Dangerous radioactive hot particles span the globe — Beyond Nuclear International

” When reactors exploded and melted down at the Fukushima nuclear power complex in March 2011, they launched radioactivity from their ruined cores into the unprotected environment. Some of this toxic radioactivity was in the form of hot particles (radioactive microparticles) that congealed and became airborne by attaching to dusts and traveling great distances.

However, the Fukushima disaster is only the most recent example of atomic power and nuclear weapons sites creating and spreading these microparticles. Prior occurrences include various U.S. weapons sites and the ruined Chernobyl reactor. While government and industry cover up this hazard, community volunteer citizen science efforts – collaborations between scientists and community volunteers – are tracking the problem to raise awareness of its tremendous danger in Japan and across the globe.

After the Fukushima nuclear disaster began, one highly radioactive specimen, a particle small enough to inhale or ingest, was found in a private home where it should not have been, hundreds of miles from its source, in a vacuum cleaner bag containing simple house dust.

This “high activity radioactively-hot dust particle” came from a house in Nagoya, Japan – after it had traveled 270 miles from Fukushima. The only radioactive particle found in the home’s vacuum cleaner bag, it was an unimaginably minuscule part of the ruined radioactive core material from Fukushima – many times smaller than the width of a human hair. We know it came from Fukushima because it contained cesium-134, meaning that the particle came from a recent release, and we know it is a piece of core material specifically because it was so radioactive that it could not have come from any other material.

Most of the particle’s radioactivity came from cesium-134 and cesium-137. By the time it was collected, some of the particle’s radioactivity, mostly from iodine-131, had already decayed. Named “corium” by scientists, it was still thousands of times more radioactive (5,200,000,000,000,000 disintegrations per second per kilogram — that’s 5.2 quadrillion more than the average activity (26,000 disintegrations per second per kilogram) found in dust and soil samples collected through community volunteer efforts from across Japan — with a focus on areas around Fukushima — since the 2011 nuclear disaster began. By way of comparison, in the U.S., average soil and dust activity is thousands of times lower.

Due to privacy concerns, we are not permitted to know the identities of the Nagoya residents who participated in the dust sampling collection and in whose home the particle was found. Nor do we know how many people lived in the home; if there were children or babies present; or pets; or pregnant women. And we will never know if there were any other radioactive microparticles in the home that did not make it into that vacuum cleaner bag.

We do not know how the particle got there. No one in the home (nor the vacuum cleaner) had any connection to the Fukushima reactors or the exclusion zone. Was the particle transported by a car tire into their city? On someone’s shoes? Did it fly in through a window after being lofted by air currents? Did it arrive by a combination of forces? We do not know if other particles like this travelled just as far in all directions, or who may have taken a breath at just the wrong moment, so that a similar microparticle might be lodged in their lungs.

We do know the residents in Nagoya were notified about the particle’s presence, and that if it had been inhaled or ingested, it could have proven lethal over time. This corium particle would have destroyed tissue near it, potentially threatening the function of any organ that tissue was part of. But the particle’s additional danger would come from what it didn’t destroy – that is tissue that is damaged but survives and can go on to mutate into cancer or non-cancer diseases.

We also know that had scientists and citizens not worked together to collect samples, we would never have known a microparticle of corium existed at all at a distance so far away from the Fukushima meltdowns. If the presence of this particle – and its potential for inhalation – had gone unnoticed, any calculations of the doses to residents of this home would have been significantly underestimated. And while the Nagoya particle may simply be an outlier, it shows how inaccurate radiation risk assessment has turned out to be. All of these microparticles, even ones less radioactive, may pose significant health risks inside the body that are currently uncalculated.

Citizen and scientists collaborations show us that radioactive microparticles are a worldwide problem. Yet action by public health advocates and government officials has been slow to nonexistent in recognizing this danger, much less working to protect people against exposure from it. Detecting radioactive microparticles is extremely difficult, in part because detecting them and proving their danger requires specialized techniques and equipment. But this is no excuse for governments to ignore the problem altogether as they continue to do. When experts tell us what our risks are from radiation exposure, risks from these microparticles remain unaccounted for in every country in the world. Speculation swirls around these particles and whether the rapid-onset cancers occurring in Japan are possibly due to their presence.

