Inverse modelling techniques can be used to estimate the amount of radionuclides and the temporal profile of the source term released in the atmosphere during the accident of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in March 2011. In Winiarek et al. (2012b), the lower bounds of the caesium-137 and iodine-131 source terms were estimated with such techniques, using activity concentration measurements. The importance of an objective assessment of prior errors (the observation errors and the background errors) was emphasised for a reliable inversion. In such critical context where the meteorological conditions can make the source term partly unobservable and where only a few observations are available, such prior estimation techniques are mandatory, the retrieved source term being very sensitive to this estimation.
We propose to extend the use of these techniques to the estimation of prior errors when assimilating observations from several data sets. The aim is to compute an estimate of the caesium-137 source term jointly using all available data about this radionuclide, such as activity concentrations in the air, but also daily fallout measurements and total cumulated fallout measurements. It is crucial to properly and simultaneously estimate the background errors and the prior errors relative to each data set. A proper estimation of prior errors is also a necessary condition to reliably estimate the a posteriori uncertainty of the estimated source term. Using such techniques, we retrieve a total released quantity of caesium-137 in the interval 11.6−19.3 PBq with an estimated standard deviation range of 15−20% depending on the method and the data sets. The “blind” time intervals of the source term have also been strongly mitigated compared to the first estimations with only activity concentration data.