Articles | Volume 11, issue 17
Biogeosciences, 11, 4839–4852, 2014

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

Biogeosciences, 11, 4839–4852, 2014

Research article 11 Sep 2014

Research article | 11 Sep 2014

The 129-iodine content of subtropical Pacific waters: impact of Fukushima and other anthropogenic 129-iodine sources

T. P. Guilderson1,2, S. J. Tumey1, T. A. Brown1, and K. O. Buesseler3 T. P. Guilderson et al.
  • 1Center for Accelerator Mass Spectrometry, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, CA, USA
  • 2Department of Ocean Sciences and Institute of Marine Sciences, University of California, Santa Cruz, CA, USA
  • 3Department of Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA, USA

Abstract. Results obtained from a dedicated radiochemistry cruise approximately 100 days after the 11 March 2011 Tohoku earthquake and subsequent disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant show that Fukushima derived radionuclides in the nearby ocean environment had penetrated, on average, to ≤250 m depth (1026.5 kg m3 potential density surface). The excess inventory of Fukushima-derived 129I in the region (∼150 000 km2) sampled during the cruise is estimated to have been between 0.89 and 1.173 billion Bq (∼136 to ∼179 grams) of 129I. Based on a tight tracer–tracer relation with 134Cs (or 137Cs) and estimates that most of the excess cesium is due to direct discharge, we infer that much of the excess 129I is from direct (non-atmospheric deposition) discharge. After taking into account oceanic transport, we estimate the direct discharge, i.e., that directly released into the ocean, off Fukushima to have been ∼1 kg 129I. Although this small pulse is dwarfed by the ~90 kg of weapons-testing-derived 129I that was released into the environment in the late 1950s and early 1960s, it should be possible to use Fukushima-derived 129I and other radionuclides (e.g., 134, 137Cs) to study transport and entrainment processes along and across the Kuroshio Current.

Final-revised paper