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Environ Sci Technol. 2011 Sep 15;45(18):7670-7. doi: 10.1021/es2017158. Epub 2011 Aug 23.

Tracking of airborne radionuclides from the damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear reactors by European networks.

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Institut de Radioprotection et de Sûreté Nucléaire, (IRSN), BP 3, 13115, Cadarache, Saint Paul Lez Durance, France.


Radioactive emissions into the atmosphere from the damaged reactors of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant (NPP) started on March 12th, 2011. Among the various radionuclides released, iodine-131 ((131)I) and cesium isotopes ((137)Cs and (134)Cs) were transported across the Pacific toward the North American continent and reached Europe despite dispersion and washout along the route of the contaminated air masses. In Europe, the first signs of the releases were detected 7 days later while the first peak of activity level was observed between March 28th and March 30th. Time variations over a 20-day period and spatial variations across more than 150 sampling locations in Europe made it possible to characterize the contaminated air masses. After the Chernobyl accident, only a few measurements of the gaseous (131)I fraction were conducted compared to the number of measurements for the particulate fraction. Several studies had already pointed out the importance of the gaseous (131)I and the large underestimation of the total (131)I airborne activity level, and subsequent calculations of inhalation dose, if neglected. The measurements made across Europe following the releases from the Fukushima NPP reactors have provided a significant amount of new data on the ratio of the gaseous (131)I fraction to total (131)I, both on a spatial scale and its temporal variation. It can be pointed out that during the Fukushima event, the (134)Cs to (137)Cs ratio proved to be different from that observed after the Chernobyl accident. The data set provided in this paper is the most comprehensive survey of the main relevant airborne radionuclides from the Fukushima reactors, measured across Europe. A rough estimate of the total (131)I inventory that has passed over Europe during this period was <1% of the released amount. According to the measurements, airborne activity levels remain of no concern for public health in Europe.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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