Journal Article Formation of microbial mats and salt in radioactive paddy soils in Fukushima, Japan

Tazaki, Kazue  ,  Shimojima, Yasuhiro  ,  Takehara, Teruaki  ,  Nakano, Mikio

5 ( 4 )  , pp.849 - 862 , 2015-12-01 , MDPI AG
Coastal areas in Minami-soma City, Fukushima, Japan, were seriously damaged by radioactive contamination from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (FDNPP) accident that caused multiple pollution by tsunami and radionuclide exposure, after the Great East Japan Earthquake, on 11 March 2011. Some areas will remain no-go zones because radiation levels remain high. In Minami-soma, only 26 percent of decontamination work had been finished by the end of July in 2015. Here, we report the characterization of microbial mats and salt found on flooded paddy fields at Karasuzaki, Minami-soma City, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan which have been heavily contaminated by radionuclides, especially by Cs (134Cs, 137Cs), 40K, Sr (89Sr, 90Sr), and91 or 95Zr even though it is more than 30 km north of the FDNPP. We document the mineralogy, the chemistry, and the micro-morphology, using a combination of micro techniques. The microbial mats were found to consist of diatoms with mineralized halite and gypsum by using X-ray diffraction (XRD). Particular elements concentrated in microbial mats were detected using scanning electron microscopy equipped with energy dispersive spectroscopy (SEM-EDS) and X-ray fluorescence (XRF). The objective of this contribution is to illustrate the ability of various diatoms associated with minerals and microorganisms which are capable of absorbing both radionuclides and stable isotopes from polluted paddy soils in extreme conditions. Ge semiconductor analysis of the microbial mats detected 134Cs, 137Cs, and 40K without 131I in 2012 and in 2013. Quantitative analysis associated with the elemental content maps by SEM-EDS indicated the possibility of absorption of radionuclide and stable isotope elements from polluted paddy soils in Fukushima Prefecture. In addition, radionuclides were detected in solar salts made of contaminated sea water collected from the Karasuzaki ocean bath, Minami-soma, Fukushima in 2015, showing high Zr content associated with 137Cs and 40K without 131I. The results obtained here provide evidence of the ability of microorganisms to grow in this salty contaminated environment and to immobilize radionuclides. It is possible that the capability of radioactive immobilization can be used to counteract the disastrous effects of radionuclide-polluted paddy soils. © 2015 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

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