Concept: Lists of nuclear disasters and radioactive incidents
The collapse of the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant caused a massive release of radioactive materials to the environment. A prompt and reliable system for evaluating the biological impacts of this accident on animals has not been available. Here we show that the accident caused physiological and genetic damage to the pale grass blue Zizeeria maha, a common lycaenid butterfly in Japan. We collected the first-voltine adults in the Fukushima area in May 2011, some of which showed relatively mild abnormalities. The F₁ offspring from the first-voltine females showed more severe abnormalities, which were inherited by the F₂ generation. Adult butterflies collected in September 2011 showed more severe abnormalities than those collected in May. Similar abnormalities were experimentally reproduced in individuals from a non-contaminated area by external and internal low-dose exposures. We conclude that artificial radionuclides from the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant caused physiological and genetic damage to this species.
The Fukushima nuclear accident released radioactive materials into the environment over the entire Northern Hemisphere in March 2011, and the Japanese government is spending large amounts of money to clean up the contaminated residential areas and agricultural fields. However, we still do not know the exact physical and chemical properties of the radioactive materials. This study directly observed spherical Cs-bearing particles emitted during a relatively early stage (March 14-15) of the accident. In contrast to the Cs-bearing radioactive materials that are currently assumed, these particles are larger, contain Fe, Zn, and Cs, and are water insoluble. Our simulation indicates that the spherical Cs-bearing particles mainly fell onto the ground by dry deposition. The finding of the spherical Cs particles will be a key to understand the processes of the accident and to accurately evaluate the health impacts and the residence time in the environment.
This study is dedicated to the environmental monitoring of radionuclides released in the course of the Fukushima nuclear accident. The activity concentrations of β(-) -emitting (90)Sr and β(-)/γ-emitting (134)Cs and (137)Cs from several hot spots in Japan were determined in soil and vegetation samples. The (90)Sr contamination levels of the samples were relatively low and did not exceed the Bq⋅g(-1) range. They were up four orders of magnitude lower than the respective (137)Cs levels. This study, therefore, experimentally confirms previous predictions indicating a low release of (90)Sr from the Fukushima reactors, due to its low volatility. The radiocesium contamination could be clearly attributed to the Fukushima nuclear accident via its activity ratio fingerprint ((134)Cs/(137)Cs). Although the correlation between (90)Sr and (137)Cs is relatively weak, the data set suggests an intrinsic coexistence of both radionuclides in the contaminations caused by the Fukushima nuclear accident. This observation is of great importance not only for remediation campaigns but also for the current food monitoring campaigns, which currently rely on the assumption that the activity concentrations of β(-)-emitting (90)Sr (which is relatively laborious to determine) is not higher than 10% of the level of γ-emitting (137)Cs (which can be measured quickly). This assumption could be confirmed for the samples investigated herein.
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.
Although the influence of nuclear accidents on the reproduction of top predators has not been investigated, it is important that we identify the effects of such accidents because humans are also top predators. We conducted field observation for 22 years and analysed the reproductive performance of the goshawk (Accipiter gentilis fujiyamae), a top avian predator in the North Kanto area of Japan, before and after the accidents at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant that occurred in 2011. The reproductive performance declined markedly compared with the pre-accident years and progressively decreased for the three post-accident study years. Moreover, it was suggested that these declines were primarily caused by an increase in the air dose rate of radio-active contaminants measured under the nests caused by the nuclear accidents, rather than by other factors. We consider the trends in the changes of the reproductive success rates and suggest that internal exposure may play an important role in the reproductive performance of the goshawk, as well as external exposure.
In 2011, 2012, and 2013, in the intertidal zones of eastern Japan, we investigated the ecological effects of the severe accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant that accompanied the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. The number of intertidal species decreased significantly with decreasing distance from the power plant, and no rock shell (Thais clavigera) specimens were collected near the plant, from Hirono to Futaba Beach (a distance of approximately 30 km) in 2012. The collection of rock shell specimens at many other sites hit by the tsunami suggests that the absence of rock shells around the plant in 2012 might have been caused by the nuclear accident in 2011. Quantitative surveys in 2013 showed that the number of species and population densities in the intertidal zones were much lower at sites near, or within several kilometers south of, the plant than at other sites and lower than in 1995, especially in the case of Arthropoda. There is no clear explanation for these findings, but it is evident that the intertidal biota around the power plant has been affected since the nuclear accident.
