The Fukushima nuclear plant meltdown in March 2011 was the largest accidental release of radiation into the ocean in history, according to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution scientists who studied the area in June. Some water samples showed radioactive particles, or radionuclides, at levels 1,000 times higher than before the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident -- but still safely below levels dangerous to humans and much sea life.
This image shows the scientists' route and the locations of their sampling stations. The red and yellow areas mark the Kuroshio Current, a regular feature in waters east of Japan. It carried radionuclides away from the accident, and also blocked them from dispersing to the south. The researchers' study was published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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