nuclear-news

The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

Fukushima’s Radiation Will Poison Food “for Decades,” Study Finds

Screen-Shot-2017-06-22-at-7.31.40-AM.png

 

Three of the six reactors at Japan’s Fukushima-Daiichi complex were wrecked in March 2011 by an earthquake and tsunami. The destruction of emergency electric generators caused a “station blackout” which halted cooling water intake and circulation. Super-heated, out-of-control uranium fuel in reactors 1, 2, and 3 then boiled off cooling water, and some 300 tons of fuel “melted” and burned through the reactors’ core vessels, gouging so deep into underground sections of the structure that to this day operators aren’t sure where it is. Several explosions in reactor buildings and uncovered fuel rods caused the spewing of huge quantities of radioactive materials to the atmosphere, and the worst radioactive contamination of the Pacific Ocean ever recorded. Fukushima amounts to Whole-Earth poisoning.

Now, researchers say, radioactive isotopes that were spread across Japan (and beyond) by the meltdowns will continue to contaminate the food supply for a very long time.

According to a new study that focused on “radiocaesium” — as the British call cesium-134 and cesium-137 — “food in japan will be contaminated by low-level radioactivity for decades.” The official university announcement of this study neglected to specify that Fukushima’s cesium will persist in the food chain for thirty decades. It takes 10 radioactive half-lives for cesium-137 to decay to barium, and its half-life is about 30 years, so C-137 stays in the environment for roughly 300 years.

The study’s authors, Professor Jim Smith, of the University of Portsmouth, southwest of London, and Dr. Keiko Tagami, from the Japanese National Institute of Radiological Sciences, report that cesium-caused “radiation doses in the average diet in the Fukushima region are very low and do not present a significant health risk now or in the future.”

This phraseology deliberately conveys a sense of security — but a false one. Asserting that low doses of radiation pose no “significant” health risk sounds reassuring, but an equally factual framing of precisely the same finding is that small amounts of cesium in food pose a slightly increased risk of causing cancer.

This fact was acknowledged by Prof. Smith in the June 14 University of Portsmouth media advisory that announced his food contamination study, which was published in Science of the Total Environment. Because of above-ground atom bomb testing, Prof. Smith said, “Radioactive elements such as caesium-137, strontium-90 and carbon-14 contaminated the global environment, potentially causing hundreds of thousands of unseen cancer deaths.”

No less an authority than the late John Gofman, MD, Ph.D., a co-discoverer of plutonium and Professor Emeritus of molecular and cell biology at the University of California, spent 50 years warning about the threat posed by low doses of radiation. In May 1999, Gofman wrote, “By any reasonable standard of biomedical proof, there is no safe dose, which means that just one decaying radioactive atom can produce permanent mutation in a cell’s genetic molecules. My own work showed this in 1990 for X rays, gamma rays, and beta particles.”

The Fukushima-borne cesium in Japan’s food supply, and in the food-web of the entire Pacific Ocean, emits both beta and gamma radiation. Unfortunately, it will bio-accumulate and bio-concentrate for 300 years, potentially causing, as Dr. Gofman if not Dr. Smith might say, hundreds of thousands of unseen cancer deaths.

https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/06/22/fukushimas-radiation-will-poison-food-for-decades-study-finds/

 

 

June 22, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima Farmers Struggle

The technology to fully decontaminate a contaminated land has not yet been invented. Despite of all their efforts and hopes, those farmers’ struggle is just beginning and will last for ages…

Capture du 2017-06-10 21-04-03.png

 

Farmers in Fukushima are struggling to revive their livelihoods. The 2011 nuclear accident and subsequent evacuation devastated farms — the area’s main source of jobs.

Some areas, like the village of Iitate, have lifted most of their evacuation orders. But getting back to normal is taking some time.

More than 200 farmers used to raise cows in this region. But 2 months after authorities lifted their evacuation order, few farmers have tried to return to raising animals.

Six cows were released into a paddy field to graze. It’s a step to revive the farm work that was widely seen in Iitate village.

One farmer is using his cows as an experiment that could bring hope to others.

After the animals eat these fields for 2 months, they’ll have their blood tested to check if they have been influenced in any way by radioactive material.

“It’s finally starting. For those who are worried or not confident about resuming cattle raising, I hope what I’m doing will encourage them,” says the farmer, Takeshi Yamada.

Before the accident, farmers in Iitate used to cultivate some 2,300 hectares of land. But this year, only 20 are being used to grow rice and buckwheat.

Some 60 farmers plan to resume farming this year — a small fraction of the previous total.

A major concern behind the slow uptake is the uncertainty farmers have about being able to sell their produce. Surface soil in the area was removed to help decontaminate the ground, but doing that also lowered its fertility.

Another challenge according to farmers is weakened community bonds.

“We used to work together. We were ready to take on whatever tasks we had. But it’s been 6 years, and the motivation to work is low. Nobody now says ‘let’s work together,'” says farmer Koichi Aoki.

To counter their plight, farmers are doing small things.

They formed a group of volunteers to remove weeds. They’re planting flower seeds to beautify the land and keep weeds from coming back. And there’s an even bigger benefit.

“We’ve been protecting our farmland. We want to keep it from turning to wasteland. And by working together, we’ll be able to form human bonds again. That’s our main goal,” says farmer Masuo Nagasho.

It will take time, but people here are hopeful these small steps are just the beginning.

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/editors/3/fukushimafarmersstruggle/

 

June 11, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

In Fukushima, a land where few return

The evacuation orders for most of the village of Iitate have been lifted. But where are the people?

1.jpgThe build-up of contaminated bags is slowly changing the landscape of Iitate, Fukushima Prefecture.

IITATE, FUKUSHIMA PREF. – Some day when I have done what I set out to do, I’ll return home one of these days, where the mountains are green, my old country home, where the waters are clear, my old country home.

— “Furusato,” Tatsuyuki Takano

A cherry tree is blooming in the spring sunshine outside the home of Masaaki Sakai but there is nobody to see it. The house is empty and boarded up. Weeds poke through the ground. All around are telltale signs of wild boar, which descend from the mountains to root and forage in the fields. Soon, the 60-year-old farmhouse Sakai shared with his mother and grandmother will be demolished.

I don’t feel especially sad,” Sakai says. “We have rebuilt our lives elsewhere. I can come back and look around — just not live here.”

A few hundred meters away the road is blocked and a beeping dosimeter begins nagging at the bucolic peace. The reading here is a shade over 1 microsievert per hour — a fraction of what it was when Sakai’s family fled in 2011.

The radiation goes up and down, depending on the weather, Sakai says. In gullies and cracks in the road, and up in the trees, it soars. With almost everyone gone, the monkeys who live in the forests have grown bolder, stopping to stare at the odd car that appears instead of fleeing, as they used to.

A cluster of 20 small hamlets spread over 230 square kilometers, Iitate was undone by a quirk of the weather in the days that followed the nuclear accident in March 2011. Wind carried radioactive particles from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, which is located about 45 kilometers away, that fell in rain and snow on the night of March 15, 2011. After more than a month of indecision, during which the villagers lived with some of the highest radiation recorded in the disaster (the reading outside the village office on the evening of March 15 was a startling 44.7 microsieverts per hour), the government ordered them to leave.

Now, the government says it is safe to go back. With great fanfare, all but the still heavily contaminated south of Iitate, Nagadoro, was reopened on March 31.

2.jpgA radiation monitoring post is installed in the village of Iitate on March 27, ahead of the lifting of an evacuation order for most areas of the village. The post bears the message ‘Welcome home.’

The reopening fulfills a pledge made by Mayor Norio Kanno: Iitate was the first local authority in Fukushima Prefecture to set a date for ending evacuation in 2012, when the mayor promised to reboot the village in five years. The village has a new sports ground, convenience store and udon restaurant. A clinic sees patients twice a week. All that’s missing is people.

Waiting to meet Kanno in the government offices of Iitate, the eye falls on a book displayed in the reception: “The Most Beautiful Villages in Japan.” Listed at No. 12 is the beloved rolling patchwork of forests, hills and fields the mayor has governed for more than two decades — population 6,300, famous for its neat terraces of rice and vegetables, its industrious organic farmers, its wild mushrooms and the black wagyu cow that has taken the name of the area.

The description in the book is mocked by reality outside. The fields are mostly bald, shorn of vegetation in a Promethean attempt to decontaminate it of the radiation that fell six years ago. There is not a cow or a farmer in sight. Tractors sit idle in the fields. The local schools are empty. As for the population, the only part of the village that looks busy is the home for the elderly across the road from Kanno’s office.

3.jpgA school sits deserted in Iitate, Fukushima Prefecture, in April.

The village will never return to how it used to be before the disaster,” Kanno says, “but it may develop in a different way.”

Recovery has started, Kanno says, wondering whether returnees will be able to start building a village they like.

Who knows? Maybe one day that may help bring back evacuees or newcomers,” Kanno says. “Life doesn’t improve if you remain pessimistic.”

Even for those who have permanently left, he adds, “it doesn’t mean that their furusato can just disappear.”

The pull of the furusato (hometown) is exceptionally strong in Japan, says Tom Gill, a British anthropologist who has written extensively about Iitate.

Yearning for it “is expressed in countless sentimental ballads,” Gill says. “One particular song, simply titled ‘Furusato,’ has been sung by children attending state schools in Japan since 1914.”

The appeal has persisted despite — or perhaps because of — the fact that the rural/urban imbalance in Japan is more skewed than in any other developed nation, Gill says; just 10 percent of the nation’s population live in the country.

This may partly explain the extraordinary efforts to bring east Fukushima back to life. By one study, more than ¥2.34 trillion has been spent decontaminating an area roughly half the size of Rhode Island.

There has been no official talk of abandoning it. Indeed, any suggestion otherwise could be controversial: When industry minister Yoshio Hachiro called the abandoned communities “towns of death” in September 2011, the subsequent outrage forced him to quit a week later.

Instead, the area was divided into three zones with awkward euphemisms to suggest just the opposite: Communities with annual radiation measuring 20 millisieverts or less (the typical worldwide limit for workers in nuclear plants) are “being prepared for lifting of evacuation order,” districts of 20-50 millisieverts per year are “no-residence zones” and the most heavily contaminated areas of 50 millisieverts or more per year, such as Nagadoro, are “difficult-to-return.”

