Vertical distributions of plutonium isotopes in marine sediment cores off the Fukushima coast after the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant accident
The Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant (FDNPP) accident led to the release of large amounts of radionuclides into the atmosphere as well as direct discharges into the sea. In contrast to the intensive studies on the distribution of the released high volatility fission products, such as 131I, 134Cs and 137Cs, similar studies of the actinides, especially the Pu isotopes, are limited. To obtain the vertical distribution of Pu isotopes in marine sediments and to better assess the possible contamination of Pu from the FDNPP accident in the marine environment, we determined the activities of 239+240Pu and 241Pu as well as the atom ratios of 240Pu/ 239Pu and 241Pu/ 239Pu in sediment core samples collected in the western North Pacific off Fukushima from July 2011 to July 2012. We also measured surface sediment samples collected from seven Japanese estuaries before the FNDPP accident to establish the comprehensive background baseline data. The observed results of both the Pu activities and the Pu atom ratios for the sediments in the western North Pacific were comparable to the baseline data, suggesting that the FDNPP accident did not cause detectable Pu contamination to the studied regions prior to the sampling time. The Pu isotopes in the western North Pacific 30 km off the Fukushima coast originated from global fallout and Pacific Proving Ground close-in fallout.