Radioactive particles across the globe

Collections of various samples (home air filters, vehicle engine intake filters, soils, samples of dust from vacuum cleaner bags) have revealed radioactive microparticles from Fukushima made it as far as Seattle, WA and Portland, OR in the U.S.,and to the Western coast of Canada.

Not surprisingly, microparticles in Japan were much more radioactive than those that made their way to the U.S. and contained more varied radioisotopes, thus posing a much greater health risk. In the case of some filters in Japan, contamination was high enough to be classified as “radioactive waste.”

In addition to catastrophic releases from nuclear power facilities, these particles come from atomic detonations, other nuclear industry processes such as mining and atomic fuel fabrication, and nuclear facility releases of radioactivity, as well as leaking atomic waste dumps. Nuclear workers, First Nations Tribes, and local residents have submitted samples for testing around such facilities. Particles have been detected in the environment and in house dusts in communities around weapons facilities in Los Alamos, NM; Hanford, WA; and Rocky Flats, CO. Thorium, plutonium, and uranium from nuclear facilities were found “outside of radiation protection zones,” including workplaces, workers’ homes and cars. “Given the small respirable size of these radioactive microparticles, they are a potential source of internal exposure from inhalation or ingestion,” according to Dr. Marco Kaltofen of Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

In some cases, radioactive particle releases can be higher from nuclear power catastrophes than disasters at atomic bomb facilities. In 1986, Chernobyl also released radioactive particles that still contaminate the environment today. Forest fires are spreading them further. Current community volunteer citizen science efforts are underway in the environs of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) – a former reactor test site adjacent to Simi Valley, CA – and the site of several unanticipated and unmonitored nuclear releases, a meltdown, and the November 2018 Woolsey forest fire.

Similar work is being carried out in Pike County, OH, host to a uranium enrichment facility for military and civilian nuclear reactors that has spread radioactive contamination to a nearby middle school, the grounds of which have now been quarantined. The U.S. Department of Energy hid the school contamination for two years, prompting public outrage and calls for health investigations into the high incidence of local childhood disease.

Ignoring danger to human health, environment

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) currently has an existing 10-mile emergency planning radius around commercial nuclear power reactors, a zone the NRC does not place around other nuclear facilities. This 10-mile zone is not large enough to account for exposures that often occur well outside of it.

While the NRC is aware of the radioactive microparticle threat, its dose models fail to provide the extensive, detailed calculations required to actually protect anyone working at or living near these sites. Since radioactive microparticles remain a threat for generations after a catastrophe begins, the NRC should account for continuing exposure to communities and their people for the decades or centuries it takes for such materials to be safe for human or animal exposure. ”

by Cindy Folkers, Beyond Nuclear International; with technical and editorial input from Arnie and Maggie Gundersen

source with photos

Ground zero at Fukushima nuclear power plant — 60 Minutes Australia

This video by 60 Minutes Australia covers the bleak reality of the effects of both the Fukushima and Chernobyl meltdowns on the people who were evacuated in Fukushima and the future generations of children in Ukraine.


Fukushima’s radioactive water crisis — Counter Currents

Here is an honest and critical look at the reality of what is happening in Japan relating to releasing tons of contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean and the coverup of radiation exposure and its related death toll. Robert Hunziker calls out the facts behind the true impact of radiation exposure on millions of Ukrainians from the Chernobyl meltdown in 1986. This begs the question, What will be the true impact of Fukushima radiation on the Japanese population, including decontamination workers, children, and future generations?

The article quotes a Greenpeace International March 8th 2019 article entitled: Japanese Government Misleading UN on Impact of Fukushima Fallout on Children, Decontamination Workers: “The Japanese government is deliberately misleading United Nations human rights bodies and experts over the ongoing nuclear crisis in areas of Fukushima… In areas where some of these decontamination workers are operating, the radiation levels would be considered an emergency if they were inside a nuclear facility.”

Read article

Move over Chernobyl, Fukushima is now officially the worst nuclear power disaster in history — CounterPunch

” The radiation dispersed into the environment by the three reactor meltdowns at Fukushima-Daiichi in Japan has exceeded that of the April 26, 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe, so we may stop calling it the “second worst” nuclear power disaster in history. Total atmospheric releases from Fukushima are estimated to be between 5.6 and 8.1 times that of Chernobyl, according to the 2013 World Nuclear Industry Status Report. Professor Komei Hosokawa, who wrote the report’s Fukushima section, told London’s Channel 4 News then, “Almost every day new things happen, and there is no sign that they will control the situation in the next few months or years.”

