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Concept: Radioactivity


Radioactive isotopes originating from the damaged Fukushima nuclear reactor in Japan following the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 were found in resident marine animals and in migratory Pacific bluefin tuna (PBFT). Publication of this information resulted in a worldwide response that caused public anxiety and concern, although PBFT captured off California in August 2011 contained activity concentrations below those from naturally occurring radionuclides. To link the radioactivity to possible health impairments, we calculated doses, attributable to the Fukushima-derived and the naturally occurring radionuclides, to both the marine biota and human fish consumers. We showed that doses in all cases were dominated by the naturally occurring alpha-emitter (210)Po and that Fukushima-derived doses were three to four orders of magnitude below (210)Po-derived doses. Doses to marine biota were about two orders of magnitude below the lowest benchmark protection level proposed for ecosystems (10 µGy⋅h(-1)). The additional dose from Fukushima radionuclides to humans consuming tainted PBFT in the United States was calculated to be 0.9 and 4.7 µSv for average consumers and subsistence fishermen, respectively. Such doses are comparable to, or less than, the dose all humans routinely obtain from naturally occurring radionuclides in many food items, medical treatments, air travel, or other background sources. Although uncertainties remain regarding the assessment of cancer risk at low doses of ionizing radiation to humans, the dose received from PBFT consumption by subsistence fishermen can be estimated to result in two additional fatal cancer cases per 10,000,000 similarly exposed people.

Concepts: Ionizing radiation, Radioactive decay, Gamma ray, Radiation poisoning, Radioactive contamination, Radioactivity, Radionuclide, Tuna


Radionuclide concentrations in environmental samples such as surface soils, plants and water were evaluated by high purity germanium detector measurements. The contribution rate of short half-life radionuclides such as (132)I to the exposure dose to residents was discussed from the measured values. The highest values of the (131)I/(137)Cs activity ratio ranged from 49 to 70 in the environmental samples collected at Iwaki City which is located to the south of the F1-NPS. On the other hand, the (132)I/(131)I activity ratio in the same environmental samples had the lowest values, ranging from 0.01 to 0.02. By assuming that the (132)I/(131)I activity ratio in the atmosphere was equal to the ratio in the environmental samples, the percent contribution to the thyroid equivalent dose by (132)I was estimated to be less than 2%. Moreover, the contribution to the thyroid exposure by (132)I might be negligible if (132)I contamination was restricted to Iwaki City.

Concepts: Ionizing radiation, Measurement, Radioactive contamination, Radioactivity, Fukushima Prefecture, Tōhoku region, Iwaki, Fukushima, Kōriyama, Fukushima


Exploration of a landlocked cenote on Lifou (Loyalty Islands) revealed 37 shells of the cephalopod Nautilus macromphalus Sowerby, 1849, in saltwater on the cenote floor, approximately 40 m below the water surface. The occurrence of these shells is unusual because N. macromphalus is restricted to the open marine waters surrounding the island. All of the shells are mature, and nearly all of them are unbroken, with faded red-brown color stripes. We analyzed seven shells to determine their age. Radiocarbon dating yielded ages of 6380±30 to 7095±30 y BP. The 238U-series radionuclides 210Pb (half-life  = 22.3 y) and 226Ra (half-life  = 1600 y) also were measured. Two of the samples showed radioactive equilibrium between the nuclides, consistent with the old radiocarbon dates, but the other five samples showed excess 210Pb. When corrected for radioactive decay, the 226Ra activities were much greater than those found in living Nautilus. We conclude that exposure to high activities of 222Rn and 226Ra in the salty groundwater of the cenote altered the activities originally incorporated into the shells. Human placement of the shells in the cavity is rejected based on their radiocarbon age and the geometry of the cenote. The most probable explanation is that the animals entered the flooded karstic system through a connection on the seaward side at approximately 7,000 y BP, during an interval of slowly rising sea level. Unable to find an exit and/or due to anoxic bottom waters, the animals were trapped and died inside. The open connection with the sea persisted for ∼700 y, but after ∼6400 y BP, the connection was lost, probably due to a roof collapse. This is a rare example of Nautilus in a karstic coastal basin and provides a minimum age for the appearance of N. macromphalus in the Loyalty Islands.

Concepts: Radioactive decay, Isotope, Half-life, New Caledonia, Radioactivity, Radiocarbon dating, Carbon-14, Nautilus


The reductive effect of an anti-pollinosis mask against internal exposure from radioactive materials dispersed following the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster was investigated. A single mask was worn continuously for 18 h from 15:00 JST on 15 March to 09:00 JST on 16 March 2011 at the Hongo campus of the University of Tokyo, Japan. An adult without a mask was exposed during this time to radiation of 6.1 μSv over ambient background in effective dose and 33 μSv in dose equivalent to the thyroid. Radionuclides were dispersed not only in their gaseous and particulate state but also as components that agglomerate to other aerosols and pollens. Wearing a mask for anti-pollinosis could reduce internal exposure from inhalation.

