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Concept: Hanford Site


A primary health concern among residents and evacuees in affected areas immediately after a nuclear accident is the internal exposure of the thyroid to radioiodine, particularly I-131, and subsequent thyroid cancer risk. In Japan, the natural disasters of the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 destroyed an important function of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (F1-NPP) and a large amount of radioactive material was released to the environment. Here we report for the first time extensive measurements of the exposure to I-131 revealing I-131 activity in the thyroid of 46 out of the 62 residents and evacuees measured. The median thyroid equivalent dose was estimated to be 4.2 mSv and 3.5 mSv for children and adults, respectively, much smaller than the mean thyroid dose in the Chernobyl accident (490 mSv in evacuees). Maximum thyroid doses for children and adults were 23 mSv and 33 mSv, respectively.

Concepts: Chernobyl disaster, Nuclear medicine, Nuclear power, Radioactive contamination, Lists of nuclear disasters and radioactive incidents, Nuclear safety, Three Mile Island accident, Hanford Site


This paper reviews the origin and chemical and rheological complexity of radioactive waste at the U.S. Department of Energy Hanford Site. The waste, stored in underground tanks, was generated via three distinct processes over decades of plutonium extraction operations. Although close records were kept of original waste disposition, tank-to-tank transfers and conditions that impede equilibrium complicate our understanding of the chemistry, phase composition, and rheology of the waste. Tank waste slurries comprise particles and aggregates from nano to micron scales, with varying densities, morphologies, heterogeneous compositions, and complicated responses to flow regimes and process conditions. Further, remnant or changing radiation fields may affect the stability and rheology of the waste. These conditions pose challenges for transport through conduits or pipes to treatment plants for vitrification. Additionally, recalcitrant boehmite degrades glass quality and the high aluminum content must be reduced prior to vitrification for the manufacture of waste glass of acceptable durability. However, caustic leaching indicates that boehmite dissolves much more slowly than predicted given surface normalized rates. Existing empirical models based on ex situ experiments and observations generally only describe material balances and have not effectively predicted process performance. Recent advances in in situ microscopy, aberration-corrected transmission electron microscopy, theoretical modeling across scales, and experimental methods for probing the physics and chemistry at mineral-fluid and mineral-mineral interfaces are being implemented to build robustly predictive physics-based models.

Concepts: Scientific method, Electron, Chemistry, Radioactive waste, Nuclear reprocessing, PUREX, Hanford Site, Nuclear reactor technology


One of the well-known radiation-associated late-onset cancers is childhood thyroid cancer as demonstrated around Chernobyl apparently from 1991. Therefore, immediately after the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident on March 2011, iodine thyroid blocking was considered regardless of its successful implementation or not at the indicated timing and places as one of the radiation protection measurements, in addition to evacuation and indoor sheltering, because a short-lived radioactive iodine was massively released into the environment which might crucially affect thyroid glands through inhalation and unrestricted consumption of contaminated food and milk. However, very fortunately, it is now increasingly believed that the exposure doses on the thyroid as well as whole body are too low to detect any radiation-associated cancer risk in Fukushima. Although the risk of radiation-associated health consequences of residents in Fukushima is quite different from that of Chernobyl and is considerably low based on the estimated radiation doses received during the accident for individuals, a large number of people have received psychosocial and mental stresses aggravated by radiation fear and anxiety, and remained in indeterminate and uncertain situation having been evacuated but not relocated. It is, therefore, critically important that best activities and practices related to recovery and resilience should be encouraged, supported and implemented at local and regional levels. Since psychosocial well-being of individuals and communities is the core element of resilience, local individuals, health professionals and authorities are uniquely positioned to identify and provide insight into what would provide the best resolution for their specific needs.

