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Concept: Electricity generation


After the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in March 2011, radioactive elements were released from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Based on prior knowledge, concern emerged about whether an increased incidence of thyroid cancer among exposed residents would occur as a result.

Concepts: Chernobyl disaster, Uranium, Nuclear fission, Japan, Nuclear power, Nuclear safety, Electricity generation, Sellafield


Direct electric power generation using biological functions have become a research focus due to their low cost and cleanliness. Unlike major approaches using glucose fuels or microbial fuel cells (MFCs), we present a generation method with intrinsically high energy conversion efficiency and generation with arbitrary timing using living electric organs of Torpedo (electric rays) which are serially integrated electrocytes converting ATP into electric energy. We developed alternative nervous systems using fluid pressure to stimulate electrocytes by a neurotransmitter, acetylcholine (Ach), and demonstrated electric generation. Maximum voltage and current were 1.5 V and 0.64 mA, respectively, with a duration time of a few seconds. We also demonstrated energy accumulation in a capacitor. The current was far larger than that using general cells other than electrocytes (~pA level). The generation ability was confirmed against repetitive cycles and also after preservation for 1 day. This is the first step toward ATP-based energy harvesting devices.

Concepts: Electromagnetism, Electricity, Neurotransmitter, Energy conversion, Coal, Electricity generation, Electrical generator, Electric power


Decarbonization of electricity generation can support climate-change mitigation and presents an opportunity to address pollution resulting from fossil-fuel combustion. Generally, renewable technologies require higher initial investments in infrastructure than fossil-based power systems. To assess the tradeoffs of increased up-front emissions and reduced operational emissions, we present, to our knowledge, the first global, integrated life-cycle assessment (LCA) of long-term, wide-scale implementation of electricity generation from renewable sources (i.e., photovoltaic and solar thermal, wind, and hydropower) and of carbon dioxide capture and storage for fossil power generation. We compare emissions causing particulate matter exposure, freshwater ecotoxicity, freshwater eutrophication, and climate change for the climate-change-mitigation (BLUE Map) and business-as-usual (Baseline) scenarios of the International Energy Agency up to 2050. We use a vintage stock model to conduct an LCA of newly installed capacity year-by-year for each region, thus accounting for changes in the energy mix used to manufacture future power plants. Under the Baseline scenario, emissions of air and water pollutants more than double whereas the low-carbon technologies introduced in the BLUE Map scenario allow a doubling of electricity supply while stabilizing or even reducing pollution. Material requirements per unit generation for low-carbon technologies can be higher than for conventional fossil generation: 11-40 times more copper for photovoltaic systems and 6-14 times more iron for wind power plants. However, only two years of current global copper and one year of iron production will suffice to build a low-carbon energy system capable of supplying the world’s electricity needs in 2050.

Concepts: Oxygen, Carbon dioxide, Iron, Renewable energy, Coal, Wind power, Electricity generation, Low-carbon economy


 The degree of contamination with radioactive cesium ((134) Cs and (137) Cs) in the human placenta after the accident at Fukushima nuclear power plant (FNP), which occurred on 11 March 2011, has not been assessed.

Concepts: Chernobyl disaster, Uranium, Nuclear fission, Nuclear power, Nuclear safety, Electricity generation, Sellafield, Global Nuclear Energy Partnership


The events of March 2011 at the nuclear power complex in Fukushima, Japan, raised questions about the safe operation of nuclear power plants, with early retirement of existing nuclear power plants being debated in the policy arena and considered by regulators. Also, the future of building new nuclear power plants is highly uncertain. Should nuclear power policies become more restrictive, one potential option for climate change mitigation will be less available. However, a systematic analysis of nuclear power policies, including early retirement, has been missing in the climate change mitigation literature. We apply an energy economy model framework to derive scenarios and analyze the interactions and tradeoffs between these two policy fields. Our results indicate that early retirement of nuclear power plants leads to discounted cumulative global GDP losses of 0.07% by 2020. If, in addition, new nuclear investments are excluded, total losses will double. The effect of climate policies imposed by an intertemporal carbon budget on incremental costs of policies restricting nuclear power use is small. However, climate policies have much larger impacts than policies restricting the use of nuclear power. The carbon budget leads to cumulative discounted near term reductions of global GDP of 0.64% until 2020. Intertemporal flexibility of the carbon budget approach enables higher near-term emissions as a result of increased power generation from natural gas to fill the emerging gap in electricity supply, while still remaining within the overall carbon budget. Demand reductions and efficiency improvements are the second major response strategy.

Concepts: Nuclear physics, Nuclear fission, Coal, Nuclear power, Energy development, Electricity generation, Sustainable energy, World energy resources and consumption


The distribution and potential sources of 15 polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in soils in the vicinity of three South African coal-fired power plants were determined by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. PAH compound ratios such as phenanthrene/phenanthrene + anthracene (Phen/Phen + Anth) were used to provide reliable estimation of emission sources. The total PAH concentration in the soils around three power plants ranged from 9.73 to 61.24 μg g(-1), a range above the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry levels of 1.0 μg g(-1) for significantly contaminated site. Calculated values of Phen/Phen + Anth ratio were 0.48 ± 0.08, 0.44 ± 0.05, and 0.38 + 0.04 for Matla, Lethabo, and Rooiwal, respectively. Flouranthene/fluoranthene + pyrene (Flan/Flan + Pyr) were found to be 0.49 ± 0.03 for Matla, 0.44 ± 0.05 for Lethabo, and 0.53 ± 0.08 for Rooiwal. Such values indicate a pyrolytic source of PAHs. Higher molecular weight PAHs (five to six rings) were predominant, suggesting coal combustion sources. A good correlation existed between most of the PAHs implying that these compounds were emitted from similar sources. The carcinogenic potency B[a]P equivalent concentration (B[a] Peq) at the three power plants ranged from 3.61 to 25.25 indicating a high carcinogenic burden. The highest (B[a] Peq) was found in samples collected around Matla power station. It can therefore be concluded that the soils were contaminated with PAHs originating from coal-fired power stations.

