Environmental science & technology | 21 Dec 2012
S Merz, G Steinhauser and N Hamada
The Japanese government ordered the analysis of thousands of foods after the Fukushima nuclear accident to ascertain compliance with regulatory limits for anthropogenic radionuclides in food. Four hundred and fourty five samples from 11 prefectures exceeded the regulatory limits that were in force until 31 March 2011. The possibility of these 445 samples representing localized areas of high radiocesium concentration was investigated. The objective of this study was to determine the radiocesium activity ratio (134Cs/137Cs) in foods from each geographic area to possibly identify the radioactive signature of the four different reactors (i.e. four independent sources) in the distinct regions. The average 134Cs/137Cs activity ratio was 0.98+/-0.01 for all samples. However, no clear deviations from this value could be confirmed in the various regions. Since there was no statistically significant deviation in the radiocesium activity ratio, the releases from reactor No. 4 (carrying a significantly smaller activity ratio) are assumed to be small when compared with the other three reactor release. The individual radioisotopic signatures of reactors No. 1, 2, and 3 could not be identified in various Japanese regions using the food samples, indicating integral radiocesium contamination from these sources. Subsequent releases of fission products from the reactors (e.g. after possible criticalities reported in October 2011) proved to have no impact on the radiocesium activity ratio. A discussion of the development of the regulatory limits in Japan and Europe with regard to the current limits and radiological food safety are also included.
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