Tokyo Electric Power Co. has estimated that about 900 peta-becquerels have spewed from Fukushima, and the updated 2016 TORCH Report estimates that Chernobyl dispersed 110 peta-becquerels. (A Becquerel is one atomic disintegration per second. The “peta-becquerel” is a quadrillion, or a thousand trillion Becquerels.)

Chernobyl’s reactor No. 4 in Ukraine suffered several explosions, blew apart and burned for 40 days, sending clouds of radioactive materials high into the atmosphere, and spreading fallout across the whole of the Northern Hemisphere — depositing cesium-137 in Minnesota’s milk.

The likelihood of similar or worse reactor disasters was estimated by James Asselstine of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), who testified to Congress in 1986: “We can expect to see a core meltdown accident within the next 20 years, and it … could result in off-site releases of radiation … as large as or larger than the releases … at Chernobyl. Fukushima-Daiichi came 25 years later.

Contamination of soil, vegetation and water is so widespread in Japan that evacuating all the at-risk populations could collapse the economy, much as Chernobyl did to the former Soviet Union. For this reason, the Japanese government standard for decontaminating soil there is far less stringent than the standard used in Ukraine after Chernobyl.

Fukushima’s Cesium-137 Release Tops Chernobyl’s

The Korea Atomic Energy Research (KAER) Institute outside of Seoul reported in July 2014 that Fukushima-Daiichi’s three reactor meltdowns may have emitted two to four times as much cesium-137 as the reactor catastrophe at Chernobyl.

To determine its estimate of the cesium-137 that was released into the environment from Fukushima, the Cesium-137 release fraction (4% to the atmosphere, 16% to the ocean) was multiplied by the cesium-137 inventory in the uranium fuel inside the three melted reactors (760 to 820 quadrillion Becquerel, or Bq), with these results:

Ocean release of cesium-137 from Fukushima (the worst ever recorded): 121.6 to 131.2 quadrillion Becquerel (16% x 760 to 820 quadrillion Bq). Atmospheric release of Cesium-137 from Fukushima: 30.4 to 32.8 quadrillion Becquerel (4% x 760 to 820 quadrillion Bq).

Total release of Cesium-137 to the environment from Fukushima: 152 to 164 quadrillion Becquerel. Total release of Cesium-137 into the environment from Chernobyl: between 70 and 110 quadrillion Bq.

The Fukushima-Daiichi reactors’ estimated inventory of 760 to 820 quadrillion Bq (petabecquerels) of Cesium-137 used by the KAER Institute is significantly lower than the US Department of Energy’s estimate of 1,300 quadrillion Bq. It is possible the Korean institute’s estimates of radioactive releases are low.

In Chernobyl, 30 years after its explosions and fire, what the Wall St. Journal last year called “the $2.45 billion shelter implementation plan” was finally completed in November 2016. A huge metal cover was moved into place over the wreckage of the reactor and its crumbling, hastily erected cement tomb. The giant new cover is 350 feet high, and engineers say it should last 100 years — far short of the 250,000-year radiation hazard underneath.

The first cover was going to work for a century too, but by 1996 was riddled with cracks and in danger of collapsing. Designers went to work then engineering a cover-for-the-cover, and after 20 years of work, the smoking radioactive waste monstrosity of Chernobyl has a new “tin chapeau.” But with extreme weather, tornadoes, earth tremors, corrosion and radiation-induced embrittlement it could need replacing about 2,500 times. ”

by John LaForge, CounterPunch

source with article sources listed at the bottom of the page

Clearing the radioactive rubble heap that was Fukushima Daiichi, 7 years on — Scientific American

” Seven years after one of the largest earthquakes on record unleashed a massive tsunami and triggered a meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, officials say they are at last getting a handle on the mammoth task of cleaning the site before it is ultimately dismantled. But the process is still expected to be a long, expensive slog, requiring as-yet untried feats of engineering—and not all the details have yet been worked out.

When the disaster knocked out off- and on-site power supplies on March 11, 2011, three of the cooling systems for the plant’s four reactor units were disabled. This caused the nuclear fuel inside to overheat, leading to a meltdown and hydrogen explosions that spewed out radiation. The plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), responded by cooling the reactors with water, which continues today. Meanwhile thousands of people living in the surrounding area were evacuated and Japan’s other nuclear plants were temporarily shut down.

