Radiocarbon activities were measured in annual tree rings for the years 2009 to 2015 from Japanese cedar trees (Cryptomeria japonica) collected at six sites ranging from 2.5-38 km northwest and north of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. The 14C specific activity varied from 280.4 Bq kg-1 C in 2010 to 226.0 Bq kg-1 C in 2015. The elevated 14C activities in the 2009 and 2010 rings confirmed 14C discharges during routine reactor operations, whereas those activities that were indistinguishable from background in 2012-2015 coincided with the permanent shutdown of the reactors after the accident in 2011. High-resolution 14C analysis of the 2011 ring indicated 14C releases during the Fukushima accident. The resulted 14C activity decreased with increasing distance from the plant. The maximum 14C activity released during the period of the accident was measured 42.4 Bq kg-1 C above the natural ambient 14C background. Our findings indicate that, unlike other Fukushima-derived radionuclides, the 14C released during the accident is indistinguishable from ambient background beyond the local environment (~30 km from the plant). Furthermore, the resulting dose to the local population from the excess 14C activities is negligible compared to the dose from natural/nuclear weapons sources.
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