In September 2015, Naraha, which is located 15 kilometers south of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, became the first town in the prefecture to completely lift the evacuation order imposed after the triple meltdown. Naraha has a publicly built shopping street, a new factory making lithium batteries, a kindergarten and a secondary school.

A team of decontamination workers has been sent to every house — in some cases several times. Of the pre-disaster 7,400 residents, about 1,500 mainly elderly people have returned, the local government says, although that figure is likely inflated.

In Iitate, the cost of decontamination works out at about ¥200 million per household. That, and the passage of time, has dramatically reduced radiation in many areas to below 20 millisieverts a year. However, Kanno says, the cleanup extends to only 20 meters around each house, and three-quarters of the village is forested mountains. In windy weather, radioactive elements are blown back onto the fields and homes.

All that money, and for what?” asks Nobuyoshi Itoh, a farmer and critic of the mayor. “Would you bring children here and let them roam in the fields and forests?”

4.jpg
Nobuyoshi Itoh walks through a forest by his land in Iitate, Fukushima Prefecture.

Itoh opted to stay in one of the more heavily toxic parts of the village after everyone fled, with little apparent ill effect, although he says his immune system has weakened.

One of the reasons why Iitate was such a pleasant place to live before the nuclear crisis, he recalls, was its unofficial barter system. “Most people here never bought vegetables; they grew them,” he says. “I would bring someone potatoes and they would give me eggs. That’s gone now.”

At most, he says, a few hundred people are back — but they’re invariably older or retired.

They alone will not sustain the village,” Itoh says. “Who will drive them around or look after them when they are sick?”

As the depth of the disaster facing Iitate became clear, local people began to squabble among themselves. Some were barely scraping a living and wanted to leave, although saying so out loud — abandoning the furusato — was often difficult. Many joined lawsuits against the government.

Even before disaster struck, the village had lost a third of its population since 1970 as its young folk relocated to the cities, mirroring the hollowing-out of rural areas across the country. Some wanted to shift the entire village elsewhere, but Kanno wouldn’t hear of it.

Compensation could be a considerable incentive. In addition to ¥100,000 a month to cover the “mental anguish” of being torn from their old lives, there was extra money for people with houses or farms. A five-year lump sum was worth ¥6 million per person — twice that for Nagadoro. One researcher estimates a rough figure of ¥50 million for the average household, sufficient to leave behind the uncertainties and worries of Iitate and buy a house a few dozen miles away, close enough to return for work or to the village’s cool, tranquil summers.

5.jpg

Masaaki Sakai stands outside his home in Iitate, Fukushima Prefecture.

Many have already done so. Though nobody knows the true figure, the local talk is that perhaps half of the villagers have permanently left. Surveys suggest fewer than 30 percent want to return, and even less in the case of Nagadoro.

Yoshitomo Shigihara, head of the Nagadoro hamlet, says many families made their decision some time ago. His grandchildren, he says, should not have to live in such a place.

It’s our job to protect them,” Shigihara says. He lives in the city of Fukushima but returns roughly every 10 days to inspect his house and weed the land.

Even with so much money spent, Shigihara doubts whether it will bring many of his friends or relatives back. At 70 years of age, he is not sure that he even wants to return, he says.

I sometimes get upset thinking about it, but I can’t talk with anyone in Fukushima, even my family, because we often end up quarreling,” he says. “People try to feel out whether the others are receiving benefits, what they are getting or how much they received in compensation. It’s very stressful to talk to anyone in Iitate. I’m starting to hate myself because I end up treating others badly out of frustration.”

Kanno has won six elections since 1996 and has overseen every step of Iitate’s painful rehabilitation, navigating between the anger and despair of his constituents and the official response to the disaster from the government and Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings (Tepco), operator of the crippled nuclear plant.

6.jpgGround Self-Defense Force members decontaminate areas tainted with radioactive substances in Iitate, Fukushima Prefecture, in December 2011.

He wants more money to complete decontamination work (the government claims it is finished), repair roads and infrastructure. Returnees need financial support, he says. However, it is time, he believes, to end the monthly compensation, which, in his view, induces dependency.

If people keep saying that life is hard, they will not be able to recover,” he says. “What we need is support for livelihoods.”

A new system gives seed money to people who voluntarily come back to start businesses or farms.

We don’t want to give the impression that we are influencing people’s decisions or forcing them to return,” the mayor says, using the phrase “kokoro ni fumikomu,” which literally means “to step into hearts.”

Yet, next year, thousands of Iitate evacuees will face a choice: Go back or lose the money that has helped sustain them elsewhere for six years. Evacuation from areas exposed to less than 20 millisieverts per year will be regarded as “voluntary” under the official compensation scheme.

This dilemma was expressed with unusual starkness last month by Masahiro Imamura, the now sacked minister in charge of reconstructing Tohoku. Pressed by a freelance reporter, Imamura tetchily said it was up to the evacuees themselves — their “own responsibility, their own choice” — whether or not to return.

The comment touched a nerve. The government is forcing people to go back, some argued, employing a form of economic blackmail, or worse, kimin seisaku — abandoning them to their fate.

Itoh is angry at the resettlement. For him, politics drives the haste to put the disaster behind.

It’s inhuman to make people go back to this,” he says. Like the physical damage of radiation, he says, the psychological damage is also invisible: “A lot of people are suffering in silence.”

Itoh believes the government wants to show that the problems of nuclear power can be overcome so it can switch the nation’s idling nuclear reactors back on. Just four are in operation while the fate of 42 others remains in political and legal limbo. Public opinion remains opposed to their restart.

Many people began with high hopes in Iitate but have gradually grown distrustful of the village government, says Kenichi Hasegawa, a farmer who wrote a book titled “Genpatsu ni Furusato o Ubawarete” (“Fukushima’s Stolen Lives”) in 2012. Right from the start, he says, the mayor desperately tried to hide the shocking radiation outside his office.

Villagers have started losing interest,” Hasegawa says.

Meetings called by the mayor are poorly attended.

But they hold meetings anyway,” Hasegawa says, “just to say they did.”

Kanno rejects talk of defeatism. A tourist shop is expected to open in August that will attract people to the area, he says. Some villagers are paving entrances to their houses, using money from the reconstruction budget. As for radiation, everyone “has their own idea” about its effects. The lifting of the evacuation is only the start.

Itoh says he once trusted public officials but those days are long gone. By trying to save the village, he says, the mayor may in fact be killing it.

7.jpgBags filled with contaminated waste sit in a field in the village of Iitate, Fukushima Prefecture, in March 2016.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/05/13/national/social-issues/fukushima-land-return/

 

May 17, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima village farmers plant rice for 1st time since nuclear disaster

591319d4c3618885258b45fc.jpg

 

Farmers have begun planting rice in a village in Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, for the first time since the 2011 nuclear disaster contaminated the soil with radiation, leading to forced evacuations.

Eight farms in the village of Iitate plan to resume rice-growing this year in a combined area of about 7 hectares, the Japan Times reported. That area is significantly smaller than the 690 hectares available to farmers before the Fukushima disaster.

It marks the first time since the area was evacuated that farmers have been able to plant rice for commercial sales. Evacuation orders were lifted at the end of March for parts of the village.

The farmers will conduct radiation tests on the rice before shipping it to retailers. However, no rice grown in Iitate has shown radioactivity levels beyond the safety standard since experimental planting began in 2012.

Meanwhile, the government also took steps to encourage evacuees to return to the area on Wednesday, with an upper house committee passing a bill aimed at boosting governmental support so that displaced individuals can return to their homes earlier than planned.

The bill, which is expected to soon be passed by the upper house plenary session, will allow the government to fund more infrastructure rebuilding in the area, including roads and removing radioactive substances.

Also on Wednesday, the mayor of Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, called on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to introduce an advanced medical care system in the city, which is located north of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

Minamisoma is also developing a system which will give residents access to doctors online, in an effort to quell health concerns.

In March 2011, an earthquake and subsequent tsunami led to the meltdown of three nuclear reactors at Fukushima Daiichi, making it the worst nuclear disaster since the Chernobyl catastrophe in 1986.

https://www.rt.com/news/387907-rice-farmers-fukushima-nuclear/

May 17, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima village begins sowing rice for first time since nuclear crisis

hjkllmù.jpg

A farmer plants rice at a paddy for commercial sale in Iitate, Fukushima Prefecture, on Wednesday for the first time since the meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in 2011. In the forefront is a sign warning against an electric fence set up for wild boars.

FUKUSHIMA – Rice planting for commercial sales began on Wednesday in a village in Fukushima Prefecture for the first time since the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

A total of eight farms in Iitate plan to resume growing rice this year in a combined area of about 7 hectares after evacuation orders were lifted at the end of March for large parts of the village.

With much of the area contaminated by radiation following the nuclear crisis, the total arable area has shrunk from around 690 hectares before the disaster, according to the village.

The farmers will conduct radiation tests before shipping their rice. No rice grown in the village has shown levels of radioactivity exceeding the safety standard since experimental rice planting began in 2012.

(I feel) comfortable. We want to get back even a step closer to the village of six years ago,” said Shoichi Takahashi, 64, while working a rice planting machine.

The municipality has supported farming efforts, including installing electric fences around the area to protect the rice fields from wild boar and working the soil after decontamination.

Measures to encourage evacuees to return to Fukushima are also slowly underway.

On Wednesday, an Upper House committee passed a bill aimed at boosting government support so evacuees can return to their homes earlier in areas which are off-limits in principle in the wake of the March 2011 nuclear meltdowns.

The Upper House plenary session is expected to clear the bill soon, allowing the government to fund more infrastructure rebuilding such as roads and get rid of radioactive substances in the area.

The bill already cleared the House of Representatives on April 14 but deliberations in the upper chamber stalled after Masahiro Imamura, who served as reconstruction minister, sparked outrage following a series of gaffes and ultimately resigned on April 26.

Minamisoma Mayor Katsunobu Sakurai called on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday to help introduce an advanced medical care system in the city north of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

Sakurai made the plea during his meeting with Abe at the Prime Minister’s Office.

