Articles | Volume 10, issue 4
Biogeosciences, 10, 2497–2511, 2013

Special issue: Impacts of the Fukushima nuclear power plant discharges on...

Biogeosciences, 10, 2497–2511, 2013

Research article 15 Apr 2013

Research article | 15 Apr 2013

Vertical distributions of plutonium isotopes in marine sediment cores off the Fukushima coast after the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant accident

W. T. Bu1,2, J. Zheng2, T. Aono2, K. Tagami2, S. Uchida2, J. Zhang3, M. C. Honda4, Q. J. Guo1, and M. Yamada5 W. T. Bu et al.
  • 1State Key Laboratory of Nuclear Physics and Technology, School of Physics, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China
  • 2Research Center of Radiation Protection, National Institute of Radiological Sciences, Anagawa 4-9-1, Inage, Chiba 263-8555, Japan
  • 3Department of Environmental Biology and Chemistry, University of Toyama, 3190 Gofuku, Toyama 930-8555, Japan
  • 4Research Institute for Global Change, Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, 2–15 Natsushima, Yokosuka 237-0061, Japan
  • 5Department of Radiation Chemistry, Institute of Radiation Emergency Medicine, Hirosaki University, 66-1 Hon-cho, Hirosaki, Aomori 036-8564, Japan

Abstract. The Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant (FDNPP) accident led to the release of large amounts of radionuclides into the atmosphere as well as direct discharges into the sea. In contrast to the intensive studies on the distribution of the released high volatility fission products, such as 131I, 134Cs and 137Cs, similar studies of the actinides, especially the Pu isotopes, are limited. To obtain the vertical distribution of Pu isotopes in marine sediments and to better assess the possible contamination of Pu from the FDNPP accident in the marine environment, we determined the activities of 239+240Pu and 241Pu as well as the atom ratios of 240Pu/239Pu and 241Pu/239Pu in sediment core samples collected in the western North Pacific off Fukushima from July 2011 to July 2012. We also measured surface sediment samples collected from seven Japanese estuaries before the FNDPP accident to establish the comprehensive background baseline data. The observed results of both the Pu activities and the Pu atom ratios for the sediments in the western North Pacific were comparable to the baseline data, suggesting that the FDNPP accident did not cause detectable Pu contamination to the studied regions prior to the sampling time. The Pu isotopes in the western North Pacific 30 km off the Fukushima coast originated from global fallout and Pacific Proving Ground close-in fallout.

Final-revised paper