Monitoring radiation levels in the Pacific Northwest

The Fukushima Nuclear Crisis:Separating Fact from Fiction
Simon Fraser University

April 11, 2011

Krzysztof Starosta (SFU)

The Fukushima Nuclear Crisis

April 11, 2011

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The nuclei

The nuclear chart

Number of protons Z

Number of neutrons N
Krzysztof Starosta (SFU) The Fukushima Nuclear Crisis April 11, 2011 2 / 22

Nuclear decay

Nuclear decay half-life
0 T1/2 1 T1/2 2 T1/2 3 T1/2 4

131 137

I Cs 239 Pu
Krzysztof Starosta (SFU)

8 days 30 years 24100 years
The Fukushima Nuclear Crisis April 11, 2011 3 / 22

Nuclear fission

Nuclear fission

Krzysztof Starosta (SFU)

The Fukushima Nuclear Crisis

April 11, 2011

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Nuclear fission

Fission fragments
239 235

Number of protons Z

Pu
238

U U
232

Th

Number of neutrons N
Krzysztof Starosta (SFU) The Fukushima Nuclear Crisis April 11, 2011 5 / 22

Nuclear fission

The nuclear chart

Number of protons Z

Number of neutrons N
Krzysztof Starosta (SFU) The Fukushima Nuclear Crisis April 11, 2011 6 / 22

Fuel release

Fresh and spent nuclear fuel

Krzysztof Starosta (SFU)

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April 11, 2011

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Fuel release

Nuclear chain reaction

Krzysztof Starosta (SFU)

The Fukushima Nuclear Crisis

April 11, 2011

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Fuel release

Plutonium
Plutonium (Pu) is a man made, radioactive, heavy element containing 94 protons.
239 239

Pu is produced in fuel containing 238 U. Pu is the material of choice for nuclear weapons.

Mixed Oxide nuclear fuel used in one of the Fukushima reactors contains Pu/U mixture. The element of Pu is highly toxic when inhaled, (less toxic when ingested). Animal studies found that an accumulated dose of a few milligram of plutonium per kilogram of tissue is lethal. Traces of Pu were reported to be found at the Fukushima site (but not talked about recently).
Krzysztof Starosta (SFU) The Fukushima Nuclear Crisis April 11, 2011 9 / 22

Fission fragments release

Radio-iodine 131 I
131 131 131 131 131 131

I is a man made radioactive isotope of Iodine. I has a half life of 8 days. I is an abundant fission fragment. I is used in radiotherapy of cancer. I is not found in the atmosphere in normal conditions .

I is a good indicator of radioactivity release in reactor accidents, the signal is not obstructed by background. Iodine accumulates in the thyroid, thus large scale exposure to 131 I is a potential health hazard.

Krzysztof Starosta (SFU)

The Fukushima Nuclear Crisis

April 11, 2011

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Fission fragments release

Radioactive 137 Cs
137 137 137 137 137

Cs is a man made radioactive isotope of Cesium. Cs has a half life of 30 years. Cs is an abundant fission fragment. Cs is used in radiotherapy of cancer and in food irradiation.

Cs was not present in the environment before 1940’s when fission started to be used for nuclear power releases.
137

Cs background from nuclear weapon tests and previous nuclear accidents obscures the signal from Fukushima. Contamination with 137 Cs is long lasting.

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The Fukushima Nuclear Crisis

April 11, 2011

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Fission fragments release

Nuclear weapon tests
∼2000 reported tests ∼550 atmospheric explosions

Krzysztof Starosta (SFU)

The Fukushima Nuclear Crisis

April 11, 2011

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Fission fragments release

Fission fragments release
Release depends critically on the accident scenario. Fission fragments which exists as gases, vapours, or aerosols are released first. The Three Mile Island accident released gases only, including 131 I. The explosions and fires following the Chernobyl accident resulted in a release of 6 tons of fragmented fuel along with radioactive gases. The release of 131 I from the Chernobyl was 2.4 million times larger than from the Three Mile Island accident. The crisis management at Fukushima successfully prevented large-scale radioactivity release in the past month, however, the cooling operates under emergency conditions.
Krzysztof Starosta (SFU) The Fukushima Nuclear Crisis April 11, 2011 13 / 22

Radiation detection

Characteristic decay spectra
Blue:
2000 1000 500

137

Cs

Red:60 Co

Counts per Channel

200 100 50

20 10 5

2 200 600 1000 1400 1800

Energy [arb.]
Krzysztof Starosta (SFU) The Fukushima Nuclear Crisis April 11, 2011 14 / 22

Radiation detection

GEARS: Germanium detector for Elemental Analysis and Radioactivity Studies

Krzysztof Starosta (SFU)

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April 11, 2011

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Radiation detection

Background suppression
Blue: shielded
293 352 609

Red: unshielded
1460

1121

511

970

728

1237

Counts per Channel

1376

1764

1508

182 236

91

1847

2103

10 3

1726

2202

10 2

10 1

200

600

1000

1400

1800

2200

2444

2600

Energy (keV)

Krzysztof Starosta (SFU)

The Fukushima Nuclear Crisis

April 11, 2011

2611

10 4

911

16 / 22

Monitoring of Fukushima releases

131

I signature in the SFU rainwater
511 365 511 365 511 365
380 420 460 500

Counts

150

50

352

250

March 18

Counts

150

50

352

250

March 20

Counts

150

50 340 540

352

250

March 29

Energy [keV]

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April 11, 2011

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Monitoring of Fukushima releases

Time profile of the 131 I signature in Burnaby rainwater
Specific activity of 131I in Burnaby rainwater
Specific activity [Bq/l] 16 14 12 10 8 6 4 2 0 03/11 03/18 03/25 04/01 04/08 Date
April 11, 2011 18 / 22

Krzysztof Starosta (SFU)

The Fukushima Nuclear Crisis

Monitoring of Fukushima releases

131

I sampling in seaweed

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April 11, 2011

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Monitoring of Fukushima releases

131

I signature in the North Vancouver seaweed
Blue: March 15
250

Red: March 22
511

Counts

150

50

352

Counts

150

50

340

352

365

250

380

420

460

500

511

540

Energy [keV]
Krzysztof Starosta (SFU) The Fukushima Nuclear Crisis April 11, 2011 20 / 22

Monitoring of Fukushima releases

Time profile of the 131 I signature in seaweed
Specific activity of 131I in seaweed
Specific activity [Bq/kg] 500
SFU North Vancouver

400

Bamfield Marine Science Center

300

200

100

0 03/11

03/18

03/25

04/01

04/08 Date
April 11, 2011 21 / 22

Krzysztof Starosta (SFU)

The Fukushima Nuclear Crisis

Monitoring of Fukushima releases

Time profile of the 131 I signature
Specific activity of 131I
Specific activity [arbitrary] 25
rainwater seaweed NV

20

seaweed BMSC

15

10

5

0 03/11

03/18

03/25

04/01

04/08 Date
April 11, 2011 22 / 22

Krzysztof Starosta (SFU)

The Fukushima Nuclear Crisis

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