Greenpeace Japan urged the government Thursday to come up with strict rules requiring that fish products bear labels showing the radioactive materials they contain.
The environmentalist group also said labels should include where fish were caught rather than just showing what port they came from, to strengthen the traceability of the products.
Greenpeace made the call after conducting radiation tests on 60 fish products from five major supermarket chains in the Kanto and Tohoku areas. Although the contamination level in each was lower than the government’s provisional standard, cesium-134 or -137 was detected in 34 products.
The highest level, 88 becquerels, was found in “wakasagi” lake smelt from Ibaraki Prefecture. The second-highest was in “buri” adult yellowtail from Iwate at 60 becquerels.
The government’s safety standard for fish is 500 becquerels per kilogram.
“Although the levels were far lower than the government’s standard, 10 or 20 becquerels have a huge meaning for parents of little children and pregnant women,” said Wakao Hanaoka, in charge of marine ecology issues at Greenpeace.
“By displaying such information, consumers can safely choose and purchase products, and it would serve as a measure against harmful rumors,” he said.
The tests were conducted from Sept. 4 to Oct. 7 on types of fish caught in the Pacific Ocean and often eaten in fall.
Store operators that cooperated with Greenpeace for the project were Aeon Co., Ito-Yokado Co., Daiei Inc., Seiyu GK and Uny Co.
The results showed no particular trends in terms of certain stores or areas selling fish with higher contamination.
The health ministry has also been conducting radiation tests on food and detected trace amounts of cesium in fish products from stores.
One difference between the tests by Greenpeace and the government is that the ministry set the lowest limit at 50 becquerels per kilogram while the environmentalist group set the minimum at 5 becquerels.
Greenpeace also asked the Japan Chain Stores Association to let its members voluntarily put radiation test results on their products and come up with stores’ own safety standards.
Since many people are concerned about the food contamination, having voluntary tests and disclosing results would respond consumer needs, said Hanaoka.
Post Fukushima: All the King’s Horses and All the King’s Men…
“The BWR reactor design is uniquely prone to melt-through, and it’s built in a containment that’s already inadequate to handle normal reactor forces…”
New algae a better radioactive absorber than currently used mineral, researchers say
CHUO, Yamanashi — A new type of algae is better at absorbing radioactive strontium and iodine than a mineral currently being used to treat radioactively contaminated water, say scientists.
According to a research group, the new algae, called “Parachlorella sp. binos” or “binos” for short, is better at absorbing some radioactive materials than is zeolite, which is being used at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant to treat radioactively contaminated water.
Binos has already been commercialized by Japan Biomass Corp., a University of Tsukuba-affiliated startup, for the cleaning of sewage, and the corporation conducted joint research with the Kitasato Institute and other groups to explore applying binos to cleaning radioactively-contaminated water as well.
Article continues at:
Over at Fukushima Diary, Mochizuki has posted an interview with a citizen of Fukushima. It’s worth checking it out, if just for the summary of the interview. Here is a snip:
1) 21 years old Fukushima worker died of cardiac infarct. It is not reported and police didn’t even do autopsy. He died when he was at home, and he was working at Fukushima plant since March to July.
2) Though everyone pays attention to reactor 1 to 4, actually reactor 5 and 6 are in crisis. Engineers from Hitachi are coming to the area to get it settled down but it’s concealed. It’s likely that they are going critical so Iodine 131 are measured in Tokyo or Iwate.
3) In the “worst” contaminated area,where is about 1 Sv/h or so, “unlisted” workers are forced to work. They are hunted in the downtown in Osaka, treated as disposable workers.
One of his friends had to go into reactor 3. When the person saw the area, it was full of debris and the counter showed about 1~2 Sv/h butthe next morning, the area was perfectly clean. Because it needs sensitive work, it must have been done by humans….
Read the entire article at:
Cost-cutting unit locks sights on Monju reactor
A panel tasked with cutting wasteful spending will examine whether the trouble-hit Monju prototype fast-breeder reactor should be decommissioned when it screens government projects in late November, sources said.