The evacuation order was lifted last July in one part of the city but medical institutions and clinics had been on the decline even before the natural disasters and nuclear crisis.

In a bid to ease residents’ health concerns, the city office is developing a system where residents have access to doctors online.

Goichiro Toyoda, head of Medley Inc., which provides the remote medical care system, asked the government to revise regulations to allow a broader reach for the program.

Abe said he will do his best.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/05/10/national/fukushima-village-begins-sowing-rice-first-time-since-nuclear-crisis/

 

May 17, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment

First On-Site True Gamma-Ray Imaging-Spectroscopy of Contamination near Fukushima Plant

Abstract

We have developed an Electron Tracking Compton Camera (ETCC), which provides a well-defined Point Spread Function (PSF) by reconstructing a direction of each gamma as a point and realizes simultaneous measurement of brightness and spectrum of MeV gamma-rays for the first time. Here, we present the results of our on-site pilot gamma-imaging-spectroscopy with ETCC at three contaminated locations in the vicinity of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plants in Japan in 2014. The obtained distribution of brightness (or emissivity) with remote-sensing observations is unambiguously converted into the dose distribution. We confirm that the dose distribution is consistent with the one taken by conventional mapping measurements with a dosimeter physically placed at each grid point. Furthermore, its imaging spectroscopy, boosted by Compton-edge-free spectra, reveals complex radioactive features in a quantitative manner around each individual target point in the background-dominated environment. Notably, we successfully identify a “micro hot spot” of residual caesium contamination even in an already decontaminated area. These results show that the ETCC performs exactly as the geometrical optics predicts, demonstrates its versatility in the field radiation measurement, and reveals potentials for application in many fields, including the nuclear industry, medical field, and astronomy.

Introduction

Following the accident in Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plants on 11 March 2011, a huge amount of radionuclides was released to the atmosphere. As in 2016, 137Cs and 134Cs, which radiate gammas mainly from 600 keV to 800 keV, still remain in Fukushima, and many areas are still contaminated as a result1. Operations of decontamination are called for in a wide area in Fukushima and its surroundings to satisfy a legal limit for the maximum exposure of 0.23 μSv/h at any publicly-accessible open spaces2. An effective method to measure and monitor gamma-ray radiation is essential for efficient decontamination work, and as a result there has been a surge of demand for gamma-ray instruments with a wide field of view (FoV) which quantitatively visualize Cs contamination.

Many gamma cameras have been developed to make imaging observations to help decontamination, based on the Compton camera (CC)3,4,5,6,7, pin-hole (PHC)8, and coded-mask technologies. However, none of them has detected more than a limited number of hot spots, or has reported any quantitative radiation maps, let alone imaging spectroscopy. The CC is the most advanced among these three, yet has an intrinsic difficulty in imaging spectroscopy, which is related to its Point Spread Function (PSF)9,10.

So far, the most successful evaluations for the environmental radiation in contamination areas have been made by backpacks11 and unmanned helicopters12,13. Although these methods are, unlike gamma cameras, non-imaging measurements, in which measurements at each point are made with either a spectrometer or conventional dosimeter, quantitative and reliable 2-dimensional distributions of radiation have been successfully obtained after several measurements with overlapping fields of view are combined. The downside is that they require a considerable amount of time and efforts, and thus are not practical to be employed in a wide area.

Another fundamental problem with all these methods is that they do not directly measure the radioactivity on the ground, but measure the dose at 1 metre high from the ground (hereafter referred to as “1-m dose”) instead, and hence require complex analyses to convert the measured dose to the actual radioactivity on the ground. Indeed, we show that the 1-m dose does not always agree well with that measured immediately above the ground, which suggests an intrinsic difficulty in obtaining an accurate radioactivity distribution on the ground from the 1-m dose.

After a few pilot experiments of decontamination were conducted in Fukushima, it turned out that the amount of reduction of the ambient dose by decontamination was limited. The reduction ratios, defined by the dose ratio compared between before and after decontamination, were approximately 20% only in lower ambient-dose areas (<3 μSv/h)2, while >39% in higher ambient-dose areas (>3 μSv/h). When a (high) dose is measured at a point, gammas that contribute to the dose can originate anywhere a few radiation lengths away (~100 m) from the point. The goal of decontamination is to somehow identify and remove those radiation sources. However, none of the existing instruments can identify them, i.e., none of them can tell where or even in which direction the radiation source is located. To untangle the sources of a dose of contamination, the directions of all the gammas, as well as their energies if possible, must be determined. It means that the brightness distribution around the point must be obtained.

To address these issues of existing methods and visualize the Cs contamination, we have developed and employed an Electron-Tracking Compton Camera (ETCC). ETCCs were originally developed to observe nuclear gammas from celestial objects in MeV astronomy14, but have been applied in wider fields, including medical imaging15 and environmental monitoring16,17. An ETCC outputs two angles of an incident gamma by measuring the direction of a recoil electron and hence provides the brightness distribution of gammas with a resolution of the PSF9,10. The PSF is determined from the angular resolutions of angular resolution measure (ARM) and scatter plane deviation (SPD)9,18. The ARM and SPD correspond to a resolution of the polar and azimuthal angles of an incident gamma, respectively. Since a leakage of gammas from their adjacent region to the measured point is correctly estimated with the PSF, quantitative evaluation of the emissivity anywhere in the FoV is attained.

The most remarkable feature of the ETCC is to resolve the Compton process completely; the ETCC does not only provide the direction of a gamma, but also enables us to distinguish correctly reconstructed gammas from those mis-reconstructed9. Thus, the ETCC makes true images of gammas based on proper geometrical optics (PGO), as well as energy spectra9 free of Compton edges10. The PGO enables us to measure precise brightness (or emissivity) at any points in an image using an equi-solid-angle projection, such as Lambert projection, without the information of the distance to the source, as shown in Fig. 1. The obtained emissivity can be unambiguously converted into the dose on the ground (hereafter the E-dose), of which the procedure is identical with that described in the IAEA report19, but without need of the fitting parameters. We find the E-dose to be consistent with the dose independently measured by a dosimeter, and thus confirm that remote-sensing imaging-spectroscopy with the ETCC perfectly reproduces the spatial distribution of radioactivity10.

gfglm.jpg

 

Results

We performed the field test of gamma measurement in October, 2014 in relatively high-dose locations with the averaged ambient dose ranging from 1 to 5 μSv/h in Fukushima prefecture, using the compact 10 cm × 10 cm × 16 cm ETCC with a FoV of ~100°ϕ17. The SPD and ARM of the ETCC were measured to be 120° and 6° (FWHM), respectively, for 662-keV 137Cs peaks, which correspond to the PSF (Θ~15°), i.e., the radius of the PSF of 15° for the region that encompasses a half of gammas emitted from a point source9. It uses GSO scintillators and has an energy resolution of 11% (FWHM) at 662 keV. We chose the three different kinds of locations for measurements: (A) decontaminated pavement surrounded with not-decontaminated bush, (B) not-decontaminated ground, and (C) decontaminated parking lot. Figure 2a,c and d show their respective photographs.

hghglkml.jpg

 

We have found that the doses at 1-m and 1-cm measured with a dosimeter do not agree with each other, as demonstrated in Fig. 2a and b in the location (C). The 1-m dose, which is practically the emissivity averaged over the adjacent region of ~10 m, is the standard in the radiation measurement, presumably because it is useful to estimate potential health effects to the human body. The 1-cm dose, on the other hand, better reflects the emissivity on the ground at each grid point, of which the size is likely to be similar to the spatial resolution of the ETCC, and hence is useful to locate radioactivity on the ground for decontamination work. For these reasons, we adopt the 1-cm dose to compare with the emissivity measured with the ETCC in this work.

Figure 3a shows the photograph of FoV, overlaid with 1-cm dose at nine points and the E-dose map by ETCC, where the brightness (equivalent to the E-dose) is defined as the count rate of reconstructed gammas per unit solid angle (here 0.014 sr), corrected for the detection efficiency including the angular dependence of the ETCC9. Figure 3b shows the energy spectrum accumulated for the entire FoV, whereas Fig. 3c–e display those accumulated for the sky, the decontaminated pavement, and the not-decontaminated bush, respectively. The E-dose at the maximum brightness in Fig. 3a is estimated to be 2.6 μSv/h, which is consistent with the average of the 1-cm dose (0.9–4.3 μSv/h) around the centre of the FoV.

ghgkjlklm.jpg

jmkmmùù.jpg

 

The spatial distribution of the E-dose is found to be consistent with that of the 1-cm dose, which was independently measured. The spectrum in Fig. 3e shows prominent peaks of direct gammas of Cs, which implies the contamination from the bush area, whereas the spectrum of the decontaminated pavement (Fig. 3d) shows much weaker Cs peaks, which implies the effect of the decontamination. The latter is dominated with low-energy scattered gammas, which emanate from inside of the ground and the adjacent areas. The spectrum of the sky (Fig. 3c) is clearly dominated with Compton-scattered gammas from Cs peaks (with the expected energy ranging from 200 to 500 keV) in the air. We should note that the spectra free of Compton scattering components enable us to make the unambiguous identification of the sources of radiation.