Concepts: Ionizing radiation, Chernobyl disaster, Radioactive decay, Japan, Gamma ray, Radioactive contamination, Radioactivity, Lists of nuclear disasters and radioactive incidents


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


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


The earthquake and tsunami on 11 March 2011, centred off the east coast of Japan, caused considerable destruction and substantial loss of life along large swathes of the Japanese coastline. The tsunami damaged the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant (NPP), resulting in prolonged releases of radioactive material into the environment. This paper assesses the doses received by members of the public in Japan. The assessment is based on an estimated source term and atmospheric dispersion modelling rather than monitoring data.It is evident from this assessment that across the majority of Japan the estimates of dose are very low, for example they are estimated to be less than the annual average dose from natural background radiation in Japan. Even in the regions local to Fukushima Daiichi NPP (and not affected by any form of evacuation) the maximum lifetime effective dose is estimated to be well below the cumulative natural background dose over the same period. The impact of the urgent countermeasures on the estimates of dose was considered. And the relative contribution to dose from the range of exposure pathways and radionuclides were evaluated.Analysis of estimated doses focused on the geographic irregularity and the impact of the meteorological conditions. For example the dose to an infant’s thyroid received over the first year was estimated to be greater in Hirono than in the non-evacuated region of Naraha, despite Hirono being further from the release location. A number of factors were identified and thought to contribute towards this outcome, including the local wind pattern which resulted in the recirculation of part of the release. The non-uniform nature of dose estimates strengthens the case for evaluations based on dispersion modelling.

Concepts: Ionizing radiation, Chernobyl disaster, Sievert, Radiation poisoning, Background radiation, Radioactive contamination, Radioactivity, Nuclear safety


Natural radioactivity was measured in groundwater samples collected from 37 wells scattered in an inhabited area of high natural background radiation, in a purpose of radiation protection. The study area is adjacent to Aja heights of granitic composition in Hail province, Saudi Arabia. Initial screening for gross α and gross β activities showed levels exceeded the national regulation limits set out for gross α and gross β activities in drinking water. The gross α activity ranged from 0.17 to 5.41 Bq L(-)(1) with an average value of 2.15 Bq L(-)(1), whereas gross β activity ranged from 0.48 to 5.16 Bq L(-)(1), with an average value of 2.60 Bq L(-)(1). The detail analyses indicated that the groundwater of this province is contaminated with uranium and radium ((226)Ra and (228)Ra). The average activity concentrations of (238)U, (234)U, (226)Ra and (228)Ra were 0.40, 0.77, 0.29 and 0.46 Bq L(-)(1), respectively. The higher uranium content was found in the samples of granitic aquifers, whereas the higher radium content was found in the samples of sandstone aquifers. Based on the obtained results, mechanism of leaching of the predominant radionuclides has been discussed in detail.

Concepts: Ionizing radiation, Sievert, Radiation poisoning, Background radiation, Radioactive contamination, Radioactivity, Radon, Radiation hormesis


Even though many studies have shown that radioactive caesium levels in fish caught outside of Japan were below experimental detection limits of a few Bq kg(-1), significant public concern has been expressed about the safety of consuming seafood from the Pacific Ocean following the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear accident. To address the public concerns, samples of commonly consumed salmon and groundfish harvested from the Canadian west coast in 2013 were analysed for radioactive caesium. None of the fish samples analysed in this study contained any detectable levels of (134)Cs and (137)Cs under given experimental setting with the average detection limit of ∼2 Bq kg(-1). Using a conservative worst-case scenario where all fish samples would contain (137)Cs exactly at the detection limit level and (134)Cs at half of the detection limit level (to account for much shorter half-life of (134)Cs), the resulting radiation dose for people from consumption of this fish would be a very small fraction of the annual dose from exposure to natural background radiation in Canada. Therefore, fish, such as salmon and groundfish, from the Canadian west coast are of no radiological health concern.

Concepts: Ionizing radiation, Fish, Radioactive decay, Sievert, Pacific Ocean, Background radiation, Radioactive contamination, Radioactivity


In environmental monitoring campaigns for anthropogenic radionuclides released in the course of the Fukushima nuclear accident (2011), most focus had been on gamma-emitting radionuclides. More than 99% of the released activity was due to radionuclides of the elements Kr, Te, I, Xe, and Cs. However, little work had been done on the monitoring of radionuclides other than (131)I, (132)Te, (134)Cs, (136)Cs, and (137)Cs. Radionuclides such as those of less volatile elements (e.g., (89)Sr, (90)Sr, (103)Ru, (106)Ru, plutonium), pure beta-emitters ((3)H, (14)C, (35)S), gaseous radionuclides ((85)Kr, (133)Xe, (135)Xe) or radionuclides with very long half-lives (e.g., (36)Cl, (99)Tc, (129)I, some actinides such as (236)U) have been understudied by comparison. In this review, we summarize previous monitoring work on these “orphan” radionuclides in various environmental media and outline further challenges for future monitoring campaigns. Some of the understudied radionuclides are of radiological concern, others are promising tracers for environmental, geochemical processes such as oceanic mixing. Unfortunately, the shorter-lived nuclides of radioxenon, (103)Ru, (89)Sr and (35)S will no longer exhibit detectable activities in the environment. Activity concentrations of other radionuclides such as tritium, (14)C, or (85)Kr will become blurred in the significant background of previous releases (nuclear explosions and previous accidents). Isotope ratios such as (240)Pu/(239)Pu will allow for the identification of Fukushima plutonium despite the plutonium background.

Concepts: Nuclear physics, Environment, Radioactive decay, Chemical element, Isotope, Nuclear weapon, Radioactive contamination, Radioactivity