The understanding of the triple meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi has evolved since the early years after the initial disaster. The vaporization of nuclear fuel during the meltdowns and the subsequent release of fuel microparticles to the environment is now well established. The early findings in towns around Fukushima prefecture and as far away as Tokyo of highly radioactive fine black substances now have a complete story back to what reactor unit created the specific type of microparticle.
These microparticles pose a specific threat to human and animal health. Newer studies also found these in spinach but were unable to confirm if they had attached to the plant or had somehow been absorbed by the plant. Consuming these microparticles in food poses a new risk that is not sufficiently accounted for. Monitoring of plant workers at Fukushima Daiichi found that some had inhaled these microparticles and over time were unable to clear them from their lungs. This adds an additional risk where highly radioactive microparticles lodge in the body but because they are glassy insoluble substances the body can’t expel them. There has been no research to date to look at this phenomenon in the general public.
Research exploring the fuel debris in the reactor buildings at Fukushima Daiichi confirmed that there are areas where powdery sediment high in alpha radiation was found including in torus rooms, and other places where water that was used to cool the reactors had flowed. These pose a particular threat due to the small particle size. They easily mobilize through being resuspended into water or as fine dust when dry. These powdery fine versions of fuel debris pose a significant challenge as they are much more difficult to contain and pose a high risk to the environment and public health.
You can read more about this and other new discoveries in our 11th Anniversary Annual Report.
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