Post by Dr Hugh Smith
I recently revisited Japan as part of my involvement in research on the radioactive contamination of rivers after the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Since the disaster in March 2011, an extensive river monitoring network comprising 30 stations has been established across the fallout region. I contributed to the selection of monitoring locations for a second phase of installations in 2012. At all stations, radiocaesium fluxes associated with suspended sediment are measured. The monitoring network provides critical data on radiocaesium transfer from headwater streams to lowland rivers and inputs to the coastal zone. It also forms part of a wider program of environmental research being coordinated by the University of Tsukuba in response to the disaster.
I returned to Japan to present the first results from the large-scale river monitoring effort. I was invited to speak in a special session on the environmental redistribution of radionuclides emitted by the power plant at the Japan Geoscience Union (JpGU) annual meeting held near Tokyo. I am collaborating with colleagues from the Universities of Tsukuba, Kyoto and Plymouth in the analysis of this large and globally unique dataset. During the visit it was also confirmed that the river monitoring will continue for another year, with funding available for data analysis at Liverpool.
In addition to participating in the JpGU meeting, I also made two trips to the impacted region around Fukushima. This provided the opportunity to visit several newly established monitoring stations. I also collected soil samples with Japanese colleagues for a pilot study, which may develop into a new project investigating sources of contaminated sediment within the largest river basin (Abukuma River) affected by the fallout.