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Concept: Nuclear fallout


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.

Concepts: Chernobyl disaster, Radioactive decay, Radiation, Nuclear weapon, Gamma ray, Radiation poisoning, Nuclear fallout, Lists of nuclear disasters and radioactive incidents


Measurement of soil contamination levels has been considered a feasible method for dose estimation of internal radiation exposure following the Chernobyl disaster by means of aggregate transfer factors; however, it is still unclear whether the estimation of internal contamination based on soil contamination levels is universally valid or incident specific.

Concepts: Chernobyl disaster, Radiobiology, Nuclear weapon, Radioactive contamination, Nuclear fallout, Nuclear safety, Three Mile Island accident, Nuclear accidents


Over a period of 13 years (2003-2015), reproductive and cytogenetic effects are investigated in Scots pine populations growing in the Bryansk region of Russia radioactively contaminated as a result of the Chernobyl accident. In reference populations, the frequencies of cytogenetic abnormalities are shown to change with time in a cyclic manner. In chronically exposed populations, the cyclic patterns in temporal dynamics of cytogenetic abnormalities appear to be disturbed. In addition, a tendency to decrease in the frequencies of cytogenetic abnormalities with time as well as an increase in their variability with dose rate is revealed. In contrast, no significant impact of chronic radiation exposure on the time dynamics of reproductive indexes is detected. Finally, long-term observations on chronically exposed Scots pine populations revealed qualitative differences in the temporal dynamics of reproductive and cytogenetic indicators.

Concepts: Chernobyl disaster, Radioactive decay, Radiation poisoning, Background radiation, Radioactive contamination, Nuclear fallout, Nuclear safety, Radionuclide


The effects of radioactive contamination from Chernobyl on decomposition of plant material still remain unknown. We predicted that decomposition rate would be reduced in the most contaminated sites due to an absence or reduced densities of soil invertebrates. If microorganisms were the main agents responsible for decomposition, exclusion of large soil invertebrates should not affect decomposition. In September 2007 we deposited 572 bags with uncontaminated dry leaf litter from four species of trees in the leaf litter layer at 20 forest sites around Chernobyl that varied in background radiation by more than a factor 2,600. Approximately one quarter of these bags were made of a fine mesh that prevented access to litter by soil invertebrates. These bags were retrieved in June 2008, dried and weighed to estimate litter mass loss. Litter mass loss was 40 % lower in the most contaminated sites relative to sites with a normal background radiation level for Ukraine. Similar reductions in litter mass loss were estimated for individual litter bags, litter bags at different sites, and differences between litter bags at pairs of neighboring sites differing in level of radioactive contamination. Litter mass loss was slightly greater in the presence of large soil invertebrates than in their absence. The thickness of the forest floor increased with the level of radiation and decreased with proportional loss of mass from all litter bags. These findings suggest that radioactive contamination has reduced the rate of litter mass loss, increased accumulation of litter, and affected growth conditions for plants.

Concepts: Chernobyl disaster, Radioactive decay, Nuclear weapon, Background radiation, Radioactive contamination, Nuclear fallout, Nuclear safety, Radionuclide


Radioactive contamination in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia after the Chernobyl accident left large rural and forest areas to their own fate. Forest succession in conjunction with lack of forest management started gradually transforming the landscape. During the last 28years dead wood and litter have dramatically accumulated in these areas, whereas climate change has increased temperature and favored drought. The present situation in these forests suggests an increased risk of wildfires, especially after the pronounced forest fires of 2010, which remobilized Chernobyl-deposited radioactive materials transporting them thousand kilometers far. For the aforementioned reasons, we study the consequences of different forest fires on the redistribution of (137)Cs. Using the time frequency of the fires that occurred in the area during 2010, we study three scenarios assuming that 10%, 50% and 100% of the area are burnt. We aim to sensitize the scientific community and the European authorities for the foreseen risks from radioactivity redistribution over Europe. The global model LMDZORINCA that reads deposition density of radionuclides and burnt area from satellites was used, whereas risks for the human and animal population were calculated using the Linear No-Threshold (LNT) model and the computerized software ERICA Tool, respectively. Depending on the scenario, whereas between 20 and 240 humans may suffer from solid cancers, of which 10-170 may be fatal. ERICA predicts insignificant changes in animal populations from the fires, whereas the already extreme radioactivity background plays a major role in their living quality. The resulting releases of (137)Cs after hypothetical wildfires in Chernobyl’s forests are classified as high in the International Nuclear Events Scale (INES). The estimated cancer incidents and fatalities are expected to be comparable to those predicted for Fukushima. This is attributed to the fact that the distribution of radioactive fallout after the wildfires occurred to the intensely populated Western Europe, whereas after Fukushima it occurred towards the Pacific Ocean. The situation will be exacerbated near the forests not only due to the expected redistribution of refractory radionuclides (also trapped there), but also due to the nutritional habits of the local human and animal population.

