaska’s state veterinarian.

The Fukushima disaster was a nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in northern Japan, caused by the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. Radiation released into the atmosphere forced the government to evacuate some 154,000 residents of communities surrounding the plant due to rising off-site levels of ambient ionizing radiation caused by airborne contamination from damaged nuclear reactors.

Funds for the expanded testing, including more sampling of more species at more locations, are coming from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“Over 50% of our nation’s seafood comes from Alaska’s waters and we want to re-assure markets that this resource is of the highest quality,” said Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Jason Brune.

DEC has been monitoring for radiation in Alaska seafood for several years. DEC’s environmental Health Laboratory has the only Portable Gamma-ray Analysis System deployed to a state laboratory in the country. DEC has proactively monitored for contaminants in Alaska seafood since 2001, and test results, including gamma radiation testing, has confirmed the quality and health of Alaska seafood, DEC officials said.