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1,700 Contaminated Vehicles Removed from Fukushima Daiichi Plant Site

Excessive radiation detected in vehicles removed from Fukushima nuke plant

Some of the cars were sold on the used-car market while two others remain unaccounted for, according to plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co.

Radiation topping the government-set limit has been detected in about 190 vehicles removed from the premises of the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant after the outbreak of the nuclear crisis, it has been learned.

Some of the cars were sold on the used-car market while two others remain unaccounted for, according to plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO).

Approximately 1,700 vehicles were parked on the premises of the power station when the nuclear crisis broke out after it was hit by the powerful earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, TEPCO officials said. Of those, about 600 were owned by employees of TEPCO or companies contracted by the utility. Over a 12-day period until radiation screenings began on March 23 of that year, people could drive the vehicles out of the premises of the plant without checks.

The Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry instructed TEPCO in February 2012 to conduct a follow-up probe into the use of these vehicles for fear that next owners of those cars could be exposed to radiation without knowing that the vehicles were contaminated.

The power company conducted a survey on employees and contracted companies that parked their cars on the plant’s premises at the time of the accident, and confirmed that about 460 vehicles were brought out of the plant by April 2015. It was learned that radiation levels for around 190 of the vehicles exceeded government-set safety standards, and some of them were found contaminated with radiation nearly 10 times over the limit. All the vehicles whose radiation levels exceeded the limit were collected from their owners and are now stored on TEPCO’s premises situated in a Fukushima Prefecture area designated as a highly contaminated “difficult-to-return zone.”

TEPCO is considering how to dispose of these heavily contaminated vehicles, with an official saying, “We’d like to continue searching for two vehicles that remain unaccounted for and respond to the situation in an appropriate manner.”

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170809/p2a/00m/0na/013000c

Tainted cars left Fukushima compound unchecked

The operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant says hundreds of vehicles contaminated with radioactive substances left the compound unchecked in the immediate aftermath of the 2011 accident.
Tokyo Electric Power Company says that in 2012 it began investigating what had happened to privately owned vehicles at the plant, and found that about 460 had left the compound.
TEPCO officials located most of them by 2015. About 190 registered radiation levels that were higher than the government standards. They managed to track down all 190, but some of them had been sold to new owners.
Some of the cars were so contaminated that the radiation couldn’t be measured by equipment capable of detecting levels nearly 10 times greater than the official limits.
Two vehicles remain unaccounted for.
TEPCO says it did not conduct radiation checks of cars leaving the compound for 12 days after the accident started on March 11th, 2011.
The company has apologized for causing concern and says it will keep trying to locate the 2 vehicles.

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170809_01/

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

Radioactive Hot Particles in Japan: Full Radiation Risks not Recorded

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Radioactively-Hot Particles in Japan; New Study Shows Full Radiation Risks are not Recorded

The article details the analysis of radioactively hot particles collected in Japan following the Fukushima Dai-ichi meltdowns. Based on 415 samples of radioactive dust from Japan, the USA, and Canada, the study identified a statistically meaningful number of samples that were considerably more radioactive than current radiation models anticipated. If ingested, these more radioactive particles increase the risk of suffering a future health problem…

http://www.fairewinds.org/newsletter-archive//press-release-radioactively-hot-particles-in-japan

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Radioactively-hot particles detected in dusts and soils from Northern Japan by combination of gamma spectrometry, autoradiography, and SEM/EDS analysis and implications in radiation risk assessment

by Marco Kaltofen (Nuclear Science and Engineering Program, Department of Physics, Worcester Polytechnic Institute) and Arnie Gundersen (Fairewinds Energy Education), Dec 2017 :

Radioactively-hot particles detected in dusts and soils from Northern Japan… Radioactive particles from Fukushima are tracked via dusts, soils, and sediments; Radioactive dust impacts are tracked in both Japan and the United States/Canada; Atypically-radioactive particles from reactor cores are identified in house dusts… After the March 11, 2011, nuclear reactor meltdowns at Fukushima Dai-ichi, 180 samples of Japanese particulate matter (dusts and surface soils) and 235 similar U.S. and Canadian samples were collected and analyzed… Samples were collected and analyzed over a five-year period, from 2011 to 2016.

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Detectable levels of 134Cs and 137Cs were found in 142 of 180 (80%) Japanese particulate matter samples… U.S. and Canadian samples had detectable 134Cs and 137Cs in one dust sample out of 32 collected, and four soils out of 74… The mean in Japan was skewed upward due to nine of the 180 (5%) samples with activities > 250 kBq kg− 1 [250,000 Bq/kg]… 300 individual radioactively-hot particles were identified in samples from Japan; composed of 1% or more of the elements cesium, americium, radium, polonium, thorium, tellurium, or strontium.

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Some particles reached specific activities in the MBq μg− 1 level and higher [1,000,000,000,000,000 Bq/kg]… Some of the hot particles detected in this study could cause significant radiation exposures to individuals if inhaled. Exposure models ignoring these isolated hot particles would potentially understate human radiation dose.

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http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048969717317953?np=y&npKey=ae4b9f4116b6874eaa549d53528bc26460935d9178063240f633554071f1b295

http://audioslides.elsevier.com/viewersmall.aspx?doi=10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.07.091&source=0

August 8, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Olympic games in Fukushima: Is it safe?

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Fukushima city is going to host Olympic baseball and softball games in 2020.
What is the level of radio-contamination there? This is the question on everybody’s mind, spectators and players from all over the world. Is it really safe?

Baseball and softball games will take place in Azuma Sports Park in Fukushima city.

 

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Fukushima prefecture provides the information below on the radiation measurements of the Park.

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Measurements of the airborne radiation dose in the baseball stadium: No 13-16
Those of the softball stadium: No 4
The lines above and below indicate the value of the radiation dose at 1cm and 5cm above the ground.

We notice that, as usual, Fukushima prefecture gives only measurements in terms of radiation dose. Based on this information, one might think that it would be relatively safe to play there or to attend the games. However, monitoring only the radiation dose is not enough for radioprotection. The radiation dose is an indication of external irradiation exposure. In this case, the measures of radioprotection will be to stay away from the radioactive objects or not to stay in their vicinity for a long time. But the radiation dose does not provide information to avoid the risk of internal irradiation. For this latter, it is necessary to monitor surface contamination density or concentration, in this case, of soil (in terms of Becquerels/m2 or Bq/kg), as well as the concentration of radioactive substances in the air (Bq/m3). The radioprotection measures against internal irradiation would be wearing protective gear and masks to avoid the radioactive substances from adhering to the skin and/or entering the body.

 

 

Here is some information provided by Yoichi OZAWA of « Fukuichi Area Environmental Radiation Monitoring Project », the group of which we have published several soil contamination maps in this blog. OZAWA took measurements on July 27 at the request of the ARD German TV channel team which was visiting Fukushima.