The results of imaging-spectroscopy in the two contrasting locations (B and C), in which no and thorough decontaminations, respectively, have been conducted, are shown in Figs 4 and 5. The exposure times are 80 min and 100 min, respectively. The ETCC gives spatially-resolved spectra, and accordingly the detailed condition of contamination at each point, similar to Fig. 3. In the contaminated location (B), although the energy spectrum of the FoV shows strong and direct gamma emission from Cs, Cs is found to be concentrated in the limited area of spot 1 (Fig. 4e), whereas little Cs is found in the other regions in the FoV (Fig. 4f). As such, imaging-spectroscopic measurement is a reliable method to unravel the state of contamination quantitatively. Even in the decontaminated location (C), both the image (Fig. 5a) and spectrum (Fig. 5f) reveal the existence of a “micro hot spot”, where some Cs remains on the ground and the spectrum has the dominant Cs peak (Fig. 5f), whereas the spectra for other regions (Fig. 5e) show that the main component is scattered low-energy gammas. Both the maps of 1-cm dose (Fig. 5a) and E-dose (Fig. 5b) show a hint of a small enhancement originating from a micro hot spot, although it is at a similar level to the fluctuation of the scattered gammas. The E-doses at the points of the maximum brightness in (B) and (C) are 5.0 and 1.3 μSv/h, respectively, which are also consistent with the 1-cm dose at the corresponding points.

gvjhkk.jpg

 

klkmmù.jpg

 

Finally, we check consistency about a couple of properties of the ETCC and conventional dose measurements. First, we plot the total gamma counts obtained with the ETCC as 1-m doses at the position of the ETCC in Fig. 6a, and confirm a good correlation. Then, we plot the correlation between the 1-cm dose measured by the dosimeter and by the ETCC (E-dose) at the locations (B) and (C) in Fig. 6b. Except ~3 points adjacent to the hot spots in (B), the discrepancy between them is limited within ± ~30%. Considering the difference in the conditions, such as the size of the measured areas (~100 cm2 for a dosimeter and ~1 m2 for ETCC) and the energy range (>150 keV for a dosimeter and 486–1000 keV for ETCC), as well as the fact that a large dispersion in the accuracy of commercial dosimeters (±several 10%) has been reported, this amount of discrepancy is more or less expected. We conclude that good consistency between them is established for the wide range of the dose (0.1–5 μSv/h), and this is another proof that the ETCC achieves the PGO. In addition, the PGO gives the brightness of the sky over the hemisphere, and we find it to be comparable with that from the ground, after the difference in their solid angles is corrected (see the bottom row in Table 1). This means that roughly a half of the 1-m dose at any points originates from the sky. It then implies that the wide-band energy balance of gammas between the ground and the sky is in equilibrium and contribute to the ambient dose, presumably because the air is thick enough to scatter most of gammas emanating from the ground. It is consistent with the fact that the spectra of the sky (Figs 3c, 4c and 5c) are dominated with Compton scattering for Cs gammas (200–500 keV). This could not have been identified without spectra free of Compton edges. Our results also explain the reason why the amount of the reduction of the ambient dose was limited to often no more than 50% after decontamination work2 had been conducted in Fukushima, it is because a significant amount of radiation still comes from the sky in equilibrium.

lkmmlmù.jpg

 

klm.jpg

Discussion

Firstly, let us convert the emissivity to the 1-cm dose, using only the brightness measured by the ETCC. Figure 1b schematically shows the dosimeter configuration for the measurement of 1-cm dose. Since the top and the upper sides of the dosimeter are shielded with tungsten (W) rubber, it detects gammas emanating from the ground to the lower hemisphere only. The count density of the gammas which pass through the plane of the dosimeter (indicated as P in Fig. 1b) is estimated to be approximately 2πΣ · (1 − cos(θ = 80°)) = 5.2Σ, where Σ is emissivity on the ground. Then we convert the count density of gammas at the dosimeter position into doses in units of μSv/h with the conversion factor of 1 μSv/h = ~100 counts · sec−1 · cm−2 for 662-keV gammas in the dosimeter, based on the IAEA report19 (in page 85).

In the not-decontaminated location (B), 135 gammas were observed with the ETCC (dB) at the maximum brightness point in Fig. 4a, where the unit solid angle is 0.014 sr. The brightness of the gamma is calculated to be 135 counts · sec−1/(0.014 sr · 100 cm2) = 96 counts · sec−1 · sr−1 · cm−2, and then we get, from the relation Σ = dB, 5.2Σ = 500 counts · sec−1 · cm−2, which corresponds to the dose of 5.0 μSv/h (the two points indicated as 5.0 and 5.7 [μSv/h] in Fig. 4a). For the location (C), 35 gammas were observed at the maximum brightness point in Fig. 5a, and then dB (=Σ) = 35 counts · sec−1/(0.014 sr · 100 cm2) = 25 counts · sec−1 · sr−1 · cm−2 and 5.2Σ = 130 counts · sec−1 · cm−2, which corresponds to 1.3 μSv/h. The 1-cm dose at this point is found to be roughly equal to the average of 1.0–2.2 μSv/h in Fig. 5a. For the location (A), dB is calculated in the similar manner to be dB = 70 counts · sec−1/(0.014 sr · 100 cm2) = 50 counts · sec−1 · sr−1 · cm−2 and 5.2Σ = 260 counts · sec−1 · cm−2, which corresponds to the dose of 2.6 μSv/h. The 1-cm dose at this point is ~3 μSv/h, and is roughly equal to the average of 1–4.3 μSv/h in Fig. 3a.

For comparison, we also applied the simple method described in pages 96–101 in the IAEA report19, calculating the doses with a conversion coefficient of 8.7 × 10−3 (μSv/h)/(Bq/cm2) for θ~80° for the 1-cm dose, which is estimated by accumulating gamma-flux at each point from the ground with the tungsten rubber shield. This method is the one described in pages 96–101 in the IAEA report19. For the location (A), a gamma flux on the ground is calculated to be 2πΣ/0.85 = 369 (Bq/cm2) and then the dose is 369 × 8.7 × 10−3 = 3.1 μSv/h. For the locations (B) and (C), the doses are estimated to be 5.9 and 1.6 μSv/h, respectively. Thus, we confirmed that the results deduced by the two independent methods are consistent with each other.

Decontamination work in Fukushima faces serious difficulty; it is hard to pin down which region is badly contaminated from which radiation source without investing massive resources like wide-scale backpack measurements. The capability of the ETCC to measure the emissivity (or dose) independently of the distance would enable us to propose a novel approach to it. If a mapping of the brightness of 137Cs on the ground was carried out over the wide area with the ETCC by aircraft with the similar way conducted in 20122, we could visualize variation of the doses across the area, and could tell where decontamination work would be required most and how much.

As a different application, if multiple ETCCs are installed at various places in a nuclear plant to carry out a continuous three-dimensional brightness monitoring, we could not only detect, for example, a sudden radiation release by accident, but also make a quantitative assessment of where and how the release has happened. This would provide vital initial parameters to computer simulations to estimate the later dissemination of radioactivity over a wide area after an accident. In fact, simulations for this purpose faced a great difficulty in the past due to lack of reliable observed parameters of radio activity, because radiation monitoring was performed solely by repeated simple dose measurements. These simple dose measurements are unable to provide sufficient information over the wide area where the gamma radiation comes from, unless a huge amount of resources of manpower and hence budget are invested. Given that governments in many countries are confronted with the reactor dismantling issue, detailed and quantitative mapping of the radiation emissivity on the surfaces of reactor facilities, which would be well achievable with the ETCC, would be beneficial. The ETCC has immense potentials for immediate applications to various radiation-related issues in the environment.

Prospects

Some scientists assert that the detection efficiency of gas-based gamma detectors would be too low. However, we have found that some types of gas have sufficient Compton-scattering probability with the relevant effective areas of 110 cm2 and 65 cm2 at 1-MeV gammas with a 50-cm-cubic ETCC using CF4 gas and Ar gas at 3 atm, respectively9. Our prototype 30 cm-cubic ETCC with the effective area of a few cm2 at 300 keV was proved to perform expectedly well in MeV gamma-ray astronomy.

Now, we are constructing two types of more advanced ETCCs: one is a compact ETCC with the similar size and weight to the current model, but having a 20 times larger effective area (0.2 cm2 at 662 keV; type-A) and the other is a large ETCC aimed to be completed in 2018, which has a 1000 times larger effective area (10 cm2 at 662 keV; type-B). The details of Type-B are described elsewhere10.

Type-A has the similar size to the current ETCC, but has an increased TPC volume from 10 cm × 10 cm × 16 cm (rectangular solid) to 20 cm ϕ (in diameter)× 20 cm (cylinder), installed in the similar-sized gas vessel. It has a 5 times larger gas volume and 2.5 times wider detectable electron energy band with the TPC than the current model. In addition, if the mixed gas with Ar and CF4 (50%: 50%) at 2 atm is used, as opposed to the current Ar gas (~90% and some cooling gases) at 1.5 atm, the detection efficiency will be improved by a factor of 29. Then, the resultant detection efficiency (or effective area) will become 20 times larger than that of the current model, while keeping the similarly compact size and weight. The development of Type-A will be completed in 2017.

Type-B will provide the same detection limit for 6 sec exposure. If we perform a survey with Type-B from some aircraft at the altitude of 100 m, we will be able to make a spectroscopic map of a 1 km2 area with a 10 m × 10 m resolution for 1200 sec exposure to achieve the same detection limit, taking account of the absorption of the air. An unmanned airship is a good candidate for the aircraft, it flies slowly for an extended period and hence would enable us to do the precise imaging-spectroscopic survey. Then, the whole contamination area in Fukushima prefecture (roughly 20 km × 50 km) can be mapped with the same resolution as mentioned above in a realistic timescale of ~2 months, assuming 8 hours of work per day. Some of the spectra obtained in our aircraft-based survey might be found out to be generated by the gammas scattered by something, such as trees in woods, within the grid. Our survey will efficiently detect a hint for those areas, which can be then studied in more detail with on-site measurements, such as ones by backpacks11. No successful large-scale survey has been yet performed to monitor the radioactivity in Fukushima. Our upgraded ETCC will be capable of revolutionizing the decontamination work and more. We summarized the specifications of the current ETCC, type-A and type-B in Table 2.

gjklkm.jpg

Methods

Instruments and Measurements

The ETCC was mounted at 1.3 m high from the ground at its centre, tilted 20° downwards beneath the horizontal plane. The average distance to the ground in the FoV is ~4 m, which corresponds to the spatial resolution of ~1 m at the ground for its PSF. As a reference, we also made a mapping measurement of the dose at two heights of 1 m and 1 cm with every 1-m square grid in the FoV (except for the location (A), where the points of the measurements were sparser and irregular) with the commercial dosimeter (HORIBA, Radi PA-1100, http://www.horiba.com). In the dose measurement at the latter height (~1 cm), the top and four sides of the dosimeter were covered by tungsten rubber to shield it from the downward radiation (Fig. 1b).

