SAN DIEGO - YouTube video of a man who claimed to find high radiation levels in Northern California sparked fear among many over the lasting effects of the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster from 2011. Researchers are now collecting samples of kelp off the West Coast to test its radiation levels to see if it is true.
San Diego State University biology professor Matthew Edwards is just one of 50 who will take part in the Kelp Project, which was started by California State University Long Beach professor Steve Manley.
"Kelp is a good indicator of what water quality is like," said Edwards. "It's a sentinel so it absorbs and concentrates things like radioactive materials."
Edwards along with a handful of graduate students will travel out to the kelp beds near Point Loma and Ocean Beach to collect samples. The kelp will then be dried out and ground up into a small power before being sent to labs in Berkley to be analyzed.
Edwards does not believe they will find levels that will be harmful to the public.
"My guess is that if we do detect levels of radiation, they will be very low, not levels that are going to be a public health risk or risk organisms that are out in the ocean," he said.
Kelp will be collected from 30 different locations along California. Scientists will also take samples from locations all along the West Coast from Mexico to Alaska.
"If we are finding them, it is telling us something about the potential for things to travel great distances across the ocean," said Edwards. "Something that can happen on the other side of the earth where you have a disaster … it can have implications that can spread globally."
Kelp will be collected every couple of months to test radiation levels.