Particulate plutonium released from the Fukushima Daiichi meltdowns

Eitaro Kurihara, Masato Takehara, Mizuki Suetake, Ryohei Ikehara, Tatsuki Komiya, Kazuya Morooka, Ryu Takami, Shinya Yamasaki, Toshihiko Ohnuki, Kenji Horie, Mami Takehara, Gareth T.W. Law, William Bower, J. Frederick W. Mosselmans, Peter Warnicke, Bernd Grambow, Rodney C. Ewing, Satoshi Utsunomiya

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18 Citations (Scopus)


Traces of Pu have been detected in material released from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (FDNPP) in March of 2011; however, to date the physical and chemical form of the Pu have remained unknown. Here we report the discovery of particulate Pu associated with cesium-rich microparticles (CsMPs) that formed in and were released from the reactors during the FDNPP meltdowns. The Cs-pollucite-based CsMP contained discrete U(IV)O2 nanoparticles, <~10 nm, one of which is enriched in Pu adjacent to fragments of Zr-cladding. The isotope ratios, 235U/238U, 240Pu/239Pu, and 242Pu/239Pu, of the CsMPs were determined to be ~0.0193, ~0.347, and ~0.065, respectively, which are consistent with the calculated isotopic ratios of irradiated-fuel fragments. Thus, considering the regional distribution of CsMPs, the long-distance dispersion of Pu from FNDPP is attributed to the transport by CsMPs that have incorporated nanoscale fuel fragments prior to their dispersion up to 230 km away from the Fukushima Daiichi reactor site.

Original languageEnglish
Article number140539
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - Nov 15 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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