We have developed a compact ETCC with a 10 cm × 10 cm × 16 cm gas volume, based on the 30-cm-cubic SMILE-II for MeV astronomy9. The ETCC is, like CCs, equipped with a forward detector as a scatterer of nuclear gammas and a backward detector as a calorimeter for measuring the energy and hit position of scattered gammas. The forward detector of the ETCC is a gaseous Time Projection Chamber (TPC) based on micro-pattern gas detectors (MPGD), which tracks recoil electrons. The TPC of the ETCC is a closed gas chamber, and thus can be used continuously for about three weeks without refilling with the gas5. The backward detector is pixel scintillator arrays (PSAs) with heavy crystal (at present we use Gd2SiO5: Ce, GSO). It is noted that, at the time of writing in 2016 after the survey work presented in this paper, we have been developing the Ethernet-based data handling system to replace the existing VME-based system. The latest ETCC available for field measurements is much more compact, which is built in the 40 cm × 40 cm × 50 cm base frame with the weight of 40–50 kg, and operated with a single PC with 24 V portable battery.

The contamination area in Fukushima is the similar environment to the space in the background dominated condition, where the radiation spreads ubiquitously. It is understandable that gamma cameras with the Compton method became the first choice to be employed for the decontamination work in Fukushima, following the precedents in MeV astronomy, even though it is clearly not the ideal instrument especially in the background-dominated environment.

Analytical method for deriving an emissivity from the measured distribution of gammas

Here, we explain how we measure the emissivity (or brightness) based on the proper geometrical optics (PGO) by the ETCC and how we estimate the dose on the ground from the emissivity measured by the ETCC. The following are the reason why no gamma camera but the ETCC can take a quantitative nuclear gamma image with the similar principle to that of optical cameras. According to the well-known formulas in PGO, the relation between emissivity Σ on the ground and detected brightness of the gamma in ETCC (dB) for solid angle Ω is given as Σ · A1 · dΩ1 = dB · A2 · dΩ2. and the relations dΩ1 = A2/D2, dΩ2 = A1/D2 hold, where A1 and A2 are the observed areas on the ground and the detection area in the ETCC (A2 = 100 cm2), respectively, and D is a distance between the ground and the ETCC. Figure 1a gives a schematic demonstration of it. These relations are then reduced to Σ  = dB, which means that the emissivity is equal to the obtained brightness and is independent of the distance D in this optics. In practice, dB is calculated simply from the number of the detected gammas per unit solid angle corrected for the detection efficiency9. We should note that when the distance between a source and the ETCC (L) is comparable with, or longer than, the radiation length in the air (~70 m), dB in a unit solid angle must be corrected for the expected absorption, using the absorption coefficient (α) in the air for gammas with the relation dBcorrect = dB/(1 − exp(−L/α)).

Estimation of the emissivity and the detection limits

We estimate the detection limit using the sensitivity from the calibration data with a point source (137Cs, 3 MBq) in the laboratory17. We detected 662-keV gammas from the point source with a significance of 5σ at a distance of 1.5 m with the exposure time of 13 min. The point source increases the dose at the detector front by 0.015 μSv/h from a background dose. If the same amount of gammas entered the ETCC over the whole FoV, the significance would decrease by  = 0.5σ, assuming that the background gamma increases proportionally from 1 to 100 to the number of pixels. The current ETCC comprises 100 pixels and one pixel is defined as an area of the unit solid angle in the FoV. In the case of a 100 min observation under the dose of 2 μSv/h at the detector front (assuming the case of Location (C), i.e., low dose), the total number of gammas increases by . The expected significance per pixel is then calculated to be 16σ/ = 1.6σ, which is consistent with the observed significances of (1.2–2.5σ) in the low-dose area (see the error bars in Fig. 6b). Similarly, the expected significance for the high-dose area is calculated and is found to be also consistent with the observed values of (3–5σ). Thus, our results of the on-site measurements are well consistent with the expected significances estimated from the calibration in the laboratory.

We also estimate the emissivity within the PSF and the detection limit to check consistency with the calibration data. As shown in Fig. 7 the covered area by the PSF for the distance L between a target and the ETCC is given by L · sinΘ. Since the number of gammas (brightness) within the PSF is conserved along the line of sight, the sensitivity in the PSF is independent of the distance L if absorption in the air is not taken into account. For example, for the distances L of 10 m and 100 m, the sizes of an area corresponding to a detector pixel are estimated to be 1 m and 10 m, respectively, when the same detection limits for both the distances are used. The detection limit for the ~2σ level of the ETCC is 0.5 μSv/h at a unit solid angle for an exposure of 100 min (see the distribution of red points in Fig. 6b). Note that the limit is proportional to , and hence can be easily scaled for different exposures and effective areas.

ghlkk.jpg

Additional Information

How to cite this article: Tomono, D. et al. First On-Site True Gamma-Ray Imaging-Spectroscopy of Contamination near Fukushima Plant. Sci. Rep. 7, 41972; doi: 10.1038/srep41972 (2017).

Publisher’s note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

References

  1. 1.

    Povinec, P. P., Hirose, K. & Aoyama, M. Fukushima Accident: Radioactivity Impact on the Environment. Elsevier, New York (2013).

 

3. 

Takeda, S. et al. A portable Si/CdTe Compton camera and its applications to the visualization of radioactive substances. Nucl. Instr. Meth. Phys. Res. A 787, 207–211 (2015).

 

  • 4.

    Jiang, J. et al. A prototype of aerial radiation monitoring system using an unmanned helicopter mounting a GAGG scintillator Compton camera. J. Nucl. Sci. Technol. 53, 1067–1075 (2016).

  • 5.

    Kataoka, J. et al. Handy Compton camera using 3 position-sensitive scintillators coupled with large-area monolithic MPPC arrays. Nucl. Instr. Meth. Phys. Res. A 732, 403–407 (2014).

  • 6.

    Vetter, K. Multi-sensor radiation detection, imaging, and fusion. Nucl. Instr. Meth. Phys. Res. A 805, 127–134 (2015).

  • 7.

    Kagaya, M. et al. Development of a low-cost-high-sensitivity Compton camera using CsI (Tl) scintillators (γI). Nucl. Instr. Meth. Phys. Res. A 804, 25–32 (2015).

  • 8.

    Okada, K. et al. Development of a gamma camera to image radiation fields. Prog. Nucl. Sci. Tech. 4, 14–17 (2014).

  • 9.

    Tanimori, T. et al. An electron-tracking Compton telescope for a survey of the deep universe by MeV gamma rays. Astrophys. J. 810, 28 (2015).

  • 10.

    Tanimori, T. et al. Establishment of Imaging Spectroscopy of Nuclear Gamma-Rays based on Geometrical Optics. Sci. Rep. 7, 41511 (2017).

11. 

Cresswell, A. J. et al. Evaluation of forest decontamination using radiometric measurements”. Journal of Environmental Radioactivity. 164, 133–144 (2016).

 

  • 12.

    Sanada, Y. & Torii T. Aerial radiation monitoring around the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant using an unmanned helicopter. Journal of Environmental Radioactivity. 139, 294–299 (2015).

  • 13.

    Martin, P. G. et al. 3D unmanned aerial vehicle radiation mapping for assessing contaminant distribution and mobility. International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation 52, 12–19 (2016).

  • 14.

    Takada, A. et al. Observation of Diffuse Cosmic and Atmospheric Gamma Rays at Balloon Altitudes with an Electron-Tracking Compton Camera. Astrophys. J. 733, 13 (2011).

  • 15.

    Kabuki, S. et al. Electron-Tracking Compton Gamma-Ray Camera for small animal and phantom imaging. Nucl. Instr. Meth. Phys. Res. A 623, 606–607 (2010).

  • 16.

    Tomono, D. et al. First application to environmental gamma-ray imaging with an electron tracking Compton camera. IEEE Nucl. Sci. Symp. Conf. Rec. N28–2 (2013).

17. 

Mizumoto, T. et al. A performance study of an electron-tracking Compton camera with a compact system for environmental gamma-ray observation. J. Instrum. 10, C01053 (2015).

 

  • 18.

    Mizumoto, T. et al. New readout and data-acquisition system in an electron-tracking Compton camera for MeV gamma-ray astronomy (SMILE-II). Nucl. Instrum. Meth. Phys. Res. A 800, 40–50 (2015).

  • 19.

    IAEA-TECDOC-1162, Generic procedures for assessment and response during a radiological emergency, Section E Dose Assessment, ISSN 1011–4289 (2000).

Source: https://www.nature.com/articles/srep41972

 

 

May 7, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment

Incredible contamination in Namie, Fukushima

 

The evacuation orders of the most populated areas of Namie, Fukushima were lifted on March 31st this year.

Fukuichi area environmental radiation monitoring project” has published airborne radiation measurements map and soil surface density map. The results are simply incredible. This is far much worse than in Radiation Control Zone. Any area becomes designated as such when the total effective dose due to external radiation and that due to radioactive substances in the air is likely to exceed 1.3mSv per quarter – over a period of three months, or when the surface density is over 40,000Bq/m2. In the Radiation Control Zone, it is prohibited to drink, eat or stay overnight. Even adults are not allowed to stay more than 10 hours. To leave the zone, one has to go through a strict screening.

Namie’s radio contamination is far over these figures! And people are told to go back to these areas.

Here is the posting of “Fukuichi area environmental radiation monitoring project” in their FB page on April 20th.

We are uploading the map of airborne radiation rate map measured by GyoroGeiger, the Android supported Geiger counter, during the 38th monitoring action between 3 and 7 April 2017. Dose rate is measured at 1m from the ground.
At 56 points over 100 measuring points, the dose rate was over 1µSv/h. These points are indicated in red. The highest measure was 3.71µSv/h. Conversion to annual dose gives 32mSv. Is it allowed to make evacuees return to such areas?

namie-airborne.22 april 2017png.png
Here is the soil contamination map uploaded on April 15th. They even had to introduce 7 scales, for the contamination is so high and they couldn’t deal with the scales they were using before! It is a violation of human rights to let people live in such areas.

namie 22 april 2017
https://fukushima311voices.wordpress.com/2017/04/22/incredible-contamination-in-namie-fukushima/

April 25, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima’s Upcoming Olympics

Screen-Shot-2017-04-11-at-10.51.29-PM.png

Japan will hold soccer and baseball events in Fukushima Prefecture for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. This is not a spoof. Effective March 2017, the Japan Football Association displaces Tokyo Electric Power Company’s emergency operations center at J-Village, the national soccer training center before the nuclear meltdown occurred.