PowerPoint プレゼンテーション
Contamination concentration and density of 5cm surface soil around the Azuma Baseball Stadium

Point A : The entrance of the « Torimu no Mori» where children play.
Radiation dose at 1m above the ground : 0.12 μSv/h
Radiation dose on the ground : 0.19µSv/h
Surface concentration : 605 Bq/kg
Surface density : 47,300 Bq/m2

Point B : In front of the Multi-purpose Fields.
Radiation dose at 1m above the ground : 0.10 μSv/h
Radiation dose on the ground : 0.22µSv/h
Surface concentration : 410 Bq/kg
Surface density : 31,200 Bq/m2

To interpret these figures, let us remind you that in Japan, according to the Ordinance on Prevention of Ionizing Radiation Hazards, places where the effective dose is likely to surpass 1.3mSv in 3 months (approximately 0.6µSv/h of airborne radioactivity) or the contamination density to exceed 40,000Bq/m2 are designated as a « Radiation Control Zone » and public entry must be severely restricted. People under 18 years old are not allowed to enter, and even adults, including nuclear workers, cannot stay more than 10 hours. It is prohibited to eat, drink or stay overnight. To leave the zone, one has go through a strict screening to check for radioactive substances leaving the zone, a measure to protect the individual person as well as the environment.

We do not have the measures of surface density of the baseball nor softball stadiums, but in answering the question of the above German TV team, the information was given as to the decontamination work and radiation dose. There had been decontamination work, and the airborne radiation dose was about 0.04µSv/h in the baseball stadium.

Even when decontamination work has been carried out in the stadium, the mountains and woods behind the park have not been decontaminated, and wind and rain bring the radioactive substances towards the park. Besides, as we can see above, other places in the park are highly contaminated when we look at the surface contamination. They represent high risks of internal irradiation. Moreover, according to recent research, radioactive particles disseminated by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident are mostly insoluble in water. This characteristic makes the health hazard much worse than in the case of the usual water soluble Cesium (see English transcription of NHK documentary on Insoluble Radioactive Particles in this blog). We believe that this Park should not be open to the public, especially to children.

The small type of insoluble radioactive particles – also called Cesium balls -, are dispersed in the Tokyo metropolitan area. People who visit this area should be careful and should take adequate radioprotection measures especially when it is windy and the radioactive particles can be re-disseminated.

All in all, we believe that there is far too much risk for the players and spectators to participate in the Olympic games in Fukushima. Fukushima should not host the Olympic games. Furthermore, we are against holding the Olympic games in Tokyo.

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Read also :

Forest fire in the exclusion zone in Fukushima: Why monitoring the radiation dose is not enough for radioprotection

See the publication of August 4 2017 in the FB of Oz Yo

https://fukushima311voices.wordpress.com/2017/08/07/olympic-games-in-fukushima-is-it-safe/

August 7, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017, Fukushima continuing | , , , | 1 Comment

Fukushima: New Study Shows Full Radiation Risks Are Not Recorded

Today, the scientific journal Science of the Total Environment (STOTEN) published a peer-reviewed article entitled: Radioactively-hot particles detected in dusts and soils from Northern Japan by combination of gamma spectrometry, autoradiography, and SEM/EDS analysis and implications in radiation risk assessment. Co-authored by Dr. Marco Kaltofen, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), and Arnie Gundersen, Fairewinds Energy Education, the article details the analysis of radioactively hot particles collected in Japan following the Fukushima Dai-ichi meltdowns.

Based on 415 samples of radioactive dust from Japan, the USA, and Canada, the study identified a statistically meaningful number of samples that were considerably more radioactive than current radiation models anticipated. If ingested, these more radioactive particles increase the risk of suffering a future health problem.

“Measuring radioactive dust exposures can be like sitting by a fireplace,” Dr. Kaltofen said. “Near the fire you get a little warm, but once in a while the fire throws off a spark that can actually burn you.”

The same level of risk exists in Japan. While most people have an average level of risk, a few people get an extra spark from a hot particle.

According to Dr. Kaltofen, “The average radiation exposures we found in Japan matched-up nicely with other researchers. We weren’t trying to see just somebody’s theoretical average result. We looked at how people actually encounter radioactive dust in their real lives. Combining microanalytical methods with traditional health physics models,” he added, “we found that some people were breathing or ingesting enough radioactive dust to have a real increase in their risk of suffering a future health problem. This was especially true of children and younger people, who inhale or ingest proportionately more dust than adults.”

Fairewinds’ book Fukushima Dai-ichi: The Truth and the Way Forward was published in Japan by Shueisha Publishing, just prior to the one-year commemoration of the tsunami and meltdowns. “Our book,” Mr. Gundersen said, “which is a step-by-step factual account of the reactor meltdowns, was a best seller in Japan and enabled us to build amazing relations with people actually living in Japan, who are the source of the samples we analyzed. We measured things like house dusts, air filters, and even car floor mats. Collecting such accurate data shows the importance of citizen science, crowd sourcing, and the necessity of open, public domain data for accurate scientific analysis.”

Fairewinds Energy Education founder Maggie Gundersen said, “We are very thankful to the scientists and citizen scientists in Japan, who sought our assistance in collecting and analyzing this data. We will continue to support ongoing scientific projects examining how people in Japan and throughout the world experience radioactive dust in their daily lives.”

The complete peer reviewed report and project audio description by Dr. Kaltofen are available here at the Science of the Total Environment website.

Interactive data and the supporting materials are available here at the Fairewinds Energy Education website.

http://www.dianuke.org/fukushima-new-study-shows-full-radiation-risks-not-recorded/

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

Increases in perinatal mortality in prefectures contaminated by the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident in Japan

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While fetal and neonatal deaths within the first week of life (termed perinatal mortality) have been decreasing in Japan consistently since 2002, data examined in Fukushima-affected areas during 2012-2015 show a break in this trend with an increase that, as of 2015, had not reversed.

This recent study examines numbers of perinatal deaths in areas affected by the ongoing Fukushima nuclear catastrophe and compared these data to other areas of Japan supposedly unaffected.

This research is just the latest showing a perinatal mortality increase following Fukushima. A number of studies in Europe also showed similar increases following the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe.  

Increases in perinatal mortality in prefectures contaminated by the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident in Japan

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5044925/

July 27, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

Ethical Foundations of Radiological Protection

“The economic and societal factors of the population living in contaminated territories are not the same as the ones of the other parts of the country.”

It even applies to antinuclear activists. Immediately after 311 the priority for the Fukushima activists was the evacuation of the Fukushima children whereas the priority for the other Japanese antinuclear activists was to keep all Japan’s nuke plants from being  restarted.

Sadly at national level the second priority prevailed over the first priority, and no measures were in the end taken to evacuate or to protect the Fukushima children from continuous radiation exposure nor from prolonged internal exposure thru local foods.

