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Cesium: Radioactive Cesium & Nuclear Disasters in Japan & Chernobyl

Posted Mar 16 2012 10:15pm
Posted on 2012-03-15 16:43:24 in Desk Reference | Environment |

Element Name: Cesium

Symbol: Cs

Atomic Number: 55

Atomic Weight: 132.9054519

Element Category: Alkali metal

 

Cesium (caesium) is a soft, silvery-gold alkali metal with a melting point of 28°C (82 F), which makes it one of only five elemental metals that are liquid at (or near) room temperature. Cesium is an alkali metal, and is extremely reactive and pyrophoric, reacting with water even at −116C (−177°F). It is the least electronegative element having a stable isotope, cesium-133.

While the general public is rare to encounter cesium, exposure to cesium compounds can be toxic. The cesium isotopes 134 (Cs-134) and 137 (Cs-137), present in the biosphere in small amounts from radiation leaks, represent a radioactivity burden which varies depending on location. Acute and subsequent chronic, long-term proximal exposure to both Cesium-134 and Cesium-137 associate with increased cancer risks:

Spasic-Jokic V, Zupunski L, Jankovic L, Gordanic V. Effective dose estimation and lifetime cancer mortality risk assessment from exposure to Chernobyl 137Cs on the territory of Belgrade City and the region of Vojvodina, Serbia. Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2011 Jun;18(5):708-15.

Sekitani Y, Hayashida N, Karevskaya IV, Vasilitsova OA, Kozlovsky A, Omiya M, Yamashita S, Takamura N. Evaluation of (137)Cs body burden in inhabitants of Bryansk Oblast, Russian Federation, where a high incidence of thyroid cancer was observed after the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Radiat Prot Dosimetry. 2010 Sep;141(1):36-42.

 

Exposure to Cs-134 and Cs-137 also raise neonatal and infant health risks:

Dancause KN, Yevtushok L, Lapchenko S, Shumlyansky I, Shevchenko G, Wertelecki W, Garruto RM. Chronic radiation exposure in the Rivne-Polissia region of Ukraine: implications for birth defects. Am J Hum Biol. 2010 Sep-Oct;22(5):667-74.

Busby CC. Very low dose fetal exposure to Chernobyl contamination resulted in increases in infant leukemia in Europe and raises questions about current radiation risk models. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2009 Dec;6(12):3105-14.

 

On March 31, 2011, March 11, 2011, a Magnitude 9.0 earthquake & tsunami in Japan caused several nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant to fail. In the first 100 hours after the earthquake an estimated 520 tons of radioactive water leaked into the sea including 940 Terabequerels (TBq) of Cs-134 and 940 TBq of Cs-137.

Radioactive cesium can accumulate in plant tissues, including fruits, vegetables, and mushrooms, potentially compromising the food supply. On Day 9 after the Fukushima accident:

Milk and spinach from farms near the plant tested at radiation levels that exceed Japanese standards

Tap water in Fukushima measured for excessive levels of radioactive iodine

Radioactive iodine and cesium-137 were detected in water supplies as far away as Tokyo (238 km [148 miles])

Yasunari TJ, Stohl A, Hayano RS, Burkhart JF, Eckhardt S, Yasunari T. Cesium-137 deposition and contamination of Japanese soils due to the Fukushima nuclear accident. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Dec 6;108(49):19530-4.

Endo S, Kimura S, Takatsuji T, Nanasawa K, Imanaka T, Shizuma K. Measurement of soil contamination by radionuclides due to the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant accident and associated estimated cumulative external dose estimation. J Environ Radioact. 2011 Dec 1.

Buesseler K, Aoyama M, Fukasawa M. Impacts of the Fukushima nuclear power plants on marine radioactivity. Environ Sci Technol. 2011 Dec 1;45(23):9931-5.

 

On Day 9 after the Fukushima accident, the Fukushima nuclear plume “covered most of North America,” and reached mainland Europe by Day 13:

Paatero J, Vira J, Siitari-Kauppi M, Hatakka J, Holmen K, Viisanen Y. Airborne fission products in the high Arctic after the Fukushima nuclear accident. J Environ Radioact. 2012 Feb 1.
Lujaniene G, Bycenkiene S, Povinec PP, Gera M. Radionuclides from the Fukushima accident in the air over Lithuania: measurement and modelling approaches. J Environ Radioact. 2011 Dec 27. Long NQ, Truong Y, Hien PD, Binh NT, Sieu LN, Giap TV, Phan NT. Atmospheric radionuclides from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear reactor accident observed in Vietnam. J Environ Radioact. 2011 Dec 24.

 

Accumulation of cesium-137 is a concern after nuclear disasters including Fukushima (Japan) and Chernobyl (Ukraine):

Kobayashi T. Radiation measurements at the campus of fukushima medical university through the 2011 off the pacific coast of tohoku earthquake and subsequent nuclear power plant crisis. Fukushima J Med Sci. 2011;57(2):70-4.

Yablokov AV, Nesterenko VB, Nesterenko AV. Consequences of the Chernobyl catastrophe for public health and the environment 23 years later. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2009 Nov;1181:318-26.

Nesterenko AV, Nesterenko VB, Yablokov AV. Chernobyl's radioactive contamination of food and people. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2009 Nov;1181:289-302.
Yablokov AV. Oncological diseases after the Chernobyl catastrophe. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2009 Nov;1181:161-91.

 

From the late 1940s to late 1950s, nuclear weapons testing was conducted at Bikini and Enewetak Atolls, subjecting the residents of the Marshall Islands at increased acute and chronic intakes of major dose-contributing radionuclides. The health-related fallout consequences are now being revealed:, as internal radiation absorbed doses to the tissues most at risk to cancer induction (red bone marrow, thyroid, stomach, and colon) have been found to affect all Marshall Islands population communities for all birth years from 1929 through 1968, and for all years of exposure from 1948 through 1970:

Beck HL, Bouville A, Moroz BE, Simon SL. Fallout deposition in the Marshall Islands from Bikini and Enewetak nuclear weapons tests. Health Phys. 2010 Aug;99(2):124-42.
Robison WL, Hamilton TF. Radiation doses for Marshall Islands Atolls affected by U.S. nuclear testing: all exposure pathways, remedial measures, and environmental loss of (137)Cs. Health Phys. 2010 Jan;98(1):1-11.

 

The International Atomic Energy Agency and other sources have warned that radioactive materials, such as cesium-137, could be used in radiological dispersion devices, or "dirty bombs".

Shin H, Kim J. Development of realistic RDD scenarios and their radiological consequence analyses. Appl Radiat Isot. 2009 Jul-Aug;67(7-8 ):1516-20.
Chin FK. Scenario of a dirty bomb in an urban environment and acute management of radiation poisoning and injuries. Singapore Med J. 2007 Oct;48(10):950-7.
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