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Radionuclides from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in terrestrial systems via Nature Reviews Earth and Environment

Yuichi OndaKeisuke TaniguchiKazuya YoshimuraHiroaki KatoJunko TakahashiYoshifumi WakiyamaFrederic Coppin & Hugh Smith 


The 2011 Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (FDNPP) accident, Japan, released the largest quantity of radionuclides into the terrestrial environment since the 1986 accident at Chernobyl. This accident resulted in 2.7 PBq of radiocaesium (137Cs) contaminated forests, agricultural lands, grasslands and urban areas, which subsequently migrated through soil and waterways in the Fukushima Prefecture. In this Review, we synthesize knowledge regarding the deposition, distribution and transport of fallout radionuclides, especially 137Cs, in the terrestrial environment after the FDNPP accident, which were revealed by extensive and continuous environmental monitoring. Anthropogenic activities, high run-off and steep topography led to a rapid decline in the activity concentration of 137Cs in soils and rivers, especially in the first year after the accident. The decline in exposed radioactivity was notably faster than that seen after the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant accident, likely related to differences in geography and climate, and the intensive remediation activities in Fukushima. However, forests in Fukushima have retained a notable amount of 137Cs in the upper centimetres of soil and could persist as a source of 137Cs into rivers. For continued understanding of both natural and fallout radionuclide behaviour in the environment, there must be long-term accessibility of the data collected in response to the FDNPP accident.

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