In the years since the disaster and the immediate effort to stanch the release of radioactive material, officials have been working out how to decontaminate the site without unleashing more radiation into the environment. It will take a complex engineering effort to deal with thousands of fuel rods, along with the mangled debris of the reactors and the water used to cool them. Despite setbacks, that effort is now moving forward in earnest, officials say. “We are still conducting studies on the location of the molten fuel, but despite this we have made the judgment that the units are stable,” says Naohiro Masuda, TEPCO’s chief decommissioning officer for Daiichi.

Completely cleaning up and taking apart the plant could take a generation or more, and comes with a hefty price tag. In 2016 the government increased its cost estimate to about $75.7 billion, part of the overall Fukushima disaster price tag of $202.5 billion. The Japan Center for Economic Research, a private think tank, said the cleanup costs could mount to some $470 billion to $660 billion, however.

Under a government roadmap, TEPCO hopes to finish the job in 30 to 40 years. But some experts say even that could be an underestimate. “In general, estimates of work involving decontamination and disposal of nuclear materials are underestimated by decades,” says Rod Ewing, a professor of nuclear security and geological sciences at Stanford University. “I think that we have to expect that the job will extend beyond the estimated time.”

The considerable time and expense are due to the cleanup being a veritable hydra that involves unprecedented engineering. TEPCO and its many contractors will be focusing on several battlefronts.

Water is being deliberately circulated through each reactor every day to cool the fuel within—but the plant lies on a slope, and water from precipitation keeps flowing into the buildings as well. Workers built an elaborate scrubbing system that removes cesium, strontium and dozens of other radioactive particles from the water; some of it is recirculated into the reactors, and some goes into row upon row of giant tanks at the site. There’s about one million tons of water kept in 1,000 tanks and the volume grows by 100 tons a day, down from 400 tons four years ago.

To keep more water from seeping into the ground and being tainted, more than 90 percent of the site has been paved. A series of drains and underground barriers—including a $325-million* supposedly impermeable “wall” of frozen soil—was also constructed to keep water from flowing into the reactors and the ocean. These have not worked as well as expected, though, especially during typhoons when precipitation spikes, so groundwater continues to be contaminated.

Despite the fact contaminated water was dumped into the sea after the disaster, studies by Japanese and foreign labs have shown radioactive cesium in fish caught in the region has fallen and is now within Japan’s food safety limits. TEPCO will not say when it will decide what to do with all the stored water, because dumping it in the ocean again would invite censure at home and abroad—but there are worries that another powerful quake could cause it to slosh out of the tanks.

Fuel Mop-up

A second major issue at Fukushima is how to handle the fuel¾the melted uranium cores as well as spent and unused fuel rods stored at the reactors. Using robotic probes and 3-D imaging with muons (a type of subatomic particle), workers have found pebbly deposits and debris at various areas inside the primary containment vessels in the three of the plant’s reactor units. These highly radioactive remains are thought to be melted fuel as well as supporting structures. TEPCO has not yet worked out how it can remove the remains, but it wants to start the job in 2021. There are few precedents for the task. Lake Barrett—director of the Three Mile Island nuclear plant during its decommissioning after a partial meltdown at the Middletown, Pa., facility in 1979—says TEPCO will use robots to remotely dig out the melted fuel and store it in canisters on-site before shipping to its final disposal spot. “This is similar to what we did at Three Mile Island, just much larger and with much more sophisticated engineering because their damage is greater than ours was,” Barrett says. “So although the work is technically much more challenging than ours was, Japan has excellent technological capabilities, and worldwide robotic technology has advanced tremendously in the last 30-plus years.”

Shaun Burnie, senior nuclear specialist with Greenpeace Germany, doubts the ambitious cleanup effort can be completed in the time cited, and questions whether the radioactivity can be completely contained. Until TEPCO can verify the conditions of the molten fuel, he says, “there can be no confirmation of what impact and damage the material has had” on the various components of the reactors—and therefore how radiation might leak into the environment in the future.