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“..Regarding existing exposure situations after a large-scale nuclear accident, the economic and societal factors of the population living in contaminated territories are not the same as the ones of the other parts of the country. For example, the former want to sell their agricultural production and the later avoids internal contamination….”
“…ICRP recognize that the assessment of beneficence and non-maleficence is a key challenge but has nothing else to propose than recommending, “that such an assessment [should] be transparent about what was included, recognise disagreements where they arise, and go beyond a simple balancing of direct health impacts against economic costs.” ICRP provides no example of good practice arising from these recommendations that are rarely implemented….”
“…Moreover some categories of people are more sensitive to radiations than others. It is particularly the case of children and infants. Justice would mean a better protection with lower limits for them. This is a strong request from families living around the Fukushima dai-ichi nuclear power plant. Some of them evacuated without any support in order to protect their children.
Similarly, individuals are not all equal in terms of genetic heritage and part of this population of hypersensitivity to the adverse effects of radiation (1 to 3% are heterozygous for ataxia telangiectasia). The radiation protection system cannot be built to protect the majority of citizens, but all citizens…..”
“…CRP does not address this issue of individual health in its draft report. How can it expect to answer to the demands of the populations and be understood by them?

Intergenerational justice has been addressed by the Commission for the management of radioactive waste […]. The Commission introduces responsibilities towards future generations in terms of providing the means to deal with their protection”. Justice could also be extended spatial consideration by forbidding the export of radioactive waste to foreign countries that did not benefit from the electricity production.

Implementation of radiological protection requires democracy to avoid abuses. Nevertheless, democracy is not considered as a core ethical value by ICRP….”
“…ACRO strongly supports the implementation of these three procedural values and considers that they should be implemented from the justification stage. This is not mentioned in the draft report, although it is a requirement the Aarhus convention for environmental issues. This should be extended to radiological protection….”
“…Most of citizen living around the Fukushima dai-ichi nuclear power plant still do not trust authorities. “Accountability” and “transparency” have being ignored by Japanese authorities. The arbitrary evacuation limit of 20 mSv/y has never been explained nor justified. People refusing this limit might have no other choice than remaining in contaminated territories due to economical constrains.

It is a pity that the ICRP has never tried to grasp the situation in contaminated territories as whole and has limited its so-called “dialogues” to a limited number of people that agrees with the Commission. It would have learned much more about the consequences of its recommendations in talking to all categories of people.

As conclusion, ACRO considers that studying the ethical basis of the radiological protection is a necessity but it is not achieved in the present draft report. It should be submitted to various stakeholders and discussed by other means than a simple public consultation on the Internet….”

http://www.acro.eu.org/fondements-ethiques-de-la-radioprotection-ethical-foundations-of-radiological-protection/

 

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

Evacuations Ordered as Heavy Rains Lashed Fukushima…

Heavy rains lashed Fukushima Prefecture during the last few days, prompting evacuation orders in some areas amid fears of flooding. These rains transport lots of radionuclides from the mountainsides and forests down into the towns, redistributing the insoluble cesium particles, recontaminating places having being previously decontaminated. A never ending story.

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Evacuations ordered as heavy rains lash Fukushima and Niigata prefectures
 
Heavy rains lashed Fukushima and Niigata prefectures on Tuesday, prompting evacuation orders in some areas amid fears of flooding.
 
The town of Tadami in western Fukushima ordered over 4,300 residents to evacuate, warning against river flooding and landslides. A local train service was partially suspended, according to East Japan Railway Co.
 
In the city of Gosen and the town of Aga in Niigata, over 1,400 residents were ordered to move to shelters amid flood concerns, according to the municipalities.
 
There were no reports of injuries in the towns and city on Tuesday morning.
 
In Niigata, including the cities of Nagaoka and Sanjo, an evacuation advisory was in effect on Tuesday, affecting over 20,000 people.
 
The number of deaths in flood-hit southwestern Japan climbed to 34 on Monday, with seven more people still unaccounted for.
 
In Kyushu, some 2,700 Self-Defense Forces personnel and firefighters continued a search for the missing, while around 9,000 volunteers worked over the three-day holiday weekend to clear mud and damaged furniture from houses.
 
But their work was temporarily suspended Monday as evacuation orders were issued to about 16,000 residents from almost 6,000 households in the city of Asakura and the village of Toho, both in Fukuoka Prefecture, due to potential heavy rain. They were among the areas hardest hit by torrential rains that began July 5.
 
The mercury hit 34.8 in Asakura and 36.2 in Hita on Monday, according to the Meteorological Agency.
 
In the meantime, two bodies recovered from the Ariake Sea, several dozen kilometers from the disaster-hit area, were identified as Yukie Kojima, 70, and Kazuko Ide, 59, both from Asakura.
 
Five bodies found in the sea have been identified as victims of the disaster.
 
Heavy rain triggers evacuation orders in Fukushima, Niigata municipalities
 
Evacuation orders were issued across the town of Tadami, Fukushima Prefecture, as of 10 a.m. on July 18 as the area was struck with heavy rainfall.
 
Meanwhile, according to the Niigata Prefectural Government risk management department, evacuation orders were also issued as of 10 a.m. to some areas in the districts of Minamitanaka, Aohashi, Nakanohashi, Sasanomachi, Nagahashi and Agamachi in the prefectural city of Gosen.
 
In addition, evacuation advisories are also in place in seven Niigata Prefecture municipalities including the prefectural capital of Niigata, Sanjo and Uonuma, covering roughly 80,000 residents.
 

 

July 19, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Council must clearly communicate reliable information on radiation

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First of all, the standard of 20 millisieverts per year is the international standard for nuclear workers inside nuclear power plants. In comparison the international standard for civilians is 1 millisievert per year. Nuclear workers are willingly choosing the risks to their health and are paid to take those risks. To make people live in an environment with more than 1 milliesievert per year and to lie to them that it won’t be harmful to their health is plainly criminal, especially when it comes to pregnant women, children, infants, who are so much more vulnerable to radiation.

Second, to place such Radiation Council under the jurisdiction of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, is to put the fox in charge of the chicken house.

All the rest is damage control, lies and deception….The Japan News, The Yomiuri Shimbun, is a pro-government newspaper, a government propaganda organ.

Thoroughly implementing scientific radiation protection and safety measures so that post-disaster reconstruction from the nuclear accident at a power plant in Fukushima Prefecture can be accelerated: This is the duty the government’s Radiation Council must carry out.

The council, under the jurisdiction of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, comprises experts working at medical institutions or universities.

The matters taken up for discussion by the council had previously been limited to inquiries submitted by government ministries or agencies. As radiation measures have gained importance, the council’s functions were strengthened with the revision of a related law in April, enabling the council to conduct investigations and make proposals based on its own judgment. Now with five additional members, the council has become a 13-member entity, and related research budgets have been allocated.

Rebuilding a legal structure is a task at hand for the council.

