Institute of Advanced Studies

A public lecture by Pere Masque


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The Impact of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident in the Ocean

A public lecture by Professor Pere Masqué, Institute of Environmental Science and Technology, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and 2014 UWA Gledden Visiting Fellow.

Pere MasqueThe accident at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in March 2011 caused the largest accidental release of radiation to the ocean. The magnitude of the disaster raised the alarm on the potential impact in marine ecosystems, aside from the obvious concern on the implications for human health via seafood consumption.

Several monitoring programs were implemented soon after the accident, evidencing the relevance of the emissions of Iodine-131, Cesium-134 and Cesium-137: the concentrations of these radionuclides in seawater offshore the coast of Japan were enhanced by several orders of magnitude relative to background levels derived from the global fallout during the 20th Century. Efforts on evaluating other potentially significant radionuclides, such as Iodine-129, Strontium-90 or Plutonium isotopes, were scarcer, largely because of the complexity of the required analysis.

This lecture discussed the already substantial amount of data and information accumulated over the last two years, and outline how well we understand the impact of the accident in the marine environment.

Pere Masqué is currently a professor at the Department of Physics and the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (Spain), where he leads the Environmental Radioactivity Laboratory. He obtained his PhD working at the Institut de Ciències del Mar, Barcelona, and spent two years as a Fulbright postdoc at the Marine Sciences Research Center of the Stony Brook University (NY, USA). His research group uses both natural and artificial radioactive isotopes, (such as 7Be, 90Sr, 137Cs, 210Po, 210Pb, 222Rn, Ra, Th, 231Pa, Pu and U) as tracers of environmental processes, mostly in the oceans. Amongst others, his interests include: the evaluation of the role of the oceans as a source/sink of CO2; the relevance of submarine groundwater discharge in the biogeochemical cycles of the coastal and open ocean; the importance of the declining of sea-ice in the carbon cycle in the Arctic Ocean; the ocean circulation and its fluctuations at millennial scales and how to use that to evaluate the changes in the climate; the radiological consequences of enhanced naturally occurring radioactive materials; and the impacts of the releases of artificial radioactivity in the oceans (i.e. nuclear reprocessing plants, Chernobyl and Fukushima accidents). Current working areas include the Gulf of California and the eastern tropical North Pacific, Fukushima, the Mediterranean Sea, the Atlantic, the Antarctic and the Arctic Oceans and, since recently, Australia.

Professor Masqué was a 2014 UWA Gledden Visiting Fellow.

13 October 2014