Although the utility managed to safely remove all 1,533 fuel bundles from the plant’s unit No. 4 reactor by December 2014, it still has to do the same for the hundreds of rods stored at the other three units. This involves clearing rubble, installing shields, dismantling the building roofs, and setting up platforms and special rooftop equipment to remove the rods. Last month a 55-ton dome roof was installed on unit No. 3 to facilitate the safe removal of the 533 fuel bundles that remain in a storage pool there. Whereas removal should begin at No. 3 sometime before April 2019, the fuel at units No. 1 and 2 will not be ready for transfer before 2023, according to TEPCO. And just where all the fuel and other radioactive solid debris on the site will be stored or disposed of long-term has yet to be decided; last month the site’s ninth solid waste storage building, with a capacity of about 61,000 cubic meters, went into operation.

As for what the site itself might look like decades from now, cleanup officials refuse to say. But they are quick to differentiate it from the sarcophagus-style containment of the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe in the Soviet Union, in what is now Ukraine. Whereas the Chernobyl plant is sealed off and the surrounding area remains off-limits except for brief visits—leaving behind several ghost towns—Japanese officials want as many areas as possible around the Daiichi site to eventually be habitable again.

“To accelerate reconstruction and rebuilding of Fukushima as a region, and the lives of locals, the key is to reduce the mid- and long-term risk,” says Satoru Toyomoto, director for international issues at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry’s Nuclear Accident Response Office. “In that regard, keeping debris on the premises without approval is not an option.” ”

by Tim Hornyak, Scientific American


Fleeing from Fukushima: a nuclear evacuation reality check — Beyond Nuclear International

” (The following is an excerpt from a longer article on the subject of evacuations after severe nuclear accidents. While this section focuses on Fukushima, there are lessons here for all nuclear sites and the likely failure of “on paper” evacuation plans.)

If another severe nuclear accident, such as Windscale (in 1957), Chernobyl (1986) or Fukushima (2011) were to occur, then the most important response, in terms of preventing future cancer epidemics, is evacuation. The other main responses are shelter and stable iodine prophylaxis. Adverse health effects would primarily depend on wind direction and on the nature of the accident.  This article looks primarily at the Fukushima evacuation and its after-effects.

When the Fukushima-Daiichi, Japan nuclear disaster began on March 11, 2011, evacuations were not immediate and some were hampered by the destructive after-effects of the Tsunami and earthquake that precipitated the nuclear crisis.

Once people were evacuated, little, if any, consideration seems to have been given to how long such evacuations would last. For example, the large majority of the 160,000 people who left or were evacuated from Fukushima Prefecture are still living outside the Prefecture. Many are living in makeshift shelters such as shipping containers or prefabricated houses.

At present, the Japanese Government is attempting to force evacuees (by withdrawing state compensation) to return to less contaminated areas, with little success. Currently, seven years after the accident, an area of about 1,000 square kilometers is still subject to evacuation and no entry orders. This compares with the area of 2,700 square kilometers still evacuated and subject to no or restricted entry at Chernobyl, almost 32 years after the accident.

Experience of the Fukushima Evacuation

In 2015 and 2016, I visited Fukushima Prefecture in Japan with international study teams. These study tours were informative as they revealed information about the evacuations that differed from official accounts by TEPCO and the Japanese Government. From many discussions with local mayors, councillors, local health groups and small community groups, the following information was revealed.

The most common figure cited for evacuees is 160,000, of which 80,000 were evacuated by the authorities and the rest left to evacuate on their own, often on foot, cycles and carts. It took about two weeks to evacuate all parts of the initial 20 km (later 30 km) radius evacuation areas around the Fukushima reactors.

The main reason for the delays was that many roads in the Prefecture were jammed with gridlocks which sometimes lasted 24 hours a day, for several days on end on some roads. These traffic jams were partly due to the poor existing road infrastructure and partly due to many road accidents. These jams were of such severity that safety crews for the Fukushima nuclear station had to be moved in and out mostly by helicopter. All public transport by trains and buses ceased. Mobile telephone networks and the internet crashed due to massive demand.

Thousands of people either refused to leave their homelands or returned later. Older farmers often refused to leave their animals behind or be moved from their ancestral lands. In at least a dozen recorded cases, older farmers slaughtered their cow herds rather than leave them behind (dairy cows need to be milked daily): they then committed suicide themselves in several instances.

According to Hachiya et al (2014), the disaster adversely affected the telecommunications system, water supplies, and electricity supplies including radiation monitoring systems. The local hospital system was dysfunctional; hospitals designated as radiation-emergency facilities were unable to operate because of damage from the earthquake and tsunami, and some were located within designated evacuation zones. Emergency personnel, including fire department personnel, were often asked to leave the area.