After the accident, ministries and agencies concerned developed a number of laws and regulations. The government’s headquarters has set a radiation standard by which residents must evacuate from a place where 20 or more millisieverts are gauged in a year. The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has set standards for levels of radioactive cesium in food products, while the Environment Ministry has set standards for decontaminated waste.

As all of these standards were set by the ministries and agencies concerned on their own, the safety levels are difficult to understand for ordinary citizens.

The standard of 20 millisieverts for evacuation orders was adopted by the administration led by the then Democratic Party of Japan based on the opinions of the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) and others. It is in line with international standards, but there are some who have misgivings about it.

Reflect reality in law

The standard limits for radioactive substances in food products are far lower than those adopted overseas. While the United States allows 1,200 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram of drinking water, the permissible level is 10 becquerels in Japan.

The standard limits for radioactive substances in general foods other than drinking water and the like are calculated on the presumption that 50 percent of the general foods eaten by Japanese people are contaminated with radioactive substances. Given the current situation, in which food contamination has rarely been detected, the standard limits are out of tune with the reality.

Regarding these standards, the Environment Ministry has compiled “uniform, basic data,” which have been widely circulated in pamphlets and via the internet. It also presents information saying that radiation exposure of less than 100 millisieverts does not pose a significant cancer risk. But disaster-hit areas and the like remain in the grip of the “1-millisievert curse.”

From now, the council plans to scrutinize the ICRP’s latest recommendations on radiation protection and safety measures, and have them reflected in related laws.

Laws and regulations should be created to reflect the real situation of the areas concerned, including the fact that there has been a steady decline in the amount of radiation.

In a speech advocating the phase-out of nuclear power generation in his country, South Korean President Moon Jae In said that 1,368 people died in the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, and that it is impossible to even grasp the number of deaths or how many have developed cancer due to the impact of radiation. On what basis did Moon say this?

The World Health Organization and other bodies have presented a view that there is a low possibility of confirming the health impacts from radiation. In order to wipe out harmful misconceptions, the council must communicate reliable information both inside and outside the country.

http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0003784039

June 26, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , , | Leave a comment

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

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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

Ibaraki nuclear research facility under scrutiny after accident; gas suspected in rupture

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OARAI, Ibaraki — A nuclear research facility here has come under scrutiny after workers were exposed to radiation while checking radioactive materials that had remained in storage for 26 years.

One of the workers exposed to radiation in the accident at the Oarai Research & Development Center of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) on June 6, identified as a male in his 50s, was found with up to 22,000 becquerels of plutonium-239 in his lungs, raising fears he could develop cancer or suffer other health problems.

According to the JAEA, the total level of radioactive materials that entered the man’s blood, bones, organs and other parts of his body was estimated at 360,000 becquerels, based on the amount detected in his lungs.

Problems with safety management at the agency had already been pointed out, and focus is likely to turn toward whether the work at the time of the accident was appropriate.

The agency said that when the worker opened the bolted lid of a steel container during a check, the plastic bag inside ruptured, scattering dust containing uranium and plutonium. Two other workers were next to the worker at the time, assisting in the check.

The some 300 grams of dust was produced when fuel was created for the onsite Joyo experimental fast reactor, which first reached criticality in 1977. It had been placed in a polyethylene container, enclosed in two plastic bags, and then placed in a steel container, where it had been stored since 1991. There were no records to show that the container had been opened before, officials said.

The latest check was being conducted after the Nuclear Regulation Authority had pointed out problems with the management of fuel at another JAEA facility. The JAEA had planned to check 21 steel containers containing uranium and plutonium dust. The accident on June 6 occurred during a check of the first of these containers.

Why did the plastic bag rupture? Kazuya Idemitsu, a professor in the Laboratory of Energy Materials Science at Kyushu University, commented, “Over time, the atomic nuclei of uranium, plutonium and other such substances break down, releasing helium nuclei (alpha rays). When stored over a long time, helium gas would build up, and it’s possible that the pressure inside the container rose, resulting in the rupture.”

Sources close to the JAEA also acknowledged this possibility, with one commenting, “It may not have been a good idea to use a polyethylene container, which had a possibility of rupturing, for storage over a long period.”

On June 7, the Ibaraki prefectural and Oarai municipal governments conducted an on-site inspection of the Oarai Research & Development Center under a nuclear safety agreement. Seventeen officials viewed the inside of the analysis room where the accident occurred through a monitor, and examined the concentration of radioactive materials in expelled air.

Masaaki Kondo, a safety coordinator at the prefectural nuclear power safety division, commented, “We confirmed that the damage did not spread.” The Mito Labor Standards Inspection Office and prefectural police are investigating the cause of the accident and whether the work that led to it was appropriate.

https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170608/p2a/00m/0na/018000c

June 9, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , , , | Leave a comment

22,000 becquerels of plutonium-239 and 220 becquerels of americium-241 found in lungs of nuclear facility worker

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No one has inhaled this much plutonium’: 5 staff exposed to radiation in Japan lab accident

Japanese authorities are unsure about the medical prognosis for five staffers who inhaled toxic plutonium after mishandling it at the Oarai Research and Development Center outside Tokyo.

As far as I can remember, no one has inhaled plutonium at this level,” said Ishikawa Keiji, a security official at the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) which oversees the lab, cited by the Jiji Press news agency.

The accident occurred at 11:15am on Tuesday in the analysis room of the facility dedicated to researching improved nuclear fuel for its fast reactors.

One of the five men opened a metallic cylinder where the fuel, a mixture of uranium and plutonium, is stored before and after experiments. In the process, the double plastic wrapping inside which the radioactive material is kept ripped, and the toxic substance burst into the air.

Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), which has frequently criticized the JAEA for the conditions at its facilities, said “workplace complacency” was possibly to blame.

The NRA said the workers had never experienced a similar plastic rip before, and as a result, did not feel the need to complete their research in a tightly sealed environment.

The researcher responsible for opening the box, described as a man in his 50s, had 22,000 becquerels of plutonium-239 detected in his lungs, and the other four between 2,200 and 14,000 becquerels.

Officials said the five staff have not yet complained of health problems with one assuring that “the amount is not enough to cause acute radiation damage,” according to the Japanese newspaper The Asahi Shimbun.

The longer-term predictions were less definitive, however.

Detection of 22,000 becquerels is a situation that cannot be easily brushed aside. It is no small amount, although it may not be life-threatening,” said Nobuhiko Ban, an NRA radiological protection specialist, quoted by The Asahi Shimbun. 

The five have been injected with a substance that speeds up the discharge of radioactive materials and remain under observation at the National Institutes for Quantum and Radiological Science and Technology.

The NRA has previously said that JEAA was “unfit” to operate an accident-plagued prototype reactor at Monju and has also faced accusations of poor handling of radioactive materials at another site.

But a use for Japan’s large plutonium stockpile must be found, and there are currently plans for utilizing MOX fuel – a mixture of plutonium and uranium, such as that involved in the latest accident – to power conventional reactors instead of the low-enriched uranium that they were designed for.

https://www.rt.com/news/391283-japan-nuclear-accident-plutonium/

No one has inhaled this much plutonium’: 5 staff exposed to radiation in Japan lab accident

Japanese authorities are unsure about the medical prognosis for five staffers who inhaled toxic plutonium after mishandling it at the Oarai Research and Development Center outside Tokyo.

As far as I can remember, no one has inhaled plutonium at this level,” said Ishikawa Keiji, a security official at the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) which oversees the lab, cited by the Jiji Press news agency.

The accident occurred at 11:15am on Tuesday in the analysis room of the facility dedicated to researching improved nuclear fuel for its fast reactors.

One of the five men opened a metallic cylinder where the fuel, a mixture of uranium and plutonium, is stored before and after experiments. In the process, the double plastic wrapping inside which the radioactive material is kept ripped, and the toxic substance burst into the air.

Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), which has frequently criticized the JAEA for the conditions at its facilities, said “workplace complacency” was possibly to blame.

The NRA said the workers had never experienced a similar plastic rip before, and as a result, did not feel the need to complete their research in a tightly sealed environment.

The researcher responsible for opening the box, described as a man in his 50s, had 22,000 becquerels of plutonium-239 detected in his lungs, and the other four between 2,200 and 14,000 becquerels.

Officials said the five staff have not yet complained of health problems with one assuring that “the amount is not enough to cause acute radiation damage,” according to the Japanese newspaper The Asahi Shimbun.

The longer-term predictions were less definitive, however.

Detection of 22,000 becquerels is a situation that cannot be easily brushed aside. It is no small amount, although it may not be life-threatening,” said Nobuhiko Ban, an NRA radiological protection specialist, quoted by The Asahi Shimbun. 

The five have been injected with a substance that speeds up the discharge of radioactive materials and remain under observation at the National Institutes for Quantum and Radiological Science and Technology.

The NRA has previously said that JEAA was “unfit” to operate an accident-plagued prototype reactor at Monju and has also faced accusations of poor handling of radioactive materials at another site.

But a use for Japan’s large plutonium stockpile must be found, and there are currently plans for utilizing MOX fuel – a mixture of plutonium and uranium, such as that involved in the latest accident – to power conventional reactors instead of the low-enriched uranium that they were designed for.

https://www.rt.com/news/391283-japan-nuclear-accident-plutonium/

High level of radiation found in lungs of nuclear facility worker

OARAI, Ibaraki — A worker at a research and development (R&D) center here has been found to have a high level of radioactive material — up to 22,000 becquerels — in his lungs following exposure to radiation, the center said on June 7.

The discovery came after five workers at the Oarai Research & Development Center, which belongs to the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, were exposed to radioactive materials on June 6.

Radioactive materials are difficult to expunge from the human body, and it is thought that the level of internal exposure in this case will be 1.2 sieverts in one year, and 12 sieverts over 50 years.

The five workers have been taken to the National Institutes of Radiological Sciences in Chiba Prefecture, where they are undergoing examinations.

At a Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) meeting on June 7, a committee member said the workers’ situation is “not mild.”

According to organizations such as the NRA, one of the five workers was found to have up to 22,000 becquerels of plutonium-239 and 220 becquerels of americium-241 in his lungs. Two other workers were discovered to have 12 becquerels and 130 becquerels of americium-241 in their lungs, respectively. All five workers were administered medicine designed to reduce the radiation dose of the internal exposure.

The five workers were all wearing protective clothing and face masks at the time of the radiation exposure, the R&D center said. It is currently being investigated whether or not there were any problems at the time the incident happened.

Plutonium and americium are both harmful to human bodies as they emit alpha rays.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170607/p2a/00m/0na/018000c

Four workers exposed to radioactive materials at Ibaraki nuclear facility

Four workers suffered internal radiation exposure due to inhalation of a large amount of plutonium during an inspection at a nuclear research facility in Ibaraki Prefecture on Tuesday, the operator of the facility said Wednesday.

In the wake of what appears to be an unprecedented internal radiation exposure accident, the state’s nuclear safety regulator and local labor authorities inspected the scene to see if there were any flaws in safety management.

The accident occurred at the fuel research building of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency’s Oarai Research & Development Center when a bag covering a container for nuclear fuel materials, including powder samples of plutonium and uranium, tore during inspection on Tuesday.

Up to 22,000 becquerels of plutonium 239 were detected in the lungs of a male worker in his 50s. Up to 14,000 becquerels of radioactive materials were found in the three other workers, officials of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency said.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority said the worker with the higher reading has been exposed to an extreme amount of radiation and the situation is considered grave.

While none of the workers have complained of health problems so far, an official with the facility’s operator said it “cannot rule out the possibility of future health effects.”

The agency assumes that the amount of radiation exposure of the male worker in his 50s translates to up to 12 sieverts over 50 years, well above the legal limit set for workers who deal with radiation.

For its part, the labor office said that it estimates the man with the highest exposure to radiation has exceeded the annual limit of radiation exposure, which is 50 millisieverts a year and 100 millisieverts in five years.

Plutonium is known to emit alpha rays over a long period, damaging surrounding organs and tissues. If it is deposited into the lungs, it could increase the risk of developing cancer

The five workers have been transported to the National Institute of Radiological Sciences and given medication to help discharge radioactive materials from their bodies.

I saw such a (high) figure for the first time,” said Makoto Akashi, a senior official at the National Institutes for Quantum and Radiological Science and Technology, referring to the reading of 22,000 becquerels. The institute oversees the National Institute of Radiological Sciences.

It is very clear from a scientific viewpoint that the internal exposure to radiation would increase the risk of cancer (for the workers),” Akashi said.

I have never heard of such a large amount as a reading for internal exposure to radiation,” Shunichi Tanaka, who heads the NRA, told a separate news conference.

The workers wore masks but could have inhaled radioactive material from the small gaps between the masks and their faces.

Kunikazu Noguchi, an expert on radiological protection and associate professor at Nihon University, said it is hard to conclude the impact of the 22,000 becquerels, as the actual amount of radioactive substances he inhaled is still unknown.

It is possible, however, that the worker could have been exposed to more radioactive materials than the legally allowable maximum limit,” Noguchi said. He said it is necessary to get to the bottom of the incident, especially whether workers followed guidelines, as it is hard to imagine a plastic bag containing nuclear substances could tear in such a facility as the Oarai center.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/06/07/national/five-workers-exposed-radioactive-materials-ibaraki-nuclear-facility/#.WTkK8zekLrc

Worker at Ibaraki facility has up to 22,000 becquerels of plutonium in lungs

TOKYO – Five workers have suffered internal radiation exposure, with one found with up to 22,000 becquerels of plutonium in his lungs, following an inspection accident at a nuclear research facility in Ibaraki Prefecture on Tuesday, the operator of the facility said Wednesday.