To naysayers that say this is a joke, the answer is ‘no this is not a joke’. It is absolutely true Olympic events will be held in Fukushima Prefecture, thereby casting aside any and all concerns about the ongoing nuclear meltdown; after all that’s history.

Or, is it?

Here is the announcement as carried in The Japan Times some months ago: “The men’s and women’s national soccer teams for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will use the J-Village national soccer training center, currently serving as Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s forward base in dealing with the Fukushima nuclear crisis, as their training base, the Japan Football Association revealed Saturday.”

For those who missed the past few classes, Fukushima is home to the worst industrial accident in human history as three nuclear reactors experienced 100% meltdown, the dreaded “China Syndrome.” Molten core, or corium, in all of the reactors, highly radioactive and deadly, frizzles robots. Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) says it may take 40 years to clean up the disaster zone, but that is a wild guess.

Nobody on planet Earth has any idea where the radioactive molten cores are, within the reactor containment vessels or burrowed into the earth, and/or what happens next, e.g., there’s speculation that Unit #2 is rickety and could collapse from another big earthquake (Japan is riddled with earthquake zones, experiencing an earthquake on average every day) thus collapsing, which leads to an untold, massive disaster, rendering the city of Tokyo uninhabitable.

According to Dr. Shuzo Takemoto, Engr. / Kyoto University, February 2017: “The Fukushima nuclear facility is a global threat on level of a major catastrophe… The problem of Unit 2… If it should encounter a big earth tremor, it will be destroyed and scatter the remaining nuclear fuel and its debris, making the Tokyo metropolitan area uninhabitable.”

Numerous efforts by TEPCO to locate the melted cores have been useless. As of recently: “Some Nuclear Regulation Authority members are skeptical of continuing to send robots into reactors in the crippled Fukushima No. 1 plant to collect vital data on the locations of melted nuclear fuel and radiation levels… investigations utilizing robots controlled remotely generated few findings and were quickly terminated” (Source: Nuke Watchdog Critical as Robot Failures Mount at Fukushima Plant, The Asahi Shimbun, March 24, 2017).

All of which inescapably brings to mind the following question: How could anybody possibly have the audacity to bring Olympic events to the backyard of the worst nuclear meltdown in history whilst it remains totally 100% out of control?

Answer: Japan’s PM Shinzō Abe and the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

According to Naohiro Masuda, the head of decommissioning, TEPCO does not know how to decommission the nuclear facilities. Meanwhile, ongoing radiation is a constant threat to air, soil, food, and water, e.g., state inspectors have discovered deadly high levels of cesium pooling at the base of Fukushima’s 10 big dams that serve as water reservoirs (drinking water and agriculture). For example, Ganbe Dam 27,533 Bq/kg and Mano Dam at 26,859 Bq/kg whereas Japan’s Environment Ministry’s safe limit for “designated waste” is set at 8,000 Bq/kg. That limit is for “waste,” not drinking water. (Source: High Levels of Radioactive Cesium Pooling at Dams Near Fukushima Nuke Plant, The Mainichi – Japan’s National Daily Since 1922, September 26, 2016.)

Japanese officials are ignoring the extraordinarily high levels of cesium at the bottom of the dam reservoirs because the top water levels do meet drinking water standards. The prescribed safe limit of radioactive cesium for drinking water is 200 Bq/kg. A Becquerel (“Bq”) is a gauge of strength of radioactivity in materials such as Iodine-131 and Cesium-137. As it happens, Cesium-137 is one of the most poisonous substances on the face of the planet.

Additionally, open storage and incineration of toxic and radioactive rubble is ongoing throughout the prefecture. In fact, the entire prefecture is a toxic warehouse of radioactive isotopes, especially with 70% of Fukushima consisting of forests never decontaminated, yet the Abe administration is moving people back to restricted zones that Greenpeace Japan says contain radioactive hot spots.

According to Greenpeace Japan, which has conducted 25 extensive surveys for radiation throughout Fukushima Prefecture since 2011: “Unfortunately, the crux of the nuclear contamination issue – from Kyshtym to Chernobyl to Fukushima- is this: When a major radiological disaster happens and impacts vast tracts of land, it cannot be ‘cleaned up’ or ‘fixed’.” (Source: Hanis Maketab, Environmental Impacts of Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Will Last ‘decades to centuries’ – Greenpeace, Asia Correspondent, March 4, 2016).

With the onset of the Fukushima Diiachi meltdown, the Japanese government increased the International Commission on Radiological Protection guidelines for radiation exposure of people from 1 millisievert (mSv) per year up to 20 mSv/yr. As such, according to the standards set by the International Commission on Radiological Protection, ICRP Publication 111, Japan’s Olympics will expose Olympians and visitors to higher than publicly acceptable levels of radiation. After all, the emergency guideline of 20 mSv/yr was never meant to be a long-term solution.

With the onset of Olympic venues in Fukushima, maybe that will open the way for the 2024 Olympics in Chernobyl. But, on second thought that will not work. Chernobyl’s Exclusion Zone is 1,000 square miles (off limits for hundreds, maybe thousands, of years) because of an explosion in one nuclear power plant that is now under control whereas Fukushima has three nuclear meltdowns that remain, to this day and into the unforeseeable future, radically out of control and extremely hazardous.

Mystifying and Confusing?

Yes, it’s mystifying and confusing, but the games go on.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/04/12/fukushimas-upcoming-olympics/

April 13, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment

Chinese parents seek refunds for Japan trip, citing radiation concerns

hjmùùiiopo.jpg

 

Families of 40 choir members cancel Tokyo trip after travel advisory from Chinese embassy

Parents of a children’s choir in southern China are seeking refunds for a trip to a singing competition in Japan that they cancelled over concerns of radiation leaks.

Their requests to refund the training, travel and accommodation fees, which add up to 19,800 yuan (US$2.900)for each child, have been denied by the singing training centre of the Guangzhou Opera House, with which the choir is affiliated, Television Southern of Guangdong reported.

The concerned parents said each family paid fees to the training centre in January for training, visas, insurance and accommodation for the trip to Japan for an international choir competition in August.

Forty students signed up for the trip, the report said.

Many parents became worried a month later when the Chinese embassy in Tokyo issued a reminder of record-high radiation from the Fukushima nuclear plant, which has been leaking radioactivity since being badly damaged by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

The embassy statement cited a spokesperson from the Chinese Foreign Ministry in Beijing and urged Chinese tourists in Japan to make appropriate arrangements. The request for refunds was denied by the training centre, who insisted that parents would have to pay 20 per cent of costs, or about 4,000 yuan, to cancel the trip.

Many parents said that was unacceptable as health concerns should be of priority to the training centre as well as the families.

Some parents rallied in front of the training centre to raise attention to the issue, the report said.

The head of the choir said in a statement that the group was non-profit and he would personally ask for a full refund from the Opera House.

He said he had arranged a meeting to negotiate for the parents on Thursday.

Japan has become a popular travel destination for Chinese tourists in recent years after it eased visa rules for mainland tourists, who have flooded to their near neighbour where they spend up large on items that range from luxury watches to toilet seats.

http://www.scmp.com/news/china/society/article/2083086/chinese-parents-seek-refunds-japan-trip-citing-radiation-concerns

March 31, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment

Columban missionary backs bishops against nuclear industry after harrowing visit to Fukushima clean-up

fukushima-evacuation

Evacuated: An evacuee rests in a gymnasium serving as an evacuation centre in Yamagata, Japan, in March 2011. Residents from the vicinity of Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant were sheltered at the gym, as officials and workers struggled to contain the situation at the badly damaged nuclear facility.

 

A COLUMBAN missionary has witnessed a massive contamination clean-up in the Japanese region surrounding Fukushima, where a 2011 earthquake and tsunami triggered a nuclear power plant meltdown.

Fr Paul McCartin, recently visited the Fukushima region, six years after the nuclear disaster, and ahead of a government evacuation order being lifted at the end of this month, which will allow people to return home.

Arriving by bullet train at the town of Kouriyama, 60km west of Fukushima Number One Nuclear Power Plant, Fr McCartin said the first surprise was the large radiation monitor in front of the station.

Over the next three days I saw similar monitors in cities, beside country roads and along expressways,” Fr McCartin, the Columban Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation co-ordinator in Japan, said.

He has worked in Japan since 1979 and visited the Fukushima last September.

I had taken face masks but our guides gave us better ones,” he said.

We were told to make sure we washed our hands and around our mouths before eating.

I was given a small radiation monitor to wear around my neck.

Over the two-and-a-half days I was exposed to 8.1 micro Sieverts, an ‘acceptable’ amount.”

The Sievert is a measure of the health effect of low levels of ionising radiation on the human body.

As Fr McCartin drove through the Fukushima countryside, he found houses barricaded, roads closed and warnings from officials amidst a massive clean-up.

I was restricted. There were roadblocks with security personnel,” he said.

I was advised not to hike in Fukushima as there is a lot of radiation in the mountains, especially at the base of mountains as rain washes it down.

Buildings and roads are being washed down, and contaminated soil and vegetation being removed.”

He said topsoil to a depth of five centimetres was being removed and replaced with soil from unaffected areas.

There are large collections of industrial waste bags all over the place. There must be hundreds of thousands, if not millions,” he said.

At the end of March, Japan is set to lift evacuation orders for parts of Namie, located 4km from the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, as well as three other towns.

More than half of Namie’s former 21,500 residents have decided not to return.

Namie, and other nearby centres are now ghost towns, dilapidated, and for many, they conjure horrific memories.

natural-disaster-damager

Tsunami damage: Facilities near the seawater heat exchanger building at Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima Daini nuclear power plant Unit 3 reactor on April 2, 2011, days after an earthquake and tsunami hit the area in north-east Japan.

A government survey showed last year, there were lingering concerns over radiation and the safety of the nuclear plant, which is being decommissioned.

