Ten years have passed since the earthquake off the Pacific coast of Tōhoku. At exactly 14:46 JST on 11 March 2011, a magnitude 9.0–9.1 undersea megathrust earthquake with an epicenter east of the Oshika Peninsula of Tōhoku generated a powerful tsunami that swept the east coasts of Japan.
The tsunami hit the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant very hard, triggering one of the most severe accidents ever experienced at a nuclear power plant and elevating the fears and concerns of the people against the peaceful exploitation of nuclear energy.
Addressing the accident, both in terms of its immediate consequences and the implementation of corrective actions from lessons learnt to prevent a recurrence, became a priority for regulators and for the nuclear industry in all countries with nuclear power plants. The environmental aspects of the destruction of the Daiichi nuclear reactors are still visible today, requiring continuous attention.
Estimated radioactive seawater plume dispersion on 4/4/2011 (Image by ASR)
Having the means to monitor efficiently and reliably radioactivity released in the marine environment during such very rare events is imperative for increasing resilience of communities and shielding ecosystems against such grand catastrophes.
The recently launched EU-funded RAMONES project (ramones-project.eu) plans to develop a new fleet of radiation instruments aboard autonomous underwater vehicles, able to perform long-term, continuous, in situ monitoring of radioactivity in the marine environment, invest on new algorithms, advanced marine robotics and engineering, as well as provide efficient assessment of the repercussions such events may have on the human populations and the environment.
In RAMONES we will offer solutions to existing radioactivity monitoring problems in ocean ecosystems by investing on excellence, beyond-the-state-of-the-art approaches and cross-discipline synergies, so as to contribute to a new framework of environmental intelligence in the next decades. And despite none of us wants another Fukushima-like event, having the means to shield the environment against such hazards is a winning strategy embedded in the heart of RAMONES.
Theo J. Mertzimekis, PhD