Concepts: Nuclear physics, Chernobyl disaster, Radiation therapy, Uranium, Thyroid, Iodine, Nuclear power, Hanford Site


Large quantities of radionuclides have leaked from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant into the surrounding environment. Effective prevention of health hazards resulting from radiation exposure will require the development of efficient and economical methods for decontaminating radioactive wastewater and aquatic ecosystems. Here we describe the accumulation of water-soluble radionuclides released by nuclear reactors by a novel strain of alga. The newly discovered green microalgae, Parachlorella sp. binos (Binos) has a thick alginate-containing extracellular matrix and abundant chloroplasts. When this strain was cultured with radioiodine, a light-dependent uptake of radioiodine was observed. In dark conditions, radioiodine uptake was induced by addition of hydrogen superoxide. High-resolution secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) showed a localization of accumulated iodine in the cytosol. This alga also exhibited highly efficient incorporation of the radioactive isotopes strontium and cesium in a light-independent manner. SIMS analysis showed that strontium was distributed in the extracellular matrix of Binos. Finally we also showed the ability of this strain to accumulate radioactive nuclides from water and soil samples collected from a heavily contaminated area in Fukushima. Our results demonstrate that Binos could be applied to the decontamination of iodine, strontium and cesium radioisotopes, which are most commonly encountered after nuclear reactor accidents.

Concepts: Chernobyl disaster, Nuclear medicine, Isotope, Nuclear power, Radioactive contamination, Nuclear safety, Radionuclide, Hanford Site


The radionuclides released from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in 2011 pose a health risk. In this study, we estimated the 1st-year average doses resulting from the intake of iodine 131 (131I) and cesium 134 and 137 (134Cs and 137Cs) in drinking water and food ingested by citizens of Fukushima City (∼50 km from the nuclear power plant; outside the evacuation zone), Tokyo (∼230 km), and Osaka (∼580 km) after the accident. For citizens in Fukushima City, we considered two scenarios: Case 1, citizens consumed vegetables bought from markets; Case 2, citizens consumed vegetables grown locally (conservative scenario). The estimated effective doses of 134Cs and 137Cs agreed well with those estimated through market basket and food-duplicate surveys. The average thyroid equivalent doses due to ingestion of 131I for adults were 840 µSv (Case 1) and 2700 µSv (Case 2) in Fukushima City, 370 µSv in Tokyo, and 16 µSv in Osaka. The average effective doses due to 134Cs and 137Cs were 19, 120, 6.1, and 1.9 µSv, respectively. The doses estimated in this study were much lower than values reported by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, whose assessments lacked validation and full consideration of regional trade in foods, highlighting the importance of including regional trade. The 95th percentile effective doses were 2-3 times the average values. Lifetime attributable risks (LARs) of thyroid cancers due to ingestion were 2.3-39×10-6 (Case 1) and 10-98×10-6 (Case 2) in Fukushima City, 0.95-14×10-6 in Tokyo, and 0.11-1.3×10-6 in Osaka. The contributions of LARs of thyroid cancers due to ingestion were 7.5%-12% of all exposure (Case 1) and 12%-30% (Case 2) in Fukushima City.

Concepts: Ionizing radiation, Chernobyl disaster, Radiation therapy, World Health Organization, United Nations, Iodine-131, Three Mile Island accident, Hanford Site


Iodine-131 is one of the main concerns from the point of view of radiological protection in a short term after a nuclear accident. The WBC Laboratory of CIEMAT has developed a methodology for in vivo monitoring of radioiodine in the thyroid of exposed individuals in case of emergency. Thyroid-neck phantoms of different sizes are required for calibrating the detection systems in appropriate counting geometries for the measurement of exposed population. A Low-Energy Germanium (LEGe) detector and a Fastscan Counter were calibrated using a set of thyroid phantoms fabricated by CIEMAT. Each neck phantom consists of a Lucite cylinder with a vial source of 131I. Counting efficiencies depending on age and thyroid sizes were obtained to be used to determine the activity of 131I in internally contaminated people. DL of 131I varies with the age, being in the range of 5-8 Bq for the LEGe detector and 26-42 Bq for the Fastscan. Detection of intakes resulting in Committed Effective doses far below 1 mSv are guaranteed for thyroid monitoring in a few days after the accidental exposure assuming a scenario of acute inhalation or ingestion of 131I by members of the public.

