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Images: Radioisotopes in the Ocean

Water and biological samples collected on the research cruise were sent to 16 laboratories in seven counties to detect levels of a variety of different radioisotopes. (Photo by Ken Kostel, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

Scientists on the expedition used nets to samples organisms and instruments as this CTD rosette to collect more than 1,500 seawater samples in 30 locations off Japan.  (Photo by Ken Kostel, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

An Unprecedented Release of Radioisotopes to the Ocean
The amount of cesium-137 radioisotopes from the Fukushima disaster in surface ocean waters was 10,000 to 100,000 times greater than amounts that entered the ocean from the Chernobyl accident or atmospheric nuclear weapons tests. (Illustration by Eric S. Taylor, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

Starting 375 miles off Japan, researchers on the Ka’imikai-o-Kanaloa measured radioisotope levels in various locations. They found that the Kuroshio Current blocked the southward flow of radioisotopes. Highest levels concentrated south of Fukushima, where currents trapped contamination in a swirling eddy. (Data from Steve Jayne, Illustration by Jack Cook, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)