Analysis of a nuclear accident: Fission and activation product releases from the fukushima daiichi nuclear facility as remote indicators of source identification, extent of release, and state of damaged spent nuclear fuel

Jon M. Schwantes, Christopher R. Orton, Richard A. Clark

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations

Abstract

Researchers evaluated radionuclide measurements of environmental samples taken from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility and reported on the Tokyo Electric Power Co. Website following the 2011 tsunami-initiated catastrophe. This effort identified Units 1 and 3 as the major source of radioactive contamination to the surface soil near the facility. Radionuclide trends identified in the soils suggested that: (1) chemical volatility driven by temperature and reduction potential within the vented reactors' primary containment vessels dictated the extent of release of radiation; (2) all coolant had likely evaporated by the time of venting; and (3) physical migration through the fuel matrix and across the cladding wall were minimally effective at containing volatile species, suggesting damage to fuel bundles was extensive. Plutonium isotopic ratios and their distance from the source indicated that the damaged reactors were the major contributor of plutonium to surface soil at the source, decreasing rapidly with distance from the facility. Two independent evaluations estimated the fraction of the total plutonium inventory released to the environment relative to cesium from venting Units 1 and 3 to be ∼0.002-0.004%. This study suggests significant volatile radionuclides within the spent fuel at the time of venting, but not as yet observed and reported within environmental samples, as potential analytes of concern for future environmental surveys around the site. The majority of the reactor inventories of isotopes of less volatile elements like Pu, Nb, and Sr were likely contained within the damaged reactors during venting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8621-8627
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Volume46
Issue number16
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 21 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry

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