Concepts: Chernobyl disaster, Nuclear medicine, Isotopes of iodine, Metrology, Radiation therapy, Iodine-131, Hanford Site


We challenge the suggestion by Sample et al. (2015) that a depth of 305 cm (10 ft) exceeds the depth of biological activity in soils at the Hanford Site or similar sites. Instead, we support the standard point of compliance, identified in the Model Toxics Control Act in the state of Washington, which specifies a depth of 457 cm (15 ft) for the protection of both human and ecological receptors at the Hanford Site. Our position is based on additional information considered in our expanded review of the literature, the influence of a changing environment over time on plant community dynamics at the Hanford Site, as well as the inherent uncertainty in the Sample et al. (2015) analysis. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: Biology, Life, Ecology, Natural environment, All rights reserved, Washington, Copyright, Hanford Site


Nitrate and radioiodine (129I) contamination is widespread in groundwater underneath the Central Plateau of the Hanford Site.129I, a byproduct of nuclear fission, is of concern due to a 15.7 million year half-life, and toxicity. The Hanford 200 West Area contains plumes covering 4.3 km2with average129I concentrations of 3.5 pCi/L. Iodate accounts for 70.6% of the iodine present and organo-iodine and iodide make up 25.8% and 3.6%, respectively. Nitrate plumes encompassing the129I plumes have a surface area of 16 km2averaging 130 mg/L. A nitrate and iodate reducing bacterium closely related to Agrobacterium, strain DVZ35, was isolated from sediment incubated in a129I plume. Iodate removal efficiency was 36.3% in transition cultures, and 47.8% in anaerobic cultures. Nitrate (10 mM) was also reduced in the microcosm. When nitrate was spiked into the microcosms, iodate removal efficiency was 84.0% and 69.2% in transition and anaerobic cultures, respectively. Iodate reduction was lacking when nitrate was absent from the growth medium. These data indicate there is simultaneous reduction of nitrate and iodate by DVZ35, and iodate is reduced to iodide. Results provide the scientific basis for combined nitrogen and iodine cycling throughout the Hanford Site.

Concepts: Redox, Electrochemistry, Nitrogen, Iodine, Nuclear power, Iodine-131, Hanford Site, Manhattan Project


Microbially mediated ammonium oxidation is a major process affecting nitrogen transformation and cycling in natural environments. This study investigated whether ion exchange process can affect microbially mediated aerobic oxidation of ammonium in a hyporheic zone (HZ) sediments from the Columbia River at US Department of Energy’s Hanford site, Washington State. Experiments were conducted using synthetic groundwater and river water to investigate their effect on ammonium oxidation. Results indicated that ammonium sorption through ion exchange reactions decreased the rate of ammonium oxidation, apparently resulting from the influence of the ion exchange on dissolved ammonium concentration, thus decreasing the bioavailability of ammonium for microbial oxidation. However, with the decrease in dissolved ammonium concentration, the sorbed ammonium released back to aqueous phase, and became bioavailable so that all the ammonium in the suspensions were oxidized. Our results implied a dynamic change in ammonium oxidation rates in an environment such as at HZ where river water and groundwater with different chemical compositions exchange frequently that can affect ammonium sorption and desorption through ion exchange reactions.

Concepts: Ammonia, Water, Cellular respiration, Chemistry, Nitrogen, Washington, Columbia River, Hanford Site


The effective capture and storage of radioactive iodine is of importance for nuclear waste storage during nuclear power station accidents. Here we report Fe3O4@PPy powder containing ∼12nm magnetite (Fe3O4) nanoparticles encapsulated in the polypyrrole (PPy) matrix. It shows 1627mg/g uptake of iodine dissolved in water, within 2h at room temperature. Fe3O4@PPy is ferromagnetic in nature and can be separated from water using external magnetic field. The nitrogen gas sweeping test at 30°C shows release of 2% iodine from iodine adsorbed Fe3O4@PPy, revealing stable storage of iodine for a moderate period. The iodine-adsorbed magnetic powder can be regenerated by washing with ethanol. The XPS spectrum of iodine adsorbed Fe3O4@PPy confirmed the presence of polyiodides (I3(-) and I5(-)) bound to the PPy surface. This excellent iodine capture and storage from iodine contaminated water is an environment friendly, inexpensive and large scale method.

Concepts: Chernobyl disaster, Magnetism, Uranium, Nuclear fission, Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, Hanford Site, Sellafield, Global Nuclear Energy Partnership