Beyond radiation risks, an unexpected nuisance looms – hundreds of wild boars have descended from surrounding hills and forests into the deserted towns.

The creatures have roamed across the radioactive contaminated region.

In Namie, wild boars occupy the empty streets and overgrown backyards foraging for food.

In the nearby town of Tomioka, local hunters have captured an estimated 300 boars.

Following his visit last September, Fr McCartin is concerned about the spread of contaminated material.

Low-level waste is being recycled,” he said.

Highly contaminated waste is being burned.

So far only one per cent of high-level waste has been burned.

More incinerators are being constructed.

Contaminated waste is being used in the wall being built along the shore to prevent another tsunami hitting the area.

In fact, there is so much radioactively contaminated waste that local facilities can’t handle it, so ‘low-level waste’ is being transported to many distant places for disposal.

Contaminated fishing gear and nets are being disposed of in the town where I live.

In this way, radiation is being spread to many parts of the country.

It would seem to make sense to keep it where it is and avoid unnecessarily contaminating the rest of the country.”

Fr McCartin said the Japanese media was muzzled from challenging the government on Fukushima and the hazards of nuclear power.

The efforts of individual journalists reporting on the issue were often dismissed.

A Catholic in Yokohama told me last year that after his daughter wrote a piece on Fukushima for the newspaper she works for, her boss told her, ‘No more on Fukushima’,” he said.

The government has threatened to shut down any media organisation that publishes something the government doesn’t like.

In the last year or so three forthright and prominent media personalities have been sacked or not had their contracts renewed.”

Fr McCartin said he supported a call by Japanese Catholic bishops to abandon the nuclear power industry.

I believe that if the government transferred a small fraction of the trillions of dollars it throws at the nuclear industry to the renewable energy industry, the country would be awash in safe energy in a very short time,” he said.

http://catholicleader.com.au/news/columban-missionary-backs-bishops-against-nuclear-industry-after-harrowing-visit-to-fukushima-clean-up

March 28, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | 2 Comments

A Campaign to Tackle “Misinformation” about Radioactive Contamination

Masahiro Imamura, Minister for Reconstruction, wants to launch a large-scale campaign, to correct the incorrect information about radioactive contamination of agricultural, forestry and fisheries products from Fukushima Prefecture; as an effort to tackle the issue of “misinformation about radioactive contamination” crippling Fukushima foods. That means more propaganda to come, more lies to hide the real risks of radiation to the people’s health. As if propaganda, to brainwash the people with a large-scale campaign would be the solution to make radiation disappear.

n-imamura-a-20170322-e1490074913788

Reconstruction chief Masahiro Imamura

Reconstruction chief praises efforts in Tohoku, flags information campaign on radiation risks

Minister for reconstruction Masahiro Imamura has praised efforts to rebuild the devastated Tohoku region but says a large-scale information campaign is needed to share accurate information about radiation six years after the March 2011 meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Imamura outlined the plan in a recent interview in response to what he said was incorrect information about radioactive contamination of agricultural, forestry and fisheries products from Fukushima Prefecture.

It also comes as a growing number of children who evacuated from the prefecture fall victim to bullying.

Massive amounts of radioactive substances were emitted from the plant soon after it was knocked out by massive tsunami from the 9.0-magnitude March 11, 2011, Great East Japan Earthquake, which hit hardest in Fukushima and the nearby prefectures of Miyagi and Iwate.

Asked about the degree of progress in reconstructing areas hit by the disaster, Imamura said, “Acquisition of land and other procedures needed for the restoration of damaged infrastructure initially took time, but the pace of construction work was very rapid once it was launched.”

From now, we should focus on the rebuilding of Fukushima,” he said, noting that medium- to long-term measures should be promoted, including decommissioning the Fukushima No. 1 plant and decontaminating areas polluted with radioactive fallout.

We want to encourage evacuees to return to their hometowns in Fukushima by presenting future visions for the communities through improving the living environment and accelerating the revival of local industries,” Imamura added.

On how to tackle the incidences of bullying targeting evacuated Fukushima children, Imamura said, “We’ll strengthen information-sharing about radiation. All government agencies should jointly work to compile and launch a campaign for that purpose, while obtaining cooperation from private companies.

This is an issue for not only children, but adults,” he said. “We’ll prepare documents and other materials that are easy to understand in order to eliminate prejudice against evacuated people.”

Imamura said the campaign would also be an effort to tackle the issue of “misinformation about radioactive contamination crippling Fukushima foods.”

I’ll seek cooperation from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as well,” he said.

Imamura said he believed the Reconstruction Agency’s efforts to date to rebuild areas affected by the March 2011 disaster have been praised to a certain degree. Still, he pointed to the importance of re-examining whether information on what affected areas need has been properly conveyed to the Reconstruction Agency and other government bodies.

Imamura said Japan’s aging population and low birthrate were also contributing to shrinking communities across the nation — something he described as a structural problem.

It’s important to build a system that generates profits through stepped-up use of information technology and the modernization of factory equipment, even if human resources are limited,” he said.

We need to check again whether communities will be able to smoothly help one another in times of disaster, although lessons from the March 2011 disaster were effectively utilized in a series of powerful earthquakes that mainly hit Kumamoto Prefecture in April last year, and the October 2016 strong quake in Tottori Prefecture,” Imamura added.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/03/21/national/reconstruction-chief-praises-efforts-tohoku-flags-information-campaign-radiation-risks/#.WNJEq6KmnIV

March 22, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017, spinbuster | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Asking the tough questions on Fukushima

What a load of spun crap, to be polite: “Moreover, the government is lifting the evacuation order for any areas where annual radiation levels are “no more than” 20 mSv. The International Commission on Radiological Protection told the government that once the situation had stabilized in the affected areas, people could return if radiation dropped to between 1 and 20 mSv, but the lower the better. Exposure to 20 mSv for a short period may not be a problem, but it could have harmful effects in the long run.”

p19-brasor-fukushima-a-20170319-e1489825297402

 

In the thick of it: Industry Minister Yosuke Takagi (right) is exploring a variety of options to boost agricultural areas near the crippled Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant.

In January, regional newspaper Fukushima Minpo interviewed Yosuke Takagi, state minister of economy, trade and industry. While talking about reconstruction plans for areas near the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, Takagi mentioned resurrecting Dash-mura (Dash Village), a farm created from scratch by boy band Tokio for its Nippon TV series “The Tetsuwan Dash.”

The location of Dash-mura was always secret, lest Tokio’s fans descend on the project and destroy its rustic purity. But following the reactor accident caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake, it was revealed that the farm was in an area declared off-limits due to its proximity to the plant. It was promptly abandoned.

A different news outlet, Fukushima Minyu, clarified that the revival of Dash-mura is “nothing more than a personal idea of Takagi’s,” but that he intends to discuss it with related parties. An 80-year-old farmer who once worked with Tokio on the project told Minyu that bringing back the farm would be a great PR boost for the area’s agriculture, which is obviously Takagi’s aim. The show’s producer, however, after hearing of Takagi’s comment, tweeted that he knew nothing about the news, adding cryptically that “Dash-mura is no one’s thing.”

The Huffington Post called the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry to ask if it had any intention of reviving Dash-mura. A representative only “confirmed” that Takagi had “made such a comment” and said METI had no “definite plan” to that end but might “study it.”

Nevertheless, the idea fits in with the government’s goal of getting former residents to move back to the area. Last week, authorities announced they would further reduce the evacuation zone at the end of the month, which means it will have shrunk by 70 percent since April 2014. The concern is that few people want to return. Some have already made lives for themselves elsewhere and see a lack of opportunity in their old communities.

Many also remain suspicious of the government’s assurances that radioactivity has dropped to a safe level. There is still debate among experts as to whether or not the radiation in the area is dangerous. The government says that the problems caused by the accident are now “under control,” and affected residents can soon go back to their old lives.

One media outlet who has challenged this assumption is TV Asahi’s “Hodo Station.” On March 9, the nightly news show sent its main announcer, Yuta Tomikawa, to Iitate, a village located about 40 km from the crippled nuclear facility. All 6,000 residents were eventually evacuated after the accident.

Standing in front of rows of black plastic bags, Tomikawa reported that, according to the government, decontamination efforts have been a success. A safe annual radiation level is 1 millisievert, but a local dairy farmer told Tomikawa that his own readings showed five times that level, adding that 70 percent of Iitate is wooded and forest land had not been decontaminated yet.

Moreover, the government is lifting the evacuation order for any areas where annual radiation levels are “no more than” 20 mSv. The International Commission on Radiological Protection told the government that once the situation had stabilized in the affected areas, people could return if radiation dropped to between 1 and 20 mSv, but the lower the better. Exposure to 20 mSv for a short period may not be a problem, but it could have harmful effects in the long run.

Tomikawa did not say that people who returned to Iitate would be in danger, but he did imply that the government is manipulating numbers in an attempt to persuade evacuees to return to their homes.

The web magazine Litera wrote that TV Asahi is the only mainstream media outlet to question the government line in this regard. Actually, Nippon TV did something similar, albeit indirectly. Last month, it rebroadcasted an episode of its “NNN Document” series about the married manzai (stand-up comedy) duo Oshidori Mako-Ken’s efforts to come to terms with the Fukushima meltdowns and their aftermath.

The couple belongs to the large Osaka-based entertainment company Yoshimoto Kogyo, but ever since the disaster Mako has attended about 500 related news conferences, making a nuisance of herself by plying Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings employees and government officials with questions the mainstream media don’t usually ask.

In order to gain access to the news conferences, she offered stories to the weekly magazine Spa! Her editor there told Nippon TV that Mako is now respected or resented by a lot of full-time journalists, partly because she’s a geinojin (entertainer) who has proved her mettle as a reporter, but mainly because of her hard-line queries, which put her interlocutors on the spot.

Following the disaster, Mako became suspicious when she saw people fleeing Tokyo in large numbers but heard nothing about it on the news. In order to make sense of the situation she’d watch unfiltered news conferences about the disaster on the internet. She realized only independent reporters asked tough questions, so she started attending them herself as a proxy for average people who didn’t understand what was going on. The more officials obfuscated, the more she studied.

