Articles | Volume 16, issue 20
Research article
27 Oct 2016
Research article |  | 27 Oct 2016

Long-term assessment of airborne radiocesium after the Fukushima nuclear accident: re-suspension from bare soil and forest ecosystems

Mizuo Kajino, Masahide Ishizuka, Yasuhito Igarashi, Kazuyuki Kita, Chisato Yoshikawa, and Masaru Inatsu

Abstract. The long-term effect of 137Cs re-suspension from contaminated soil and forests due to the Fukushima nuclear accident has been quantitatively assessed by numerical simulation, a field experiment on dust emission flux in a contaminated area (town of Namie, Fukushima prefecture), and air concentration measurements inside (Namie) and outside (city of Tsukuba, Ibaraki prefecture) the contaminated area. In order to assess the long-term effect, the full year of 2013 was selected to study just after the start of the field experiments. The 137Cs concentrations at Namie and Tsukuba were approximately 10−1–1 and 10−2–10−1 mBq m−3, respectively. The observed monthly median concentration at Namie was 1 to 2 orders of magnitude larger than that at Tsukuba. This observed difference between the two sites was consistent with the simulated difference, indicating successful modeling of 137Cs re-suspension and atmospheric transport. The estimated re-suspension rate was approximately 10−6 day−1, which was significantly lower than the decreasing rate of the ambient gamma dose rate in Fukushima prefecture (10−4–10−3 day−1) as a result of radioactive decay, migration in the soil and biota, and decontamination. Consequently, re-suspension contributed negligibly in reducing ground radioactivity. The dust emission model could reproduce the air concentration of 137Cs in winter, whereas the summer air concentration was underestimated by 1 to 2 orders of magnitude. Re-suspension from forests at a constant rate of 10−7 h−1, multiplied by the green area fraction, could explain the air concentration of 137Cs at Namie and its seasonal variation. The simulated contribution of dust re-suspension to the air concentration was 0.7–0.9 in the cold season and 0.2–0.4 in the warm season at both sites; the remainder of the contribution was re-suspension from forest. The re-suspension mechanisms, especially through the forest ecosystems, remain unknown. This is the first study that provides a crude estimation of the long-term assessment of radiocesium re-suspension. Additional research activities should investigate the processes/mechanisms governing the re-suspension over the long term. This could be achieved through conducting additional field experiments and numerical simulations.

Short summary
The current study provides the first quantitative budget analysis of radiocesium re-suspended from ground surface contaminated by the Fukushima nuclear accident. It provides useful information to society since our simulation can be used for the long-term assessment of internal exposure to residents in Japan. It also discussed that the re-suspension from forest ecosystems could be a dominant source of suspended radiocesium in the warm season in Japan.
Final-revised paper