In the aftermath of the earthquake damage at Japan’s Fukushima Nuclear Plant, UW physicists decided to find out if the leaked radiation had travelled 5,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean to Seattle’s UW campus.
They detected radiation in the air but not enough to cause a public-health concern.
From samples taken from the Physics and Astronomy Building air filter, physicists detected the first trace amounts of radioactive isotopes on March 18, about six days after the 9.0 magnitude earthquake hit Japan. The amount of radioactivity found was thousands of times below EPA levels and all traces of radioactive isotopes from the Fukushima Nuclear Plant have disappeared.
The scientists, led by Jonathan Diaz Leon, conducted the research and published their study because they wanted to confirm that there were no health risks after rumors spread about the harm the radioactivity could cause in Washington. Andreas Knecht, a co-author of the study, said, “The biggest incentive was the curiosity whether we would be able to detect the radiation at all.”