She’s now recognized by some foreign press as one of the most informed persons on the subject — she even received a letter of encouragement from Pope Francis — and yet she’s shunned by the Japanese press. Nevertheless, she has dedicated followers, including workers cleaning up the reactor who often feed her questions to ask of officials. She’s won awards for her work, but from citizens groups, not media groups.

Nowadays, Mako and Ken do more free lectures on Fukushima No. 1 than they do comedy shows. One of their main themes is that media reports tend to confuse the public rather than inform them, but that’s really the fault of the government, which would like nothing better than for people to feel as if nothing ever happened.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/03/18/national/media-national/asking-tough-questions-fukushima/

March 20, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment

No Return to Normal in Fukushima

 

Just 6 years ago Fukushima was struck by a deadly earthquake, and then a nuclear disaster. For the survivors, there’s been no return to normal.

March 15, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima laden with piles of radioactive soil that can’t be moved into storage

gfhjgjkkl,l.jpg

Masaaki Sakai faces his home, which remains standing in the Fukushima Prefecture village of Iitate, on Feb. 15, 2017. In some spots the level of radiation exceeds 1 microsievert per hour, and Sakai has decided to have the structure demolished. (Mainichi)

FUKUSHIMA — As decontamination planned in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster nears an end this fiscal year, focus is shifting to the massive amount of radioactively tainted soil that has piled up during decontamination work. But the construction of interim storage facilities that are supposed to hold this waste within Fukushima Prefecture for up to 30 years before it is finally disposed of has been delayed.

As of the end of February, only about 20 percent of the 16,000 hectares earmarked for interim storage has been acquired through land contracts. It thus appears inevitable that provisional and onsite storage that was only supposed to last for three years will drag on for a long time. The situation casts doubt on the prospects of finding a final resting place for the waste outside Fukushima Prefecture within 30 years.

Six years after the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, the Fukushima Prefecture village of Iitate remains completely evacuated. With the exception of a so-called “difficult to return zone” in the south of the village, the central government plans to lift the evacuation order upon completion of decontamination work at the end of March.

Masaaki Sakai, 39, who now resides in the city of Fukushima, has a home in the Komiya district of Iitate, right next to the village’s “difficult to return” zone. A dosimeter during a recent visit showed the area around the 60-year-old, snow-covered farmhouse stood at more than 1 microsievert per hour. The level equates to more than 5 millisieverts per year — five times the 1 millisievert exposure limit for a regular person.

Sakai points out that level of radiation is sometimes higher. “Today the level is low because there is snow,” he says. In the near future he plans to have his home pulled down, as the deadline for applying for the government to cover the cost of doing so is approaching.

“Even if I want to return to Iitate, if they say, ‘Decide now’ then the only thing I can do is decide not to return,” he murmurs.

One of the reasons behind Sakai’s decision not to return is the radioactively contaminated soil that remains in the village. Walking around the village, one can see mounds with green covers over them, concealing flexible containers that hold contaminated soil. According to the Ministry of the Environment, the amount of tainted soil stored temporarily like this, as of the end of January, totals roughly 2.4 million cubic meters for the village of Iitate alone, or enough to fill the Tokyo Dome baseball stadium twice.

So far, however, only about 6,000 cubic meters of soil have been transported to interim storage facilities, while the amount due to be transported next fiscal year stands at about 22,000 cubic meters. At this pace, under a simple calculation, it would take over 100 years to transport all of the waste to interim storage facilities.

“There’s no way I’m going to live surrounded by mountains of contaminated soil,” Sakai says.

Makeshift storage of radioactive soil in areas that have not been evacuated also looks likely to be prolonged. In areas that aren’t under evacuation orders, it is the local municipalities, not the government, that handle the decontamination work. In five municipalities including the cities of Fukushima and Koriyama, the contaminated soil left after decontamination work is mostly buried onsite.

Six years have passed since the outbreak of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, and in many cases people have asked for the waste to be removed so they can extend or rebuild their homes or resume farming activities, but the delay in building interim storage facilities means the only solution for the time being is to change the spot where the waste is buried.

It costs several hundred thousand yen to rebury waste in a single case, but until now the Ministry of the Environment has not allowed funds to be used for the reburying of such waste, on the premise that it is supposed to be stored for only a short period of time. Local bodies have still billed the central government by quietly tacking on the cost to the fee for other decontamination work, but this will become more difficult to do next fiscal year when decontamination work is completed.

In January, the Ministry of the Environment adopted a new policy of granting funds for the reburying of waste if the original location hindered the construction of a new home. An official at one local body commented that the move was a relief, but there are outstanding issues. As a rule, the government collectively bills Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), operator of the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, for the cost of decontamination work, but it is unclear whether TEPCO has to pay for the reburial of tainted soil.

Separately, decontamination work has also been carried out in prefectures besides Fukushima — extending to 57 municipalities in seven prefectures, including Tochigi and Miyagi. The amount of contaminated soil in these cases stands at about 320,000 cubic meters. In about 95 percent of cases, the soil is stored onsite. But since interim storage facilities are designed for contaminated soil from Fukushima Prefecture alone, it has not even been decided what should be done with this waste.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170309/p2a/00m/0na/019000c

March 10, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment

After Fukushima disaster, Japanese mothers don lab coats to measure radiation

vkl.jpg

IWAKI, Japan, March 9 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – At a laboratory an hour’s drive from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant, a woman with a white mask over her mouth presses bright red strawberries into a pot, ready to be measured for radiation contamination.

Six years after a massive earthquake off the coast of Japan triggered meltdowns at three of Fukushima’s reactors, local mothers with no scientific background staff a laboratory that keeps track of radiation levels in food, water and soil.

As some women divide the samples between different bowls and handmade paper containers, others are logging onto computers to keep an eye on data – findings that will be published for the public to access.

The women on duty, wearing pastel-coloured overalls, are paid a small salary to come in for a few hours each day, leaving them free to care for their children after school.

“In universities, data is handled by qualified students, who have taken exams qualifying them to measure radiation. Here, it’s done by mothers working part-time. It’s a crazy situation,” laughed Kaori Suzuki, director of Tarachine, the non-profit organisation that houses the mothers’ radiation lab.

“If a university professor saw this I think they would be completely shocked by what they see.”

Tarachine was set up 60 km (40 miles) down the coast from the Fukushima plant, in the city of Iwaki. After the magnitude 9 quake struck on March 11, 2011, triggering a tsunami, authorities declared a no-go zone around the plant.

Iwaki lay outside its 30 km radius, with lower radiation levels compared to the rest of Fukushima prefecture.

But with public announcements advising locals to stay indoors in the aftermath of the worst nuclear calamity since Chernobyl, the “invisible enemy” of radiation has continued to worry the mothers working at the lab.

NOTHING TO SEE, SMELL OR FEEL

“As ordinary citizens we had no knowledge about radiation at all. All we knew was that it is frightening,” said Suzuki.

“We can’t see, smell or feel radiation levels. Given this invisibility, it was extremely difficult for us. How do we fight it? The only way is to measure it.”

To supplement readings by the Japanese government and the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) that manages the nuclear plant, Tarachine publishes its own findings every month.

With donations from the public that helped them buy equipment designed to measure food contamination, the mothers measure radioactive isotopes caesium 134 and 137, and collect data on gamma radiation, strontium 90 and tritium, all of which were released during the Fukushima disaster.

Strontium-90 gravitates toward the bones when absorbed by breathing it, drinking it in water, or eating it in food. It can remain for years, potentially causing bone cancer or leukaemia.

Tritium goes directly into the soft tissues and organs of the human body. Although it is less harmful to humans who are exposed to small amounts of tritium every day, it could still be a hazard for children, scientists say.

The mothers say other parents trust the lab’s radioactivity readings in local food more than those from the government.

“This issue is part of everyday life for these mothers, so they have the capability to spot certain trends and various problems rather than just accumulating expert knowledge,” said Suzuki.

To handle potentially dangerous materials, the mothers have to study for exams related to radiation and organic chemistry.

“At the beginning I was just completely clueless. It gave me so much of a headache, it was a completely different world to me!” said Fumiko Funemoto, a mother of two, who measures strontium 90 at the lab.

“But you start to get the hang of it as you’re in this environment every day.”

As the lab only accepts items for testing from outside the exclusion zone, most results show comparatively low radiation levels.

But Suzuki says this is an important process and is especially reassuring to the parents of young children. The women also measure radiation levels in sand from the beach, which has been out of bounds to their children.

“If the base is zero becquerels (unit of radiation), and there is, say, 15 or 16 becquerels of caesium, that’s still higher than zero. That means there is slightly more risk,” Suzuki said.

“There are also times when you’re like, ‘Oh, I thought levels were going to be high there – but it’s actually ok’. The importance lies in knowing what’s accurate, whether it’s high or low … unless you know the levels, you can’t implement the appropriate measures.”

MINIMISING THE RISKS

Since official screenings began following the nuclear accident, 174 children in Fukushima prefecture have been diagnosed with – or are suspected of having – thyroid cancer, according to figures from Fukushima’s local government.

Despite the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)reporting in 2015 that an increase in thyroid cancer is unlikely, the mothers insist there is value in their work.

The first pictures from inside the nuclear plant were released by TEPCO in January, announcing it may have found nuclear fuel debris below the damaged No. 2 reactor – one of three affected by the 2011 disaster.

“In general, the issue of nuclear power is not really talked about much these days. It was talked about after the accident for about a year or so, but today, conversations mentioning words like ‘radiation’ don’t happen anymore,” Funemoto said.

“But I think the reality is different. The radiation isn’t going to go away. That’s why I’m doing this. So many places are still damaged. This idea that it’s safe and that we shouldn’t be anxious doesn’t really add up.”

Ai Kimura, another mother agrees. “My parents think I’m a bit paranoid. They keep saying, ‘it’s okay isn’t it?” she said.

“But what if there’s a chance that in 10 or 20 years time, my own child gets thyroid cancer? And I could have done my bit to minimise the risks. My children are mine and I want to do whatever I can to protect them.”

http://uk.reuters.com/article/japan-women-radiation-idUKL8N1G66K0

March 10, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment