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    Atmospheric and hydrospheric sciences


    Atmospheric resuspension of insoluble radioactive cesium-bearing particles found in the difficult-to-return area in Fukushima

    Tang P, Kita K, Igarashi Y, Satou Y, Hatanaka K, Adachi K, Kinase T, Ninomiya K, Shinohara A

    Resuspension, Radiocesium, Water-insoluble radiocesium-bearing microparticles (CsMPs), Fukushima accident, Aerosol

    Scanning electron microscopic images of 15 single CsMPs (left panel) isolated from the aerosol filters sampled at not-decontaminated site shown in the surface contamination map (right panel) for 137Cs as of April 29, 2011.

    The deposition of insoluble radiocesium-bearing microparticles (CsMPs), which were released from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (F1NPP) accident in March 2011, has resulted in the widespread contamination of eastern Japan. Obviously, these deposited insoluble CsMPs may become the secondary contamination sources by atmospheric migration or other environmental transferring process; however, the understanding of the transport mechanism remains non-elucidation, and the relevant evidence has not been directly provided. This study, for the first time, provides the direct evidence for the resuspension of these insoluble CsMPs to the atmosphere from (1) proximity of 137Cs radioactivity and resemblance of the morphology and the elemental compositions of CsMPs in the samples of soil and aerosol derived from the same sampling site, (2) the special characteristics of the resuspended CsMPs of which the ratios of Na/Si, K/Si and/or Cs/Si were smaller than those from the initially released CsMPs collected at either long distance or near F1NPP, which can be ascribed to the slowly natural corrosion of CsMPs by the loss of the small amount of soluble contents in CsMPs, and (3) high CsMPs concentration of 10 granules/g in the surface soil of our sampling site and high resuspension frequency of CsMPs in spring when predominant suspended particles were soil dust. Specifically, 15 single CsMPs were successfully isolated from the aerosol filters collected by unmanned high-volume air samplers at a severely polluted area in Fukushima Prefecture, about 25 km away from F1NPP, from January 2015 to September 2019. The mean diameter of these CsMPs was 1.8 ± 0.5 μm, and the average 137Cs radioactivity was 0.35 ± 0.23 Bq/granule. The contribution rate of the resuspended CsMPs to the atmospheric radiocesium was estimated from the ratio of 137Cs radioactivity of a single CsMP to that of the aerosol filter to be of 23.9 ± 15.3%. There has been no considerable decreasing trend in the annual CsMP resuspension frequency.