What is it about?

137-Cesium is a problematic radioactive element because it remains in the first few centimetres of soil and has a long lifespan. We have estimated the effects of decontamination and soil erosion on the quantity of radioactive elements still present in the environment in the Fukushima region.

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Why is it important?

We demonstrate that decontamination of 16% of the catchment area resulted in a decrease of 17% of sediment-bound radioactive fluxes in rivers. In fact, 67% of the initial radiocesium contamination was calculated to remain stored in forested landscapes, which may contribute to future downstream radiocesium dispersion during erosive events. Given that only a limited proportion of the initial population had returned in 2019 (~30%), it raises the question as to whether decontaminating a small percentage of the contaminated area was worth the effort, the price, and the amount of waste generated?

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This page is a summary of: Lessons learnt on the impact of an unprecedented soil decontamination program in Fukushima on contaminant fluxes, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, October 2023, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2301811120.
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