Atmospheric Dispersion Modeling: Challenges of the Fukushima Daiichi Response

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The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Atmospheric Release Advisory Center (NARAC) provided a wide range of predictions and analyses as part of the response to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident including:

• Daily Japanese weather forecasts and atmospheric transport predictions to inform planning for field monitoring operations and to provide U.S. government agencies with ongoing situational awareness of meteorological conditions;

• Estimates of possible dose in Japan based on hypothetical U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission scenarios of potential radionuclide releases to support protective action planning for U.S. citizens;

• Predictions of possible plume arrival times and dose levels at U.S. locations; and

• Source estimation and plume model refinement based on atmospheric dispersion modeling and available monitoring data.

This paper provides an overview of NARAC response activities, along with a more in-depth discussion of some of NARAC’s preliminary source reconstruction analyses. NARAC optimized the overall agreement of model predictions to dose rate measurements using statistical comparisons of data and model values paired in space and time. Estimated emission rates varied depending on the choice of release assumptions (e.g., time-varying vs. constant release rates), the radionuclide mix, meteorology, and/or the radiological data used in the analysis. Results were found to be consistent with other studies within expected uncertainties, despite the application of different source estimation methodologies and the use of significantly different radiological measurement data. The paper concludes with a discussion of some of the operational and scientific challenges encountered during the response, along with recommendations for future work.

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