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Variation of 14C in Japanese Tree Rings Related to the Fukushima Nuclear Accident

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 May 2019

Tamás Varga*
Isotope Climatology and Environmental Research Centre, Institute for Nuclear Research, Hungarian Academy of Sciences (Atomki), P.O Box 51, Debrecen, H-4001, Hungary
László Palcsu
Isotope Climatology and Environmental Research Centre, Institute for Nuclear Research, Hungarian Academy of Sciences (Atomki), P.O Box 51, Debrecen, H-4001, Hungary
Tomoko Ohta
Civil Engineering Research Laboratory, Central Research Institute of Electric Power Industry, Japan School of Frontier Science, The University of Toyo, Kashiwa-shi, Chiba, 277-8563, Japan
Yasunori Mahara
Kyoto University, Kyoto city, Kyoto 606-8501, Japan
A J Timothy Jull
Isotope Climatology and Environmental Research Centre, Institute for Nuclear Research, Hungarian Academy of Sciences (Atomki), P.O Box 51, Debrecen, H-4001, Hungary Department of Geosciences, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721USA University of Arizona AMS Laboratory, Tucson, AZ 85721USA
Mihály Molnár
Isotope Climatology and Environmental Research Centre, Institute for Nuclear Research, Hungarian Academy of Sciences (Atomki), P.O Box 51, Debrecen, H-4001, Hungary
*Corresponding author. Email:


Radiocarbon (14C) analysis was performed on Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria japonica) tree rings from Koriyama, Fukushima prefecture. Our primary aim was to detect any 14C release from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant accident on 11 March 2011. We also completed and assessed the 14C level in Japanese tree rings for the period of 1990–2014 because of the lack of environmental 14C results in the Japanese island that time. For this reason, we used a trajectory model to investigate the air mass forward and backward trajectories at the area of the power plant and sampling site. The modeling data show that the air masses mainly moved to the Pacific Ocean, both during March 2011 and during the growing season (March–September). During the period 1990–2014 there was no significant 14C excess in any of the samples, but there was a detectable Suess effect in almost every tree ring sample. The average fossil contribution was 0.83 ± 0.01% and the calculated anthropogenic component ratio, the 14C excess varied between +0.5 and –1.6%. The Δ14C value decreased from 150.0‰ to 9.5‰ from 1990–2014, which follows the decline of the 14C bomb peak, in addition to any detectable Suess effect.

Research Article
© 2019 by the Arizona Board of Regents on behalf of the University of Arizona 

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