Above: Dr. Buesseler on the beach at Bikini.


We recently got some unique uploads from Bikini and Enewetak Atolls, courtesy of Dr. Ken Buesseler, of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI).
Dr. Buesseler is a leading oceanographer studying the spread and effects of radioactive releases to the ocean from Fukushima, who started a very important and successful crowdsourced program to collect and analyze ocean water samples from the Pacific coast of North America, called “Our Radioactive Ocean.”

Map links:
Bikini–lagoon, onshore at Namu
Enewetak – by ship and ashore
Enewetak — Runit dome

We’ve stayed in touch with Dr. Buesseler over the past few years, and when we heard that he was heading to Bikini, SAFECAST advisor Dan Sythe (CEO of Int’l Medcom) rushed a bGeigie Nano to Honolulu from Sebastopol, CA, for him to use. It just happens to be one Dan’s wife Orapin built, which has pink-tinted acrylic parts is and decorated with a Hello Kitty sticker.

The Hello Kitty Nano mounted onboard the ship.

Dr. Buesseler writes:

“This is a privately funded research cruise on the R/V Alucia. Quite a nice ship compared to our govt. funded ones! It’s a one off chance to sample an important site of over 100 nuclear weapons tests and about 80% of the total yield from US testing (so many big tests were conducted here). Given our limits to space and funding, we are not sampling any living animals, plants, marine life, corals, fish, algae etc. so it is more focused on radionuclide concentrations and sources, not on uptake in food chain. While levels for many will be higher, data from the 1970’s shows that cesium in the ocean today post Fukushima near the NPP is actually higher than in the lagoons. Plutonium may be a different story as it was (still is?) higher here, and is quite low from Fukushima.”

Buesseler’s team left Majuro on Jan 16, were at Bikini atoll sampling from Jan 18-20 (including the crater left by the Castle Bravo nuclear bomb test on March 1, 1954), then heading to Enewetak for 3 days (with one sampling station in between for waters in the upper 2000m) before a 3 day steam back to Majuro.

Enewak Atoll is about 300km west of Bikini

Buesseler’s team surveyed the Runit Dome (aka “Cactus Dome”) at Enewetak, which covers the 30-foot (9 meter) deep, 350-foot (107 meter) wide crater created by the May 5, 1958, Cactus test.

Dr. Buesseler at the Runit Dome. His readings from on top of the dome itself were basically normal background – about 20-30CPM – but his team will be sampling groundwater from wells near the dome, to see if it is elevated.

From the project notes:

“The Marshall Islands have been a source of man‐made radioactivity to the Pacific Ocean originating with the nuclear weapons testing program of the 1950s‐1960s. Today Fukushima has contributed an amount similar to what is left today in the North Pacific from these tests, highlighting the need for automated sampling technologies to assess future unanticipated events.

Link: Fukushima and Ocean Radioactivity

“Our project will use the Marshall Islands as a natural laboratory for testing a suite of automated techniques including the JetYak sample collection platform and a field radon monitor for measuring radionuclide inputs that come from groundwater seepage into the ocean.

“We will be collecting samples inside and outside the Bikini and Enewetak Atoll Lagoons using these automated methods as well as hand‐collected samples from the R/V Alucia
(www.aluciatheship.com) . We will also be going ashore to many of the islands to collect nearshore samples that cannot be reached by the ship and groundwater samples from existing monitoring wells or temporary wells installed by our team.”

Welcome to Enewetak!

The Nano at a well water sampling site on Enewetak.

About the Author

Azby Brown

Azby Brown is Safecast's lead researcher and primary author of the Safecast Report. A widely published authority in the fields of design, architecture, and the environment, he has lived in Japan for over 30 years, and founded the KIT Future Design Institute in 2003. He joined Safecast in mid-2011, and frequently represents the group at international expert conferences.