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.
World events over the past decade have highlighted the threat of nuclear terrorism as well as an urgent need to develop radiation countermeasures for acute radiation exposures and subsequent bodily injuries. An increased probability of radiological or nuclear incidents due to detonation of nuclear weapons by terrorists, sabotage of nuclear facilities, dispersal and exposure to radioactive materials, and accidents provides the basis for such enhanced radiation exposure risks for civilian populations. Although the search for suitable radiation countermeasures for radiation-associated injuries was initiated more than half a century ago, no safe and effective radiation countermeasure for the most severe of these injuries, namely acute radiation syndrome (ARS), has been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The dearth of FDA-approved radiation countermeasures has prompted intensified research for a new generation of radiation countermeasures. In this communication, the authors have listed and reviewed the status of radiation countermeasures that are currently available for use, or those that might be used for exceptional nuclear/radiological contingencies, plus a limited few medicines that show early promise but still remain experimental in nature and unauthorized for human use by the FDA.
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.
To evaluate the biological effect of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, relative differences in the growth of wild Japanese monkeys (Macaca fuscata) were measured before and after the disaster of 2011 in Fukushima City, which is approximately 70 km from the nuclear power plant, by performing external measurements on fetuses collected from 2008 to 2016. Comparing the relative growth of 31 fetuses conceived prior to the disaster and 31 fetuses conceived after the disaster in terms of body weight and head size (product of the occipital frontal diameter and biparietal diameter) to crown-rump length ratio revealed that body weight growth rate and proportional head size were significantly lower in fetuses conceived after the disaster. No significant difference was observed in nutritional indicators for the fetuses' mothers. Accordingly, radiation exposure could be one factor contributed to the observed growth delay in this study.
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
- Published over 3 years ago
There are 440 operational nuclear reactors in the world, with approximately one-half situated along the coastline. This includes the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant (FDNPP), which experienced multiple reactor meltdowns in March 2011 followed by the release of radioactivity to the marine environment. While surface inputs to the ocean via atmospheric deposition and rivers are usually well monitored after a nuclear accident, no study has focused on subterranean pathways. During our study period, we found the highest cesium-137 ((137)Cs) levels (up to 23,000 Bq⋅m(-3)) outside of the FDNPP site not in the ocean, rivers, or potable groundwater, but in groundwater beneath sand beaches over tens of kilometers away from the FDNPP. Here, we present evidence of a previously unknown, ongoing source of Fukushima-derived (137)Cs to the coastal ocean. We postulate that these beach sands were contaminated in 2011 through wave- and tide-driven exchange and sorption of highly radioactive Cs from seawater. Subsequent desorption of (137)Cs and fluid exchange from the beach sands was quantified using naturally occurring radium isotopes. This estimated ocean (137)Cs source (0.6 TBq⋅y(-1)) is of similar magnitude as the ongoing releases of (137)Cs from the FDNPP site for 2013-2016, as well as the input of Fukushima-derived dissolved (137)Cs via rivers. Although this ongoing source is not at present a public health issue for Japan, the release of Cs of this type and scale needs to be considered in nuclear power plant monitoring and scenarios involving future accidents.
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.
Major challenges and crises in global health will not be solved by health alone; requiring rather a multidisciplinary, evidence-based analytical approach to prevention, preparedness and response. One such potential crisis is the continued spread of nuclear weapons to more nations concurrent with the increased volatility of international relations that has significantly escalated the risk of a major nuclear weapon exchange. This study argues for the development of a multidisciplinary global health response agenda based on the reality of the current political analysis of nuclear risk, research evidence suggesting higher-than-expected survivability risk, and the potential for improved health outcomes based on medical advances. To date, the medical consequences of such an exchange are not credibly addressed by any nation at this time, despite recent advances. While no one country could mount such a response, an international body of responders organized in the same fashion as the current World Health Organization’s global health workforce initiative for large-scale natural and public health emergencies could enlist and train for just such an emergency. A Nuclear Global Health Workforce is described for addressing the unprecedented medical and public health needs to be expected in the event of a nuclear conflict or catastrophic accident. The example of addressing mass casualty nuclear thermal burns outlines the potential triage and clinical response management of survivors enabled by this global approach.