We reconstructed the radiological dose for birds observed at 300 census sites in the 50-km northwest area affected by the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant over 2011-2014. Substituting the ambient dose rate measured at the census points (from 0.16 to 31 μGy h(-1)) with the dose rate reconstructed for adult birds of each species (from 0.3 to 97 μGy h(-1)), we confirmed that the overall bird abundance at Fukushima decreased with increasing total doses. This relationship was directly consistent with exposure levels found in the literature to induce physiological disturbances in birds. Among the 57 species constituting the observed bird community, we found that 90% were likely chronically exposed at a dose rate that could potentially affect their reproductive success. We quantified a loss of 22.6% of the total number of individuals per increment of one unit log10-tansformed total dose (in Gy), over the four-year post-accident period in the explored area. We estimated that a total dose of 0.55 Gy reduced by 50% the total number of birds in the study area over 2011-2014. The data also suggest a significant positive relationship between total dose and species diversity.
Synchrotron radiation (SR) X-ray microbeam analyses revealed the detailed chemical nature of radioactive aerosol microparticles emitted during the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (FDNPP) accident, resulting in better understanding of what occurred in the plant during the early stages of the accident. Three spherical microparticles (~2 μm Φ) containing radioactive Cs were found in aerosol samples collected on March 14th and 15th, 2011, in Tsukuba, 172 km southwest of the FDNPP. SR-μ-X-ray fluorescence analysis detected the following 10 heavy elements in all three particles: Fe, Zn, Rb, Zr, Mo, Sn, Sb, Te, Cs, and Ba. In addition, U was found for the first time in two of the particles, further confirmed by U L-edge X-ray absorption near-edge structure (XANES) spectra, implying that U fuel and its fission products were contained in these particles along with radioactive Cs. These results strongly suggest that the FDNPP was damaged to emit U fuel and fission products outside the containment vessel as aerosol particles. SR-μ-XANES spectra of Fe, Zn, Mo, and Sn K-edges for the individual particles revealed that they were present at high oxidation states, i.e., Fe3+, Zn2+, Mo6+, and Sn4+ in the glass matrix, confirmed by SR-μ-X-ray diffraction analysis. These radioactive materials in a glassy state possibly remain in the environment longer than those emitted as water soluble radioactive Cs aerosol particles.
We have developed an Electron Tracking Compton Camera (ETCC), which provides a well-defined Point Spread Function (PSF) by reconstructing a direction of each gamma as a point and realizes simultaneous measurement of brightness and spectrum of MeV gamma-rays for the first time. Here, we present the results of our on-site pilot gamma-imaging-spectroscopy with ETCC at three contaminated locations in the vicinity of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plants in Japan in 2014. The obtained distribution of brightness (or emissivity) with remote-sensing observations is unambiguously converted into the dose distribution. We confirm that the dose distribution is consistent with the one taken by conventional mapping measurements with a dosimeter physically placed at each grid point. Furthermore, its imaging spectroscopy, boosted by Compton-edge-free spectra, reveals complex radioactive features in a quantitative manner around each individual target point in the background-dominated environment. Notably, we successfully identify a “micro hot spot” of residual caesium contamination even in an already decontaminated area. These results show that the ETCC performs exactly as the geometrical optics predicts, demonstrates its versatility in the field radiation measurement, and reveals potentials for application in many fields, including the nuclear industry, medical field, and astronomy.
Resettlement to their radiation-contaminated hometown could be an option for people displaced at the time of a nuclear disaster; however, little information is available on the safety implications of these resettlement programs. Kawauchi village, located 12-30 km southwest of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, was one of the 11 municipalities where mandatory evacuation was ordered by the central government. This village was also the first municipality to organize the return of the villagers. To assess the validity of the Kawauchi villagers' resettlement program, the levels of internal Cesium (Cs) exposures were comparatively measured in returnees, commuters, and non-returnees among the Kawauchi villagers using a whole body counter. Of 149 individuals, 5 villagers had traceable levels of Cs exposure; the median detected level was 333 Bq/body (range, 309-1050 Bq/kg), and 5.3 Bq/kg (range, 5.1-18.2 Bq/kg). Median annual effective doses of villagers with traceable Cs were 1.1 x 10(-2) mSv/y (range, 1.0 x 10(-2)-4.1 x 10(-2) mSv/y). Although returnees had higher chances of consuming locally produced vegetables, Cochran-Mantel-Haenszel test showed that their level of internal radiation exposure was not significantly higher than that in the other 2 groups (p=0.643). The present findings in Kawauchi village imply that it is possible to maintain internal radiation exposure at very low levels even in a highly radiation-contaminated region at the time of a nuclear disaster. Moreover, the risks for internal radiation exposure could be limited with a strict food control intervention after resettlement to the radiation-contaminated village. It is crucial to establish an adequate number of radio-contaminated testing sites within the village, to provide immediate test result feedback to the villagers, and to provide education regarding the importance of re-testing in reducing the risk of high internal radiation exposure.