Original Article

Environmental Earth Sciences

, Volume 71, Issue 3, pp 1007-1019

First online:

Estimation of radioactive leakages into the Pacific Ocean due to Fukushima nuclear accident

  • R. N. NairAffiliated withEnvironmental Assessment Division, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre Email author 
  • , Faby SunnyAffiliated withEnvironmental Assessment Division, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre
  • , Manish ChopraAffiliated withEnvironmental Assessment Division, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre
  • , L. K. SharmaAffiliated withEnvironmental Assessment Division, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre
  • , V. D. PuranikAffiliated withEnvironmental Assessment Division, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre
  • , A. K. GhoshAffiliated withHealth, Safety and Environment Group, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre

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High concentrations of several radionuclides were reported in the sea near the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station (FDNPS) in Japan due to the nuclear accident that occurred on 11 March 2011. The main source of these concentrations was leakage of highly radioactive liquid effluent from a pit in the turbine building near the intake canal of Unit-2 of FDNPS through a crack in the concrete wall. In the immediate vicinity of the plant, seawater concentrations reached 68 MBq m−3 for 134Cs and 137Cs, and exceeded 100 MBq m−3 for 131I in early April 2011. These concentrations began to fall as of 11 April 2011 and, at the end of April, had reached a value close to 0.1 MBq m−3 for 137Cs. Following the nuclear accident, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) had initiated intense monitoring of the environment including the Pacific Ocean. Seawater samples were collected and the concentrations of few radionuclides were measured on a wide spatial and temporal scale. In this study, the measured concentrations of different radionuclides near the south discharge canal of the FDNPS were used to estimate their leakages into the Pacific Ocean. The method is based on estimating the release rates that reproduce the concentration of radionuclides in seawater at a chosen location using a two-dimensional advection–dispersion model in an iterative manner. The radioactive leakages were estimated as 5.68 PBq for 131I, 2.24 PBq for 134Cs and 2.25 PBq for 137Cs. Leakages were also estimated for 99mTc, 136Cs, 140Ba and 140La and they range between 0.02 PBq (99mTc) and 0.53 PBq (140Ba). It was estimated that about 11.28 PBq of radioactivity in total was leaked into the Pacific Ocean from the damaged FDNPS. Out of this, 131I constitutes 50.3 %; 134Cs 20 %; 137Cs 20 %; 140Ba 4.6 %; 136Cs 2.6 %; 140La 2.3 % and 99mTc 0.2 % of the total radioactive leakage. Such quantitative estimates of radioactive leakages are essential prerequisites for short-term and local-scale as well as long-term and large-scale radiological impact assessment of the nuclear accident.


Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station Nuclear accident Pacific Ocean Advection–dispersion model Radionuclide concentration Radioactive leakage Radioactive release Source reconstruction