Concepts: Chernobyl disaster, Radioactive decay, Radioactive contamination, Nuclear fallout, Radioactivity, Lists of nuclear disasters and radioactive incidents, Nuclear safety, Radionuclide


BACKGROUND: The proliferation of nuclear technology in the politically volatile Middle East greatly increases the likelihood of a catastrophic nuclear war. It is widely accepted, while not openly declared, that Israel has nuclear weapons, and that Iran has enriched enough nuclear material to build them. The medical consequences of a nuclear exchange between Iran and Israel in the near future are envisioned, with a focus on the distribution of casualties in urban environments. METHODS: Model estimates of nuclear war casualties employed ESRI’s ArcGIS 9.3, blast and prompt radiation were calculated using the Defense Nuclear Agency’s WE program, and fallout radiation was calculated using the Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s (DTRA’s) Hazard Prediction and Assessment Capability (HPAC) V404SP4, as well as custom GIS and database software applications. Further development for thermal burn casualties was based on Brode, as modified by Binninger, to calculate thermal fluence. ESRI ArcGISTM programs were used to calculate affected populations from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s LandScanTM 2007 Global Population Dataset for areas affected by thermal, blast and radiation data. RESULTS: Trauma, thermal burn, and radiation casualties were thus estimated on a geographic basis for three Israeli and eighteen Iranian cities. Nuclear weapon detonations in the densely populated cities of Iran and Israel will result in an unprecedented millions of numbers of dead, with millions of injured suffering without adequate medical care, a broad base of lingering mental health issues, a devastating loss of municipal infrastructure, long-term disruption of economic, educational, and other essential social activity, and a breakdown in law and order. CONCLUSIONS: This will cause a very limited medical response initially for survivors in Iran and Israel. Strategic use of surviving medical response and collaboration with international relief could be expedited by the predicted casualty distributions and locations. The consequences for health management of thermal burn and radiation patients is the worst, as burn patients require enormous resources to treat, and there will be little to no familiarity with the treatment of radiation victims. Any rational analysis of a nuclear war between Iran and Israel reveals the utterly unacceptable outcomes for either nation.

Concepts: Population, Nuclear weapon, Nuclear proliferation, World War II, Nuclear fallout, Lists of nuclear disasters and radioactive incidents, Nuclear warfare, Nuclear weapons


The Chernobyl Childhood Illness Program (CCIP) was a humanitarian assistance effort funded by the United States Congress. Its purpose was to assist the Ukrainian Government to identify and treat adolescents who developed mental and physical problems following their exposure as young children to Chernobyl radiation. Thirteen years after the Chernobyl nuclear plant accident in 1986, the CCIP examined 116,655 Ukrainian adolescents for thyroid diseases. Of these, 115,191 were also screened for depression, suicide ideation, and psychological problems. The adolescents lived in five of Ukraine’s seven most Chernobyl radiation contaminated provinces. They were up to 6 years of age or in utero when exposed to nuclear fallout, or were born up to 45 months after Chernobyl.