In one of the worst accidents involving internal radiation exposure in Japan, up to 5,600 to 14,000 becquerels of plutonium 239 have been detected from the other three workers, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency said.

The accident occurred at the fuel research building of the agency’s Oarai Research & Development Center when a bag covering a container for nuclear fuel materials, including powder samples of plutonium and uranium, tore during inspection.

A labor standards inspection office in Ibaraki conducted an inspection Tuesday and Wednesday at the building, while the Nuclear Regulation Authority, the nuclear safety watchdog, also dispatched an inspector to the scene to check whether there were any violations of safety regulations.

The agency estimates that the amount of radiation exposure of the man with the highest level translates to up to 12 sieverts over 50 years.

The labor office believes that the man in his 50s has exceeded the annual limit of radiation exposure of 0.1 sievert in five years set for those who handle radioactive materials.

Plutonium is known to emit alpha rays for a long period, damaging surrounding organs and tissues. If it is deposited into the lungs, it could increase the risk of developing cancer.

The Japan Atomic Energy Agency has said the operation by the workers was carried out as usual.

Nuclear Regulation Authority Chairman Shunichi Tanaka said of the incident at a press conference, “Perhaps (the workers) have become too accustomed to plutonium. I urge careful handling.”

“As (a level for) internal radiation exposure it’s an amount unheard of,” he said.

“We shouldn’t downplay the situation,” said NRA Commissioner Nobuhiko Ban, a specialist in radiological protection.

While none of the workers has complained of health problems so far, an official of the facility operator said it “cannot rule out the possibility of future health effects.”

The five workers have been transported to the National Institute of Radiological Sciences and given medication to facilitate the discharge of radioactive materials from their bodies.

Since radioactive materials were found on hands and faces of four of the five workers, they have been decontaminated, said an official of the National Institutes for Quantum and Radiological Science and Technology, an umbrella organization of the National Institute of Radiological Sciences.

The workers wore masks to cover their mouths and noses but could have inhaled the radioactive materials from the small gaps between the masks and their faces.

The Japan Atomic Energy Agency has previously come under criticism for lacking safety awareness, following revelations of a massive number of equipment inspection failures at its Monju prototype fast-breeder nuclear reactor in Fukui Prefecture.

The Japanese government decided to decommission Monju last year after it has barely operated over the past two decades despite its envisioned key role in the country’s nuclear fuel recycling policy.

https://japantoday.com/category/national/5-workers-suffer-radiation-exposure-one-with-up-to-22-000-becquerels-of-plutonium-in-his-lungs#.WTh8DhaVAOw.facebook

 

 

June 9, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima Food Presents “No Immediate Problem”: UN Food and Agricultural Organization Director General

Contaminated food & chopsticks

 

The other day I read a headline at The Asahi Shimbun that made me pause and read the entire article carefully.

Please note that the headline states that the Director General of the UN FAO is “convinced” that Fukushima food is safe to eat.

However, if you read his actual words, as quoted in the article, you will see that he is not in fact arguing that Fukushima food is safe to eat.

Rather, what he is saying is at this “moment” the agency sees “no immediate problem”:

Yukie Yamao. (2017). U.N. food agency ‘convinced’ that Fukushima food is safe to eat. The Asahi Shimbun http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201705080043.html
ROME–Food produced in Fukushima Prefecture is safe, but continued monitoring will be needed to ensure that remains the case, according to the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization’s top official.

“We’ve been following this issue very closely,” said FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva in a recent interview with The Asahi Shimbun, referring to the safety of agricultural products and other food items grown and manufactured in the prefecture.

“We are also periodically testing samples to certify that the food presents no danger to human beings. For the moment we are convinced that there is no immediate problem with the food coming from that area.”

He added that maintaining control over the situation is crucial.

Whenever I read “no immediate” risk, I know that there are very likely to be long-term risks.

Long-term risks derive from chronic exposure to elevated gamma, beta and alpha radiation from sources internal and external to human bodies.

Concentration of radioactive isotopes – such as cesium-137, iodine-131, and strontium-90 – in food is a well-established problem and poses risk for internal contamination and bio-accumulation in biological bodies.

Japan has historically had strict standards for radionuclides in food compared to the US, but even low-levels of isotopes in food can create problems over time. For example, strontium-90 ends up in bone and teeth. Most isotopes are chemically toxic in addition to being radioactive.

Monkeys living in Fukushima have been found to have bio-accumulated radio-cesium:

Bahar Gholipour Fukushima monkeys show signs of radiation exposure Livescience.com July 24, 2014, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/fukushima-monkeys-blood-shows-signs-of-radiation-exposure/

The results showed Fukushima monkeys had lower counts of red and white blood cells, and other blood parts compared with 31 monkeys from Shimokita Penisula in northern Japan. The researchers also found radioactive cesium in the muscles of Fukushima monkeys, ranging from 78 to 1778 becquerels (units of radioactivity representing decay per second) per kilogram, but they didn’t find any in Shimokita monkeys. [7 Craziest Ways Japan’s Earthquake Affected Earth] Exposure to radioactive materials may have contributed to the blood changes seen in Fukushima monkeys, study researchers Shin-ichi Hayama and colleagues wrote in their study, published today in the journal Scientific Reports. Low blood cell counts could be a sign of a compromised immune system and could potentially make the monkeys vulnerable to infectious diseases, the researchers said.

Here is the relevant academic publication and an excerpt from the abstract, that describes cesium concentrations:

Kazuhiko Ochiai , Shin-ichi Hayama , Sachie Nakiri et al “Low blood cell counts in wild Japanese monkeys after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster,”Scientific Reports 4, Article number: 5793 (2014) doi:10.1038/srep05793, http://www.nature.com/articles/srep05793

[excerpted] Total muscle cesium concentration in Fukushima monkeys was in the range of 78–1778 Bq/kg, whereas the level of cesium was below the detection limit in all Shimokita monkeys. Compared with Shimokita monkeys, Fukushima monkeys had significantly low white and red blood cell counts, hemoglobin, and hematocrit, and the white blood cell count in immature monkeys showed a significant negative correlation with muscle cesium concentration. These results suggest that the exposure to some form of radioactive material contributed to hematological changes in Fukushima monkeys.

The study in Scientific Reports detected cesium levels ranging from 78-1778 Bq/kg in monkey muscle.  What are the implications for monkeys bio-accumulating cesium in their muscles?  My guess is that what happens to monkeys is likely to follow what happens to people.

In a 2003 video titled Nuclear Controversies by Vladimir Tchertkoff,Professor Yury Bandazhevsky (former director of the Medical Institute in Gomel), states that based on his research on children exposed to radiocesium from Chernobyl, ‘Over 50 Bq/kg of body weight lead to irreversible lesions in vital organs.’

