By John LaForge
Very few reports of the Fukushima catastrophe have mentioned plutonium contamination. Yet plutonium was used in fuel rods in Fukushima’s reactor 3 which was destroyed by meltdown and several hydrogen explosions.
Following the March 14, 2011 explosion at reactor 3, experts worried about the release of the extremely dangerous radioactive substances. Then a week later, on March 21 and 22, Tepco announced that it had detected plutonium in soil collected from its compound.
Plutonium is one of the most toxic substances known to science, and fine particles are far more biologically hazardous than larger particles.
Now, studies published in the journals Science of The Total Environment, Nov. 15, 2020, and Chemosphere, July 2023, report that researchers found that cesium and plutonium “were transported over long distances,” and that deposits of them were recorded in “downtown Tokyo,” about 142 miles from the meltdowns.
According to the authors, very high concentrations of radioactive cesium were released during the accident as particles referred to as “cesium-rich microparticles” (CsMPs). The researchers say CsMPs they found are mainly composed of silicon, iron, zinc, and cesium, and minor amounts of radioactive tellurium, technetium, molybdenum, uranium, and plutonium.
The studies, involving scientists from six countries and led by Associate Professor Satoshi Utsunomiya, a researcher at Kyushu University, found that “plutonium was included inside cesium-rich microparticles that were emitted from the site.”
Radioactive CsMPs released from Fukushima are a potential health risk through inhalation. “Given the small size of the particles, they could penetrate into the deepest parts of the lung, where they could be retained,” Utsunomiya wrote. “The route of exposure of greatest concern is inhalation,” the authors reported, because plutonium, lodged in the lungs, can “remain for years.”
Utsunomiya summed up his team’s work saying, “It took a long time to publish results on particulate Pu from Fukushima … but research on Fukushima’s environmental impact and its decommissioning are a long way from being over.”