Potential releases of 129I, 236U, and Pu Isotopes from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plants to the ocean from 2013 to 2015

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Environmental Science & Technology



Place of Publication



School of Science / Centre for Marine Ecosystems Research




Casacuberta, N., Christl, M., Buesseler, K. O., Lau, Y., Vockenhuber, C., Castrillejo, M., . . . Masqué, P. (2017). Potential Releases of 129I, 236U, and Pu Isotopes from the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plants to the Ocean from 2013 to 2015. Environmental Science & Technology, 51(17), 9826-9835. https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.7b03057


After the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear accident, many efforts were put into the determination of the presence of 137Cs, 134Cs, 131I, and other gamma-emitting radionuclides in the ocean, but minor work was done regarding the monitoring of less volatile radionuclides, pure beta-ray emitters or simply radionuclides with very long half-lives. In this study we document the temporal evolution of 129I, 236U, and Pu isotopes (239Pu and 240Pu) in seawater sampled during four different cruises performed 2, 3, and 4 years after the accident, and we compare the results to 137Cs collected at the same stations and depths. Our results show that concentrations of 129I are systematically above the nuclear weapon test levels at stations located close to the FDNPP, with a maximum value of 790 × 107 at·kg-1, that exceeds all previously reported 129I concentrations in the Pacific Ocean. Yet, the total amount of 129I released after the accident in the time 2011-2015 was calculated from the 129I/137Cs ratio of the ongoing 137Cs releases and estimated to be about 100 g (which adds to the 1 kg released during the accident in 2011). No clear evidence of Fukushima-derived 236U and Pu isotopes has been found in this study, although further monitoring is encouraged to elucidate the origin of the highest 240Pu/239Pu atom ratio of 0.293 ± 0.028 we found close to FDNPP.



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