Concept: Nuclear safety
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.
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.
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.
Radioactive contamination in the Tokyo metropolitan area in the immediate aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (FDNPP) accident was analyzed via surface soil sampled during a two-month period after the accident. 131I, 134Cs, and 137Cs were detected in these soil samples. The activity and inventory of radioactive material in the eastern part of Tokyo tended to be high. The 134Cs/137Cs activity ratio in soil was 0.978 ± 0.053. The 131I/137Cs ratio fluctuated widely, and was 19.7 ± 9.0 (weighted average 18.71 ± 0.13, n = 14) in the Tokyo metropolitan area. The radioactive plume with high 131I activity spread into the Tokyo metropolitan area and was higher than the weighted average of 6.07 ± 0.04 (n = 26) in other areas. The radiocesium activity and inventory surveyed in soil from a garden in Chiyoda Ward in the center of Tokyo, fell approximately 85% in the four months after the accident, and subsequently tended to rise slightly while fluctuating widely. It is possible that migration and redistribution of radiocesium occurred. The behavior of radiocesium in Tokyo was analyzed via monitoring of radiocesium in sludge incineration ash. The radiocesium activity in the incineration ash was high at wastewater treatment centers that had catchment areas in eastern Tokyo and low at those with catchment areas in western Tokyo. Similar to the case of the garden soil, even in incineration ash, the radiocesium activity dropped rapidly immediately after the accident. The radiocesium activity in the incineration ash fell steadily from the tenth month after the accident until December 2016, and its half-life was about 500 days. According to frequency analysis, in central Tokyo, the cycles of fluctuation of radiocesium activity in incineration ash and rainfall conformed, clearly showing that radiocesium deposited in urban areas was resuspended and transported by rainfall run-off.
After the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (F1NPP) in March 2011, much attention has been paid to the biological consequences of the released radionuclides into the surrounding area. We investigated the morphological changes in Japanese fir, a Japanese endemic native conifer, at locations near the F1NPP. Japanese fir populations near the F1NPP showed a significantly increased number of morphological defects, involving deletions of leader shoots of the main axis, compared to a control population far from the F1NPP. The frequency of the defects corresponded to the radioactive contamination levels of the observation sites. A significant increase in deletions of the leader shoots became apparent in those that elongated after the spring of 2012, a year after the accident. These results suggest possibility that the contamination by radionuclides contributed to the morphological defects in Japanese fir trees in the area near the F1NPP.
On August 9th 2012, we published an original research article in Scientific Reports, concluding that artificial radionuclides released from the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant exerted genetically and physiologically adverse effects on the pale grass blue butterfly Zizeeria maha in the Fukushima area. Immediately following publication, many questions and comments were generated from all over the world. Here, we have clarified points made in the original paper and answered questions posed by the readers.
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 almost 2 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.
An assessment of the external and internal radiation exposure levels, which includes calculation of effective doses from chronic radiation exposure and assessment of long-term radiation-related health risks, has become mandatory for residents living near the nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan. Data for all primary and secondary children in Minamisoma who participated in both external and internal screening programs were employed to assess the annual additional effective dose acquired due to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster. In total, 881 children took part in both internal and external radiation exposure screening programs between 1st April 2012 to 31st March 2013. The level of additional effective doses ranged from 0.025 to 3.49 mSv/year with the median of 0.70 mSv/year. While 99.7% of the children (n = 878) were not detected with internal contamination, 90.3% of the additional effective doses was the result of external radiation exposure. This finding is relatively consistent with the doses estimated by the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR). The present study showed that the level of annual additional effective doses among children in Minamisoma has been low, even after the inter-individual differences were taken into account. The dose from internal radiation exposure was negligible presumably due to the success of contaminated food control.
After radioactive incidents, the exposure risk in daily activities among children is a major public concern. However, there are limited methods available for evaluation of this risk, which is essential to future health risk management. To this end, this study assessed the relationship between behavioral patterns of school children and radiation exposure for a period of 18-20 months following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear incident. The assessed population comprised 520 school children from Minamisoma city, located 20 km north of the nuclear plant. Data for the doses were obtained using individual dosimeters and from results of a behavior survey administered by the City Office. The mean value of the doses in the study period was 0.34 mSv, with a standard deviation of 0.14 mSv, indicating an annual dose of ∼1.36 mSv, which includes doses from natural sources. Our results showed that behavior with respect to outdoor activities had no statistically significant relationship to the dose. A 0.1 μSv/h increase in the air dose rate at home was associated with a 10% increase in the dose; however, a 0.01 μSv/h increase in the air dose rate on the school grounds was associated with a 2% increase in the dose. This study indicates that the air contamination levels at the places where children spend most of their day are the significant predictors of the dose, as opposed to the levels at those outdoor locations in which short periods of time spent.