At least 30 prefectures to test newly harvested rice for cesium to alleviate safety concerns
As many as 30 prefectures are planning to test newly harvested rice for radioactive cesium contamination in a bid to ensure and demonstrate the safety of their farm crops to consumers worried by the spread of radioactive substances from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, the Mainichi has learned.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has subjected newly harvested rice in 17 prefectures from Aomori to the north to Shizuoka to the west in East Japan to cesium contamination tests, but other municipalities, keen to alleviate safety concerns among consumers about farm products, decided to test rice independently.
The farm ministry urges the 17 prefectures to test brown rice raised in soil containing 1,000 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram or more, or in areas whose atmospheric radiation doses are more than 0.1 microsievert per hour, before and after harvesting. If more than 200 becquerels per kilogram are detected in brown rice in a preliminary testing before harvesting, the area will be designated as an “area for priority testing” and be thoroughly examined after harvesting. If radiation exceeds 500 becquerels, shipments of the rice from the area will be banned.
Voluntary testing for cesium has been expanding to prefectures in Hokuriku, Kinki, Chugoku and Shikoku districts, and as of Aug. 13, at least 13 prefectures decided to conduct tests on newly harvested rice for cesium. At least 3,500 locations are subject to main tests and about 900 locations are subject to preliminary tests. Fukushima Prefecture tops the list of the number of locations for main tests, followed by Miyagi and Ibaraki. All rice growing municipalities in nine prefectures — Akita, Yamagata, Miyagi, Niigata, Tochigi, Ibaraki, Saitama, Chiba and Nagano — will conduct the tests regardless of designations by the farm ministry. There are 34 municipalities in Miyagi Prefecture which plan to conduct main tests in about 400 locations possibly in early September — nearly double the number of locations designated by the farm ministry.
On the reason why Miyagi Prefecture will conduct tests in broader areas than designated by the farm ministry, a prefectural government official said, “As a main rice producing prefecture, it is our duty to confirm the safety (of rice).”
At a briefing session held in southern Miyagi Prefecture under the auspices of the central government and the Miyagi Prefectural Government on Aug. 12, many people requested the authorities to issue certificates for rice from tested areas “to prove its safety.” If radioactive cesium of over 500 becquerels per kilogram is detected, the farm ministry will order the given municipality to ban shipments, and all rice harvested in the area in the fall would be destined to be disposed of. An official of the Shichigashuku town government said, “We want the government to narrow the scope of shipment restrictions to settlements in order to reduce damage to farmers.”
Meanwhile, many prefectures in western Japan are planning to conduct tests in selected areas to “defuse consumer concerns.”
Preliminary tests are expected to reach their peak in early September while main tests are set to peak in mid-September. But there are municipalities that do not have enough equipment. If tests fall far behind schedule and shipments are delayed, the qualities and prices of rice could fall and cause economic damage to farmers.
(Mainichi Japan) August 15, 2011
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Japanese firms developing radiation checkers
Japanese businesses are developing devices to gauge levels of radioactive substances in food to meet the needs of municipalities and food makers.
The move is prompted by recent news that contaminated meat was shipped from cattle suspected of having been fed rice straw containing radioactive materials.
Medical equipment maker, Hitachi Aloka Medical, has developed a device with a lead container, which almost completely blocks radioactivity.
The device can measure amounts of radioactive elements in samples in about 10 minutes.
The company says the measuring time can be shortened significantly by reducing the number of radioactive materials selected for scanning. The firm has already received around 200 orders for the equipment.
Another company, Fuji Electric, has developed a machine that can measure radioactive substances in products packed in containers such as cardboard boxes.
The machine quickly displays whether or not products contain radioactive elements exceeding pre-set levels.
Demand for these devices is expected to rise as an increasing number of municipalities and food makers are gearing up to test products for radioactive materials.
Hitachi Aloka Medical Managing Director Shohei Matsubara says his company is currently unable to keep up with the demand for its radiation checking device.
He adds that his firm wants to develop products that meet the needs of society.
Monday, August 15, 2011 05:47 +0900 (JST)
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And… as I often do… a link to EX-SKF. If you aren’t following her/his blog, I STRONGLY suggest you make it daily reading.
MONDAY, AUGUST 15, 2011
Neptunium-239 Detected from Soil in Iitate-mura in Fukushima???
(Correction: my initial post said “several thousand becquerels per kilogram”, but on checking the original Japanese post there is no mention of “per kilogram” or per any other unit.)
The information comes from a strange source – the husband and wife comedian couple cum independent journalists attending and reporting on TEPCO and the government press conferences when they are not on stage.
In their blogpost on August 11 (in Japanese), they relate their talk with a researcher at the University of Tokyo who has submitted a scientific paper to a foreign academic society. This researcher, whom they say they cannot name because the paper is being reviewed right now, went to Fukushima and collected soil samples, rice hay samples, and water samples. He even went to the front of Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant and collected samples there.
He also went to Iitate-mura. And he tells the couple that he found neptunium-239 in Iitate-mura, about 38 kilometers from the plant, in approximately the same amount as he found at the front gate of Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant. That is the topic of his paper.
Article continues at:
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Interesting radio program about what’s happening up in Fukushima and in Tokyo.
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Tuesday, Aug. 09, 2011
Japan to lift some nuclear evacuation advisories
By MARI YAMAGUCHI – Associated Press
TOKYO — Japan’s government has decided to lift evacuation advisories in some areas more than 12 miles (20 kilometers) from the damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, opening the way for tens of thousands of people to return home, officials said Tuesday.
The advisories warned residents to be prepared to leave in case of worsening conditions at the plant. Although only a warning, many people fled their homes out of fear for their safety or because mandatory evacuation orders in nearby areas deprived them of city services.
Officials said the lifting will allow about 25,000 people covered by the advisories to return home in about a month.
A 12-mile no-go zone, in place since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami sent the nuclear plant into a meltdown, will remain in force. Officials said mandatory evacuation orders will also remain in place in several high-radiation areas outside the 12-mile exclusion zone.
The massive quake and subsequent tsunami destroyed power and cooling functions at the nuclear plant, causing three reactor cores to melt and triggering fires and explosions that spread large amounts of radioactive particles outside the complex.
More than 80,000 residents fled their homes after the disaster. Tens of thousands remain unable to return because of the radiation threat.
Officials at Tokyo Electric Power Co., the utility that operates the plant, and the government have said in recent weeks that the reactors have stabilized and the amount of radiation being released is now minimal.
“We have hoped to let evacuees return to their ordinary lives as soon as possible. It took five months to finally start the process,” said Goshi Hosono, a Cabinet minister in charge of the nuclear crisis. “We will carry this out very cautiously.”
Officials say most of the radiation in the reactor cores leaked out earlier in the crisis and what’s left inside does not pose much danger. TEPCO has been injecting nitrogen into the reactors as a precaution to prevent further hydrogen explosions, said Osamu Suda, a Cabinet Office official in charge of evacuees.
Areas where the evacuation advisories are being lifted must work out plans within several weeks to decontaminate buildings and restart public services for the returning residents, Suda said. A government panel is currently compiling guidelines for the decontamination to address concerns from residents and support their resettlement process.
Also Tuesday, officials said they are considering allowing residents of areas within a 1.9-mile (3-kilometer) radius of the plant to make their first brief visit to their homes later this month.
Residents of the no-go zone and other high-risk areas will not be able to move back to their homes at least until the crippled reactors are stabilized further, Suda said. TEPCO and the government plan to bring the reactors to that status by early January.
Some experts say that target is too ambitious.
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Radio Interview with Arnie Gundersen