Concepts: Chernobyl disaster, Nuclear weapon, Ukraine, Radiation poisoning, Nuclear fallout, Lists of nuclear disasters and radioactive incidents, Atomic Age, Kiev


Maintaining low levels of chronic internal contamination among residents in radiation-contaminated areas after a nuclear disaster is a great public health concern. However, the efficacy of reduction measures for individual internal contamination remains unknown. To reduce high levels of internal radiation exposure in a group of individuals exposed through environmental sources, we performed careful dietary intervention with identification of suspected contaminated foods, as part of mass voluntary radiation contamination screenings and counseling program in Minamisoma Municipal General Hospital and Hirata Central Hospital. From a total of 30,622 study participants, only 9 residents displayed internal cesium-137 (Cs-137) levels of more than 50 Bq/kg. The median level of internal Cs-137 contamination in these residents at the initial screening was 4,830 Bq/body (range: 2,130-15,918 Bq/body) and 69.6 Bq/kg (range: 50.7-216.3 Bq/kg). All these residents with high levels of internal contamination consumed homegrown produce without radiation inspection, and often collected mushrooms in the wild or cultivated them on bed-logs in their homes. They were advised to consume distributed food mainly and to refrain from consuming potentially contaminated foods without radiation inspection and local produces under shipment restrictions such as mushrooms, mountain vegetables, and meat of wild life. A few months after the intervention, re-examination of Cs levels revealed remarkable reduction of internal contamination in all residents. Although the levels of internal radiation exposure appear to be minimal amongst most residents in Fukushima, a subset of the population, who unknowingly consumed highly contaminated foodstuffs, experienced high levels of internal contamination. There seem to be similarities in dietary preferences amongst residents with high internal contamination levels, and intervention based on pre- and post-test counseling and dietary advice from medical care providers about risky food intake appears to be a feasible option for changing residents' dietary practices, subsequently resulting in a reduction in Cs internal contamination levels.

Concepts: Nutrition, Chernobyl disaster, Radioactive decay, Nuclear weapon, Radioactive contamination, Nuclear fallout, Nuclear safety, Nuclear and radiation accidents


The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (1F) suffered a series of radiation accidents after the Great East Japan Earthquake on 11 March 2011. In a situation where halting or delaying restoration work was thought to translate directly into a very serious risk for the entire country, it was of the utmost importance to strengthen the emergency and disaster medical system in addition to radiation emergency medical care for staff at the frontlines working in an environment that posed a risk of radiation exposure and a large-scale secondary disaster. The Japanese Association for Acute Medicine (JAAM) launched the ‘Emergency Task Force on the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Accident’ and sent physicians to the local response headquarters. Thirty-four physicians were dispatched as disaster medical advisors, response guidelines in the event of multitudinous injury victims were created and revised and, along with execution of drills, coordination and advice was given on transport of patients. Forty-nine physicians acted as directing physicians, taking on the tasks of triage, initial treatment and decontamination. A total of 261 patients were attended to by the dispatched physicians. None of the eight patients with external contamination developed acute radiation syndrome. In an environment where the collaboration between organisations in the framework of a vertically bound government and multiple agencies and institutions was certainly not seamless, the participation of the JAAM as the medical academic organisation in the local system presented the opportunity to laterally integrate the physicians affiliated with the respective organisations from the perspective of specialisation.

Concepts: Medicine, Ionizing radiation, Chernobyl disaster, Radiation poisoning, Nuclear fallout, Lists of nuclear disasters and radioactive incidents, Nuclear safety, Goiânia accident


The β radioactivity of snow-pit samples collected in the spring of 2011 on four Tibetan Plateau glaciers demonstrate a remarkable peak in each snow pit profile, with peaks about ten to tens of times higher than background levels. The timing of these peaks suggests that the high radioactivity resulted from the Fukushima nuclear accident that occurred on March 11, 2011 in eastern Japan. Fallout monitoring studies demonstrate that this radioactive material was transported by the westerlies across the middle latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere. The depth of the peak β radioactivity in each snow pit compared with observational precipitation records, suggests that the radioactive fallout reached the Tibetan Plateau and was deposited on glacier surfaces in late March 2011, or approximately 20 days after the nuclear accident. The radioactive fallout existed in the atmosphere over the Tibetan Plateau for about one month.

Concepts: Water, Earth, Climate, Tropical cyclone, Radioactive contamination, Nuclear fallout, Radioactivity, Lists of nuclear disasters and radioactive incidents