Fukushima-derived radionuclides in the ocean and biota off Japan

Edited by Karl K. Turekian, Yale University, North Haven, CT, and approved February 24, 2012 (received for review December 19, 2011)
April 2, 2012
109 (16) 5984-5988

Abstract

The Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011, resulted in unprecedented radioactivity releases from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plants to the Northwest Pacific Ocean. Results are presented here from an international study of radionuclide contaminants in surface and subsurface waters, as well as in zooplankton and fish, off Japan in June 2011. A major finding is detection of Fukushima-derived 134Cs and 137Cs throughout waters 30–600 km offshore, with the highest activities associated with near-shore eddies and the Kuroshio Current acting as a southern boundary for transport. Fukushima-derived Cs isotopes were also detected in zooplankton and mesopelagic fish, and unique to this study we also find 110mAg in zooplankton. Vertical profiles are used to calculate a total inventory of ∼2 PBq 137Cs in an ocean area of 150,000 km2. Our results can only be understood in the context of our drifter data and an oceanographic model that shows rapid advection of contaminants further out in the Pacific. Importantly, our data are consistent with higher estimates of the magnitude of Fukushima fallout and direct releases [Stohl et al. (2011) Atmos Chem Phys Discuss 11:28319–28394; Bailly du Bois et al. (2011) J Environ Radioact, 10.1016/j.jenvrad.2011.11.015]. We address risks to public health and marine biota by showing that though Cs isotopes are elevated 10–1,000× over prior levels in waters off Japan, radiation risks due to these radionuclides are below those generally considered harmful to marine animals and human consumers, and even below those from naturally occurring radionuclides.

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Data Availability

Data deposition: Data reported in this paper and from the cruise is available from the Biological and Chemical Oceanography Data Management Office, http://osprey.bcodmo.org/project.cfm?flag=view&id=186.

Acknowledgments

We thank J. Holdren, J. Miller, S. Fetter (US Office of Science and Technology Policy), E. Tirpak, and colleagues (US Department of State); A. Emig (the US National Science Foundation); the shore-based ship support groups at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and the University of Hawaii; and the captain, crew, and scientific support team on the R/V Ka`imikai-o-Kanaloa. The efforts of the other scientists on the ship were also critical in the collection of these samples (full list at http://www.whoi.edu/page.do?pid=67816). Key scientific gear was provided by L. Centurioni and C. McCall for the surface drifters; and E. Horgan, B. Humphreys, and C. Gobler for plankton sampling gear. We thank our scientific colleagues in Japan, including M. Uematsu (University of Tokyo), M. Aoyama (Meteorological Research Institute), M. Honda (Japan Agency for Marine Earth Science and Technology), and D. Tsumune (Central Research Institute of Electric Power Industry). We also acknowledge early discussion on Fukushima release data with E. Bosc, I. Osvath, H. Nies, and M. Eriksson (IAEA, Environment Laboratories) and editing assistance from K. Kostel (WHOI). Thanks to C. Chandler and her group, data from this cruise is available from the Biological and Chemical Oceanography Data Management Office, http://osprey.bcodmo.org/project.cfm?flag=view&id=186. Funding was provided primarily from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and also the Chemical Oceanography Program of the US National Science Foundation, and WHOI.

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References

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Information & Authors

Information

Published in

Go to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Vol. 109 | No. 16
April 17, 2012
PubMed: 22474387

Classifications

Data Availability

Data deposition: Data reported in this paper and from the cruise is available from the Biological and Chemical Oceanography Data Management Office, http://osprey.bcodmo.org/project.cfm?flag=view&id=186.

Submission history

Published online: April 2, 2012
Published in issue: April 17, 2012

Acknowledgments

We thank J. Holdren, J. Miller, S. Fetter (US Office of Science and Technology Policy), E. Tirpak, and colleagues (US Department of State); A. Emig (the US National Science Foundation); the shore-based ship support groups at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and the University of Hawaii; and the captain, crew, and scientific support team on the R/V Ka`imikai-o-Kanaloa. The efforts of the other scientists on the ship were also critical in the collection of these samples (full list at http://www.whoi.edu/page.do?pid=67816). Key scientific gear was provided by L. Centurioni and C. McCall for the surface drifters; and E. Horgan, B. Humphreys, and C. Gobler for plankton sampling gear. We thank our scientific colleagues in Japan, including M. Uematsu (University of Tokyo), M. Aoyama (Meteorological Research Institute), M. Honda (Japan Agency for Marine Earth Science and Technology), and D. Tsumune (Central Research Institute of Electric Power Industry). We also acknowledge early discussion on Fukushima release data with E. Bosc, I. Osvath, H. Nies, and M. Eriksson (IAEA, Environment Laboratories) and editing assistance from K. Kostel (WHOI). Thanks to C. Chandler and her group, data from this cruise is available from the Biological and Chemical Oceanography Data Management Office, http://osprey.bcodmo.org/project.cfm?flag=view&id=186. Funding was provided primarily from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and also the Chemical Oceanography Program of the US National Science Foundation, and WHOI.

Notes

This article is a PNAS Direct Submission.

Authors

Affiliations

Ken O. Buesseler1 [email protected]
Department of Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry and
Steven R. Jayne
Department of Physical Oceanography, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA 02543;
Nicholas S. Fisher
School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY 11794; and
Irina I. Rypina
Department of Physical Oceanography, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA 02543;
Hannes Baumann
School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY 11794; and
Zofia Baumann
School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY 11794; and
Crystaline F. Breier
Department of Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry and
Elizabeth M. Douglass
Department of Physical Oceanography, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA 02543;
Jennifer George
School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY 11794; and
Alison M. Macdonald
Department of Physical Oceanography, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA 02543;
Hiroomi Miyamoto
Atmosphere and Ocean Research Institute, University of Tokyo, Kashiwa, Chiba 277-8564, Japan
Jun Nishikawa
Atmosphere and Ocean Research Institute, University of Tokyo, Kashiwa, Chiba 277-8564, Japan
Steven M. Pike
Department of Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry and
Sashiko Yoshida
Department of Physical Oceanography, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA 02543;

Notes

1
To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: [email protected].
Author contributions: K.O.B., S.R.J., and N.S.F. designed research; K.O.B., S.R.J., I.I.R., H.B., Z.B., C.F.B., J.G., A.M.M., H.M., J.N., S.M.P., and S.Y. performed research; C.F.B. and S.M.P. contributed new reagents/analytic tools; K.O.B., S.R.J., N.S.F., I.I.R., H.B., Z.B., C.F.B., E.M.D., J.G., A.M.M., H.M., J.N., S.M.P., and S.Y. analyzed data; and K.O.B., S.R.J., N.S.F., and I.I.R. wrote the paper.

Competing Interests

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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    Fukushima-derived radionuclides in the ocean and biota off Japan
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
    • Vol. 109
    • No. 16
    • pp. 5907-6354

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