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Concept: Uranium


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.

Concepts: Biology, Chernobyl disaster, Uranium, Nuclear fission, Radioactive contamination, Lists of nuclear disasters and radioactive incidents, Nuclear safety, Lycaenidae


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.

Concepts: Chernobyl disaster, Uranium, Nuclear fission, Japan, Nuclear power, Nuclear safety, Electricity generation, Sellafield


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.

Concepts: Solubility, Chemical substance, Chemical element, Uranium, Radioactive contamination, Lists of nuclear disasters and radioactive incidents, Government of Japan, Cabinet of Japan


Every second greater than 10(25) antineutrinos radiate to space from Earth, shining like a faint antineutrino star. Underground antineutrino detectors have revealed the rapidly decaying fission products inside nuclear reactors, verified the long-lived radioactivity inside our planet, and informed sensitive experiments for probing fundamental physics. Mapping the anisotropic antineutrino flux and energy spectrum advance geoscience by defining the amount and distribution of radioactive power within Earth while critically evaluating competing compositional models of the planet. We present the Antineutrino Global Map 2015 (AGM2015), an experimentally informed model of Earth’s surface antineutrino flux over the 0 to 11 MeV energy spectrum, along with an assessment of systematic errors. The open source AGM2015 provides fundamental predictions for experiments, assists in strategic detector placement to determine neutrino mass hierarchy, and aids in identifying undeclared nuclear reactors. We use cosmochemically and seismologically informed models of the radiogenic lithosphere/mantle combined with the estimated antineutrino flux, as measured by KamLAND and Borexino, to determine the Earth’s total antineutrino luminosity at . We find a dominant flux of geo-neutrinos, predict sub-equal crust and mantle contributions, with ~1% of the total flux from man-made nuclear reactors.

Concepts: Earth, Sun, Radioactive decay, Uranium, Nuclear fission, Neutrino, Mantle, Crust


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.

Concepts: Chernobyl disaster, Uranium, Nuclear fission, Pinophyta, Fir, Nuclear power, Radioactive contamination, Nuclear safety


The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (FNPP) accident released large amounts of radioactive substances into the environment. In order to provide basic information for biokinetics of radionuclides and for dose assessment of internal exposure brought by the FNPP accident, we determined the activity concentration of radionuclides in the organs of 79 cattle within a 20-km radius around the FNPP. In all the specimens examined, deposition of Cesium-134 ((134)Cs, half-life: 2.065 y) and (137)Cs (30.07 y) was observed. Furthermore, organ-specific deposition of radionuclides with relatively short half-lives was detected, such as silver-110m ((110m)Ag, 249.8 d) in the liver and tellurium-129m ((129m)Te, 33.6 d) in the kidney. Regression analysis showed a linear correlation between the radiocesium activity concentration in whole peripheral blood (PB) and that in each organ. The resulting slopes were organ dependent with the maximum value of 21.3 being obtained for skeletal muscles (R(2) = 0.83, standard error (SE) = 0.76). Thus, the activity concentration of (134) Cs and (137)Cs in an organ can be estimated from that in PB. The level of radioactive cesium in the organs of fetus and infants were 1.19-fold (R(2) = 0.62, SE = 0.12), and 1.51-fold (R(2) = 0.70, SE = 0.09) higher than that of the corresponding maternal organ, respectively. Furthermore, radiocesium activity concentration in organs was found to be dependent on the feeding conditions and the geographic location of the cattle. This study is the first to reveal the detailed systemic distribution of radionuclides in cattle attributed to the FNPP accident.

Concepts: Kidney, Chernobyl disaster, Liver, Radioactive decay, Uranium, Nuclear fission, Isotope, Half-life


The Earth’s engine is driven by unknown proportions of primordial energy and heat produced in radioactive decay. Unfortunately, competing models of Earth’s composition reveal an order of magnitude uncertainty in the amount of radiogenic power driving mantle dynamics. Recent measurements of the Earth’s flux of geoneutrinos, electron antineutrinos from terrestrial natural radioactivity, reveal the amount of uranium and thorium in the Earth and set limits on the residual proportion of primordial energy. Comparison of the flux measured at large underground neutrino experiments with geologically informed predictions of geoneutrino emission from the crust provide the critical test needed to define the mantle’s radiogenic power. Measurement at an oceanic location, distant from nuclear reactors and continental crust, would best reveal the mantle flux, however, no such experiment is anticipated. We predict the geoneutrino flux at the site of the Jinping Neutrino Experiment (Sichuan, China). Within 8 years, the combination of existing data and measurements from soon to come experiments, including Jinping, will exclude end-member models at the 1σ level, define the mantle’s radiogenic contribution to the surface heat loss, set limits on the composition of the silicate Earth, and provide significant parameter bounds for models defining the mode of mantle convection.

Concepts: Earth, Radioactive decay, Uranium, Neutrino, Mantle, Crust, Structure of the Earth, Subduction


Microparticles containing substantial amounts of radiocesium collected from the ground in Fukushima were investigated mainly by transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and X-ray microanalysis with scanning TEM (STEM). Particles of around 2 μm in diameter are basically silicate glass containing Fe and Zn as transition metals, Cs, Rb and K as alkali ions, and Sn as substantial elements. These elements are homogeneously distributed in the glass except Cs which has a concentration gradient, increasing from center to surface. Nano-sized crystallites such as copper- zinc- and molybdenum sulfide, and silver telluride were found inside the microparticles, which probably resulted from the segregation of the silicate and sulfide (telluride) during molten-stage. An alkali-depleted layer of ca. 0.2 μm thick exists at the outer side of the particle collected from cedar leaves 8 months after the nuclear accident, suggesting gradual leaching of radiocesium from the microparticles in the natural environment.

Concepts: Electron, Iron, Chernobyl disaster, Uranium, Zinc, Copper, Silver, Transition metal


Weapons-grade uranium and plutonium could be used as nuclear explosives with extreme destructive potential. The problem of their detection, especially in standard cargo containers during transit, has been described as “searching for a needle in a haystack” because of the inherently low rate of spontaneous emission of characteristic penetrating radiation and the ease of its shielding. Currently, the only practical approach for uncovering well-shielded special nuclear materials is by use of active interrogation using an external radiation source. However, the similarity of these materials to shielding and the required radiation doses that may exceed regulatory limits prevent this method from being widely used in practice. We introduce a low-dose active detection technique, referred to as low-energy nuclear reaction imaging, which exploits the physics of interactions of multi-MeV monoenergetic photons and neutrons to simultaneously measure the material’s areal density and effective atomic number, while confirming the presence of fissionable materials by observing the beta-delayed neutron emission. For the first time, we demonstrate identification and imaging of uranium with this novel technique using a simple yet robust source, setting the stage for its wide adoption in security applications.

Concepts: Nuclear physics, Fundamental physics concepts, Atom, Neutron, Nuclear fusion, Uranium, Nuclear fission, Nuclear weapon


 The degree of contamination with radioactive cesium ((134) Cs and (137) Cs) in the human placenta after the accident at Fukushima nuclear power plant (FNP), which occurred on 11 March 2011, has not been assessed.

Concepts: Chernobyl disaster, Uranium, Nuclear fission, Nuclear power, Nuclear safety, Electricity generation, Sellafield, Global Nuclear Energy Partnership