Model Simulations and Tracer Study

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Irina Rypina, Alison Macdonald, Sachiko Yoshida

We are looking to better understand the pathways, timing and dynamics of the spread of radionuclides into the subsurface western Pacific Ocean from the Japanese Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant (FDNPP). Irina Rypina’s expertise is in the Lagrangian approach to studying transport and exchange processes using numerical modeling, observations and theory. Alison Macdonald is an observational physical oceanographer interested in the transport and variability of ocean waters and their properties. Sachiko Yoshida has worked with a variety of observations including those with regional and full basin focus, hurricanes and the Argo float program.

In the spring of 2011, a massive earthquake and ensuing tsunami damaged the FDNPP causing explosive expulsion of contaminants into the atmosphere. Shortly thereafter, the contaminated coolant waters from the reactors began to leak into the coastal waters surrounding the FDNPP, quickly reaching a region of the ocean known for its energetic late winter/early spring mixing. Water samples collected near the Japan coast between 2011 and 2016 tell us part of the story of how these contaminants have spread over time both horizontally and vertically due to ocean currents and mixing processes. To better understand the dynamics that have produced the specific patterns we see, we are presently setting up particle simulations. We would like to entrain a summer student in the running of these simulations using high-resolution model output to investigate three-dimensional pathways that could explain the deepest radionuclide observations. The student would also be invited to participate in the physical and statistical analyses of the results.

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