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State to test more Alaska seafood for radiation

The DEC plans to test more Alaska seafood for radiation.
The DEC plans to test more Alaska seafood for radiation.(ktuu)
Published: May. 4, 2021 at 5:19 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation plans to test more Alaska seafood for radiation after receiving a $100,000 grant from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

State Veterinarian Robert Gerlach said the DEC began testing Alaska seafood for radiation in 2014, when radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster was predicted to hit the west coast of North America. Gerlach said to date, no radiation from the incident has been detected in Alaskan seafood.

“That was extremely good news and was a great assurance for the commercial market as well as the local subsistence and recreational fishermen,” Gerlach said. “Because there are a lot of communities that are eating fish as their primary source of protein.”

But while Gerlach said Alaska seafood has been deemed safe by health officials, the testing has been limited to several species of fish including salmon, cod, halibut, pollock and sablefish. The new funding will allow testing in more locations as well as on more species like crab and other shellfish.

“We can go ahead and form decisions based on data rather than just saying, well we think it’s okay,” he said. “We know it’s okay, ‘cause we can measure that.”

The testing is done at the DEC lab in Anchorage, which has the only Portable Gamma-ray Analysis System in the country. Gerlach said the unit, which weighs about 100 pounds can test nearly any substance for radioactivity, and, if necessary, can be brought to the scene of a radioactive incident for quick results.

One thing the state is concerned about is Japan’s recent announcement that it plans to release treated radioactive water from the Fukushima plant in two years. Gerlach said global experts are debating the possible health effects and talking with the Japanese government. He said they need to know more about what the water might contain.

“There’s going to be a lot of public interest in that analysis of what’s going to happen, what’s going to be released,” he said.

The monitoring program may be more important than ever at that time.

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