Concepts: Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon, Benzene, Coal, Naphthalene, Electricity generation, Power station, Cogeneration, Coal-fired power station


Japan’s 2011 Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant incident required the evacuation of over a million people, creating a large displaced population with potentially increased vulnerability in terms of chronic health conditions. We assessed the long-term impact of evacuation on diabetes, hyperlipidaemia and hypertension.

Concepts: Nuclear physics, Nuclear fission, Coal, Nuclear power, Electricity generation, Sustainable energy


Changes in population birth outcomes, including increases in low birthweight or preterm births, have been documented after natural and manmade disasters. However, information is limited following the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant Disaster. In this study, we assessed whether there were long-term changes in birth outcomes post-disaster, compared to pre-disaster data, and whether residential area and food purchasing patterns, as proxy measurements of evacuation and radiation-related anxiety, were associated with post-disaster birth outcomes. Maternal and perinatal data were retrospectively collected for all live singleton births at a public hospital, located 23 km from the power plant, from 2008 to 2015. Proportions of low birthweight (<2500 g at birth) and preterm births (<37 weeks gestation at birth) were compared pre- and post-disaster, and regression models were conducted to assess for associations between these outcomes and evacuation and food avoidance. A total of 1101 live singleton births were included. There were no increased proportions of low birthweight or preterm births in any year after the disaster (merged post-disaster risk ratio of low birthweight birth: 0.98, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.64-1.51; and preterm birth: 0.68, 95% CI: 0.38-1.21). No significant associations between birth outcomes and residential area or food purchasing patterns were identified, after adjustment for covariates. In conclusion, no changes in birth outcomes were found in this institution-based investigation after the Fukushima disaster. Further research is needed on the pathways that may exacerbate or reduce disaster effects on maternal and perinatal health.

Concepts: Childbirth, Nuclear physics, Chernobyl disaster, Obstetrics, Nuclear fission, Nuclear power, Preterm birth, Electricity generation


In this study we analyzed the effect of chronic and low-dose-rate (LDR) radiation on spermatogenic cells of large Japanese field mice ( Apodemus speciosus ) after the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (FNPP) accident. In March 2014, large Japanese field mice were collected from two sites located in, and one site adjacent to, the FNPP ex-evacuation zone: Tanashio, Murohara and Akogi, respectively. Testes from these animals were analyzed histologically. External dose rate from radiocesium (combined (134)Cs and (137)Cs) in these animals at the sampling sites exhibited 21 μGy/day in Tanashio, 304-365 μGy/day in Murohara and 407-447 μGy/day in Akogi. In the Akogi group, the numbers of spermatogenic cells and proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA)-positive cells per seminiferous tubule were significantly higher compared to the Tanashio and Murohara groups, respectively. TUNEL-positive apoptotic cells tended to be detected at a lower level in the Murohara and Akogi groups compared to the Tanashio group. These results suggest that enhanced spermatogenesis occurred in large Japanese field mice living in and around the FNPP ex-evacuation zone. It remains to be elucidated whether this phenomenon, attributed to chronic exposure to LDR radiation, will benefit or adversely affect large Japanese field mice.

Concepts: Chernobyl disaster, Meiosis, Sertoli cell, Spermatogenesis, Nuclear power, Nuclear safety, Electricity generation, Apodemus


Following the massive earthquake that struck eastern Japan on March 11, 2011, a nuclear reactor core meltdown occurred at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, operated by Tokyo Electric Power Company, and was followed by the release of large amounts of radioactive materials. The objective of this study was to measure the concentration of radiocesium (134)Cs and (137)Cs in the muscle of Japanese monkeys (Macaca fuscata) inhabiting the forest area of Fukushima City and to determine the change in concentration over time as well as the relationship with the level of soil contamination. Cesium concentrations in the muscle of monkeys captured at locations with 100,000-300,000 Bq/m(2) were 6,000-25,000 Bq/kg in April 2011 and decreased over 3 months to around 1,000 Bq/kg. However, the concentration increased again to 2,000-3,000 Bq/kg in some animals during and after December 2011 before returning to 1,000 Bq/kg in April 2012, after which it remained relatively constant. This pattern of change in muscle radiocesium concentration was similar to that of the change in radiocesium concentration in atmospheric fallout. Moreover, the monkeys feed on winter buds and the cambium layer of tree bark potentially containing higher concentrations of radiocesium than that in the diet during the rest of the year. The muscle radiocesium concentration in the monkeys related significantly with the level of soil contamination at the capture locations.

Concepts: Chernobyl disaster, Primate, Nuclear power, Lists of nuclear disasters and radioactive incidents, Nuclear safety, Electricity generation, Nuclear technology, Three Mile Island accident