In a short summary of his work published in 2003, Bandazhevsky described high levels of Cesium-137 bioaccumulation in Chernobyl children’s heart and endocrine glands, particularly the thyroid gland, the adrenals, and the pancreas. He also found high levels in the thymus and the spleen. He found higher levels of bio-accumulation in children than adults. This research demonstrates how radiocesium bioacccumulates within organs and establishes the vulnerability of young people to that process.

Is Fukushima food safe? Based on the monkey research and comments made by the head of the FAO, my conclusion is that Fukushima momentarily poses no immediate risks but long-term consumption could lead to bioaccumulation of radionuclildes, a situation which probably is not, at all, limited to Japan, and poses excess risks for disease and disability.

http://majiasblog.blogspot.fr/2017/06/fukushima-food-presents-no-immediate.html

 

 

June 4, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | 1 Comment

Even as Evacuation Orders are Lifted, Recovery Remains Distant Prospect for Many Fukushima Residents

d00319_main

 

Six years after the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, the government has lifted evacuation orders on four municipalities around the plant, allowing residents to return home for the first time since the meltdowns. The author, who has been involved in reconstruction planning since the evacuation orders were first given, calls for a multiple-track plan to meet the complicated needs of those who return and evacuees who continue to live elsewhere as evacuees.

The Beginning of the End, or the Prelude to New Heartache?

The Japanese government on March 31 and April 1 of this year lifted evacuation orders for areas around the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station it issued in the wake of the nuclear accident at the plant more than six years ago. The decision finally allowed some 32,000 residents of the four radiation-affected municipalities of Iidate, Kawamata, Namie, and Tomioka to return to their homes. Following the move, the only places still subject to evacuation orders are Futaba and Ōkuma (where the Daiichi plant is located) and parts of five neighboring towns and villages.

d00319en_fig01

 

The Japanese media almost universally hailed the decision as a “major milestone” toward residents of affected areas rebuilding their lives. But this supposed milestone can be taken in two quite different ways. In much of the media there was an optimistic sense of a return to normalcy, resulting in the view that the evacuation orders lifting was a long-awaited new beginning in the recovery effort, and that residents would finally be able to start rebuilding their lives and communities. Another, more cynical view, however, is that it merely marked the start of new string of woes. Considering the challenges that face residents, in my opinion this second interpretation is closer to the truth.

The optimistic view is pushed by the national and prefectural authorities in charge of advancing recovery efforts in Fukushima, and is based on the following scenario.

1. Designate evacuation zones across areas affected by radiation, and provide support to evacuees in the form of temporary housing and compensation.

2. Decontaminate the affected areas.

3. Prepare to lift the evacuation orders as radiation levels fall.

4. Rebuild local infrastructure and reestablish local services, rebuilding health, welfare, and retail facilities where necessary.

5. Lift evacuation orders.

6. Evacuees return home.

For the thousands of evacuees forced to live away from their homes over the past six years, however, there is quite a different sense to the orders being lifted. Some people will decide to return home while others will remain where they are. No matter their decision, though, we must face the fact that new challenges await both groups.

Many of those most eager to return home are the elderly, but health and welfare provisions are still far from satisfactory in many areas. There are also lingering doubts for other members of the community, such as the future of the area’s farming, forestry, and fisheries. Local economies have been devastated, raising the question of employment and whether people will even be able to buy daily necessities, let alone support themselves long term.

The situation at the power plant also remains precarious and much work remains to be done. The problem of radioactive water has yet to be solved and a medium-term storage facility must be found for huge amounts of contaminated material. However, there is not even a timetable for when these will be accomplished. Faced with such uncertainty, many people will simply choose to remain where they are rather than risk returning home. However, this decision brings a different set of problems, as many of the support systems put in place to help evacuees will be cut off now that they are no longer prevented from going back.

In surveys carried out between 2014 and 2017 by the Reconstruction Ministry, the Fukushima Prefectural government, and the evacuated municipalities, more than half of residents of Futaba, Namie, Ōkuma, and Tomioka said they did not plan to return to their homes after the evacuation orders were lifted. In other areas where more than a year has already passed since evacuation orders were rescinded, the number of residents who have returned remains at 20% or less everywhere except Tamura. These sobering figures illustrate the steep road awaiting evacuees wishing to go home.

Assessing Conditions in the Affected Areas

The fact that authorities lifted evacuation orders despite so many issues still unresolved demonstrates a disregard for the challenges confronting residents. Now more than ever, we must consider and assess the uncertainties residents face and ascertain future challenges.

In the areas recently deemed fit again for human habitation, flexible containers filled with contaminated materials still lie in heaps at various temporary storage points, where they have been since clean-up operations began. While the plan is to eventually move these to medium-term storage facilities, I wonder if authorities when deciding to lift the evacuation order really understood the anxiety and stress placed on residents who must live their lives surrounded by mountains of contaminated debris.

d00319_ph02-680x451Containers of contaminated soil in temporary storage await safety checks in Minamisōma, Fukushima, on June 11, 2016.

The town of Hirono is situated 22 kilometers from Fukushima Daiichi. Following the disaster, the town’s medical services fell to the sole efforts of the head of the local hospital, Dr. Takano Hideo. However, the future of the hospital was thrown in doubt when Takano died in a fire late last year. Nakayama Yūjiro, a physician in Tokyo, assisted for a time, spending two months earlier this year as the hospital’s resident doctor.

Nakayama wrote a diary based on his experience, which was published in April 2017 by Nikkei Business online as Ishi ga mita Fukushima no riaru (The Reality of Fukushima: A Doctor’s View). In his account, Nakayama describes the ongoing tragedy of the disaster and discusses the numerous people who have died from conditions brought on by the stress of residing in temporary living conditions. He points to three main reasons for these deaths: Separation from family and loss of community; interruption of ongoing medical treatment; and change of environment. Nakayama’s experience illustrates how in indirect ways, the death toll from the disaster continues to rise.

Giving Up on the Dream of Going Home

The situation is worse still for people whose homes are subject to ongoing evacuation orders. Sasaki Yasuko, who was evacuated from her home in Namie, spent the time since the disaster in temporary housing in the town of Koori. In a 90-page record of her life as an evacuee called Osoroshii hōshanō no sora no shita (Under a Fearsome Radioactive Sky), she writes: “I don’t want to die in temporary housing. That’s all I ask. Everyone is talking about wrapping things up and bringing an end to the disaster—but I don’t want my life to end like this. . . . Since the disaster, there seem to be slogans everywhere I go that are meant to keep our spirits up. But what more can I do than what I’m already doing? I wish someone would tell me what I’m expected to do.”

I met Sasaki for the last time in the spring of 2013. She was still living in temporary housing and was working to complete a model of her home in Namie, desperately trying to recreate from memories a place she thought she would never see again. Around a month after that, I learned that she had been hospitalized and had passed away at the age of 84. I also heard that before entering the hospital, she had taken her model and smashed it to pieces.

d00319_ph03-680x453Sasaki Yasuko toward the end of her life, at work on a model of her abandoned home in Namie.