At hospitals, evacuations were sometimes carried out hurriedly with the unfortunate result that patients died due to intravenous drips being ripped out, medicaments being left behind, the absence of doctors and nurses who had left, and ambulance road accidents. Many hastily-allocated reception centres (often primary schools) were either unable or ill-equipped to deal with seriously ill patients.

Much confusion resulted when school children were being bussed home, while their parents were trying to reach schools to collect their children. Government officials, doctors, nurses, care workers, police, firepersons, ambulance drivers, emergency crews, teachers, and others faced the dilemma of whether to stay at their posts or return to look after their families. In the event, many emergency crews refused to enter evacuation zones for fear of radiation exposure.

Stable iodine was not issued to most people. Official evacuation plans were either non-existent or inadequate and, in the event, next to useless. In many cases, local mayors took the lead and ordered and supervised evacuations in their villages without waiting for orders or in defiance of them. Apparently, the higher up the administrative level, the greater the levels of indecision and lack of responsibility.

In the years after the accident, the longer-lasting effects of the evacuations have become apparent. These include family separations, marital break-ups, widespread depression, and further suicides. These are discussed in a recent publication (Morimatsu et al, 2017) which relates the sad, often eloquent, stories of the Fukushima people. They differ sharply from the accounts disseminated by TEPCO.

Deaths from evacuations at Fukushima

Official Japanese Government data reveal that nearly 2,000 people died from the effects of evacuations necessary to avoid high radiation exposures from the Fukushima disaster, including from suicides.

The uprooting to unfamiliar areas, cutting of family ties, loss of social support networks, disruption, exhaustion, poor physical conditions and disorientation resulted in many people, in particular older people, apparently losing their will to live.

The evacuations also resulted in increased levels of illnesses among evacuees such as hypertension, diabetes mellitus and dyslipidaemia, psychiatric and mental health problems, polycythaemia — a slow growing blood cancer — cardiovascular disease, liver dysfunction, and severe psychological distress.

Increased suicide rates occurred among younger and older people following the Fukushima evacuations, but the trends are unclear. A 2014 Japanese Cabinet Office report stated that, between March 2011 and July 2014, 56 suicides in Fukushima Prefecture were linked to the nuclear accident.

Should evacuations be ordered?

The above account should not be taken as arguments against evacuations as they constitute an important dose-saving and life-saving strategy during emergencies. Instead, the toll from evacuations should be considered part of the overall toll from nuclear accidents.

In future, deaths from evacuation-related ill-heath and suicides should be included in assessments of the fatality numbers from nuclear disasters.

For example, although about 2,000 deaths occurred during and immediately after the evacuations, it can be calculated from UNSCEAR (2013) collective dose estimates that about 5,000 fatal cancers will arise from the radiation exposures at Fukushima, i.e. taking into account the evacuations. Many more fatal cancers would have occurred if the evacuations had not beeCn carried out.

There is an acute planning dilemma here: if evacuations are carried out (even with good planning) then illnesses and deaths will undoubtedly occur. But if they are not carried out, even more people could die. In such situations, it is necessary to identify the real cause of the problem. And here it is the existence of nuclear power plants near large population centres. In such cases, consideration should be given to the early closure of the nuclear power plants, and switching to safer means of electricity generation.


The experiences of Japanese evacuees after Fukushima are distressing to read. Their experiences were terrible, so much so that it requires Governments of large cities with nearby nuclear power plants to reconsider their own situations and to address the question…. what would happen if radioactive fallout heavily contaminated large areas of their city and required millions of residents to leave for long periods of time, for example several decades?

And how long would evacuations need to continue…. weeks, months, years, or decades? The time length of evacuations is usually avoided in the evacuation plans seen so far. In reality, the answer would depend on cesium-137 concentrations in surface soils. The time period could be decades, as the half-life of the principal radionuclide, Cs-137, is 30 years. This raises the possibility of large cities becoming uninhabited ‘ghost’ towns like Tomioka, Okuma, Namie, Futaba, etc in Japan and Pripyat in Ukraine.

This bleak reality is hard to accept or even comprehend. However it is a matter that some governments need to address after Fukushima. It is unsurprising therefore, that after Fukushima, several major European states including Germany and Switzerland have decided to phase out their nuclear reactors. ”

by Dr. Ian Fairlie, Beyond Nuclear International