I had many other opportunities to talk to people whose homes are in areas “closed to habitation indefinitely.” Several of them told me that when they had tried to tidy up one of their short visits home, they found their houses in a state of chaos as a result of intrusions by boars and other wild animals. The residents asked the authorities to do something about it, saying, “Can’t you catch the boars, or at least hire someone to stop them from getting into our houses?” But no business could be persuaded to take the project on as everyone was too afraid of the high radiation levels.

Faced with difficulties and indignities like this, people’s eagerness to return home slowly withered. They say that the radiation tore everything up by the roots—history, culture, community—and they wonder if any amount of compensation can make up for such a loss. Robbed of their local heritage, many residents of affected areas continue to lament the cultural implications of the disaster.

The Need to Support Both Returnees and Evacuees

The authorities imagine a simplistic scenario where lifting the evacuation orders results in everyone returning home and living happily ever after. But life is not so simple, and this storyline does not include solutions for problems like those outlined above. As well as working to restore and rebuild the physical infrastructure in the evacuated towns and villages, the authorities need to work with residents to develop programs that will help them get their lives back on track. These programs need to have realistic outlooks of the future and must consider the hopes of the residents themselves.

From the initial days after the disaster, the message from the national government and Tokyo Electric Power Company, the operator of the Daiichi plant, has been: “Leave this to us.” This has permeated their attitude in establishing support efforts for evacuees in temporary housing, setting radiation safety standards, cleanup work, compensation negotiations, livelihood support, and reconstruction plans. Everything has been handled in an ad hoc fashion, leading to misunderstanding and anxiety and opening gaps between the authorities and those they are supposedly trying to help. For residents, all these actions are closely connected. There is still no process for building consensus and bridging the gulf that has formed between the authorities and the residents who should be playing a leading role in rebuilding their communities. It is in this context that the evacuation orders were lifted.

The authorities should make it a priority to draw up a less simplistic scenario that better reflects the reality on the ground. There must be a multiple-track plan balancing programs to rebuild communities and support returnees’ lives back home with measures that provide help to evacuees who choose to remain where they are. One idea worth considering would be a program that allowed evacuees to divide their lives between two areas for a bridging period, giving them time to rebuild their hometowns while remaining in temporary housing. One way this could be accomplished is to provide residences where evacuees could live on a part-time basis as they work to rebuild their communities and repair their damaged and neglected homes.

(Originally published in Japanese on May 9, 2017. Banner photo: A photographer snaps photos of somei-yoshino cherries in Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture, on April 12, 2017. Most of the 2.2-kilometer stretch of cherry trees is barricaded off inside an evacuation area. Since this spring, the first 300 meters of the road have been opened to the public during the daytime. The district is now designated an “area closed to habitation provisionally.” © Jiji.)

http://www.nippon.com/en/currents/d00319/

 

May 24, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , , | Leave a comment

High levels of radioactive material migrating down into soil around Fukushima

may 19 2017.png

High levels of radioactive cesium remain in the soil near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and these radionuclides have migrated at least 5 centimeters down into the ground at several areas since the nuclear accident five years ago, according to preliminary results of a massive sampling project being presented at the JpGU-AGU joint meeting in Chiba, Japan.

In 2016, a team of more than 170 researchers from the Japanese Geoscience Union and the Japan Society of Nuclear and Radiochemical Sciences conducted a large-scale soil sampling project to determine the contamination status and transition process of radioactive cesium five years after a major earthquake and tsunami caused a nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.  

The team collected soil samples at 105 locations up to 40 kilometers (25 miles) northwest of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in the “difficult-to-return” zone where entry is prohibited. The project seeks to understand the chemical and physical forms of radionuclides in the soil and their horizontal and vertical distribution.

The Japanese government has monitored the state of radioactive contamination in the area near the plant since the 2011 accident by measuring the air dose rate, but scientists can only determine the actual state of contamination in the soil and its chemical and physical forms by direct soil sampling, said Kazuyuki Kita, a professor at Ibaraki University in Japan, who is one of the leaders of the soil sampling effort.

Understanding the radionuclides’ chemical and physical forms helps scientists understand how long they could stay in the soil and the risk they pose to humans, plants and animals, Kita said. The new information could help in assessing the long-term risk of the radionuclides in the soil, and inform decontamination efforts in heavily contaminated areas, according to Kita, one of several researchers will present the team’s preliminary results at the JpGU-AGU joint meeting next week.

Preliminary results show high levels radioactive cesium are still present in the soil near the plant. The levels of radiation are more than 90 percent, on average, of what was found immediately following the accident, according to Kita.

Most of the radiocesium in the soil was found near the surface, down to about 2 centimeters, immediately following the 2011 accident. Five years later, at several sampling points, one-third to one-half of the radiocesium has migrated deeper into the soil, according to Kita. Preliminary results show the radiocesium moved about 0.3 centimeters per year, on average, deeper into the soil and soil samples show the radiocesium has penetrated at least 5 centimeters into the ground at several areas, according to Kita.

The team plans to analyze samples taken at greater depths to see if the radiocesium has migrated even further, he said.  

Most of the radioactive cesium remains after five years, but some parts of the radioactive cesium went from the surface to deeper soil,” he said.

Knowing how much radioactive contamination has stayed on the surface and how deep it has penetrated into the soil helps estimate the risk of the contaminants and determine how much soil should be removed for decontamination. The preliminary results suggest decontamination efforts should remove at least the top 6 to 8 centimeters of soil, Kita said.  

The preliminary data also show there are insoluble particles with very high levels of radioactivity on the surface of the soil. Debris from the explosion fused with radiocesium to form small glass particles a few microns to 100 microns in diameter that remain on the ground, according to Kita. The team is currently trying to determine how many of these radiocesium glass particles exist in areas near the nuclear plant, he said.

We are afraid that if such high radioactive balls remain on the surface, that could be a risk for the environment,” Kita said. “If the radioactivity goes deep into the soil, the risk for people in the area decreases but we are afraid the high radioactive balls remain on the surface.”

Nanci Bompey is the manager of AGU’s public information office. This research is being presented Thursday, May 25 at the JpGU-AGU joint meeting in Chiba, Japan. 

http://blogs.agu.org/geospace/2017/05/19/high-levels-radioactive-material-migrating-soil-around-fukushima/

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

Radiation Checks After Fire

 

Japan’s Forestry Agency is checking for the possible spread of radioactive contamination following a forest fire near the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

The fire started at the end of April and raged for almost 2 weeks. It destroyed 75 hectares in the area designated a no-go zone due to high radiation.

Officials and forest fire experts are inspecting the site looking for changes in radiation levels and the potential for landslides that could spread radioactive substances.

Fukushima Prefecture officials say they have not detected any major changes in radiation levels so far.

Inspections will continue for another day. The agency will publicize the results by the end of next month.

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/nhknewsline/nuclearwatch/radiationchecksafterfire/

May 19, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | 2 Comments