The Government Revitalization Unit will scrutinize Monju, among other targets, amid growing calls to decommission the reactor in light of the Fukushima crisis, the sources said Friday.
The Monju reactor in Fukui Prefecture and related research had been regarded as key to realizing Japan’s nuclear fuel cycle, in which spent nuclear fuel from power plants would be reprocessed for reuse as plutonium-uranium mixed oxide (MOX) fuel.
But the project, on which the country has so far spent around ¥940 billion, has been hobbled by problems. The reactor first achieved criticality in 1994, but was idled in 1995 because of a sodium coolant leak and resulting fire, which led to a coverup attempt.
The reactor was restarted in May last year, but after experiencing trouble that August, the full operations were delayed.
As the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant has made it difficult, if not impossible, to build new nuclear plants, the government panel will also scrutinize subsidies for localities with atomic plants, the sources said.
There is a poll on the PBS (U.S.) web site regarding nuclear power. Below is the link and a comment from that page.
Poll: The future of nuclear power in the U.S.
A dear friend of mine from Toyko has a message for you all….
“Tell the pro nuclear power folks, that they should accept a free ticket to Japan being offered by the Japan Travel Bureau, it’s in one of my updates last week or the week before. Tell them to come to visit Fukushima, bring the whole family if nuclear power is so darned safe. Be sure to bring their bathing suits, to swim in our radioactive seas, fish in our radioactive oceans, and romp on our radioactive beaches. Of the schools still left standing, most remain closed because of soil contamination. In the ones that have opened their doors again, children are not allowed to play outside. 270 kilometers away in Tokyo, we have discovered radioactive fallout and readings in the most unlikely places. We are now afraid to go out when it rains here. Tell them to bring their own geiger counters and have a fun holiday to remember right here in Japan. We thought it could never happen here, it did, and people are paying the consequences. California is a known active earthquake zone, if a 9.0 magnitude earthquake can happen in Japan, it could happen there as well. They told us we were safe too, look what we got for believing them.”
Real radiation threat is to young
While Gerry Thomas admits that radiation can be very dangerous, the Oct. 9 article “Like Astro Boy, humans may be able to live with radiation” fails to elaborate on what these dangers might be in the context of the Fukushima accident.
She claims that high exposure to radiation does not cause additional tumors in cancer patients, but this is a subset of radiation victims who also get chemotherapy to stop tumor growth, and, unfortunately, most of them are past middle age and die within a few years of treatment. Such findings give no comfort to a healthy 20-year-old who is being exposed to radiation now and wants to know if she’ll get cancer from it over the next 40 years.
The findings on cancer patients give even less comfort to anyone who wants to have children. Thomas would be unqualified to work in her field if she didn’t know that fetuses, babies and children are extremely sensitive to radiation. I don’t know what motivates her to not mention this in the numerous occasions she has spoken in the media. It is a crucial point in the question of whether Fukushima will be a viable place to live, or whether people should be leaving the area now.
Even if we all agree that adults are going to be fine, this will give no peace of mind to people who want to raise children there. Frontier mining towns can thrive for a while with no women or children, but viable human settlements cannot. No children, no life.
Below are parts 1-3 of a 6-part series in the Mainichi Shinbun.
It seems to me that in parts 2 and 3, there is one word missing at the beginning of the title: SOME.
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Journalists’ responsibilities heavy in face of unprecedented crisis (Part 1)
The unprecedented disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, in which fuel meltdowns were found to have taken place simultaneously at three reactors, poses a massive challenge to the media. Looking back, did we promptly deliver accurate information that could save the lives of the public? Reflecting upon our experiences gathering information from the disaster areas, as well as from the Prime Minister’s Office, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), and other groups and individuals, what can we say about our coverage of the ongoing crisis?
Press conferences were held intermittently by TEPCO and NISA beginning March 11, when the nuclear disaster was triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami. As the safeguards meant to guarantee the safety of the nuclear power plant failed one after another, it was our task as reporters to discern the state of the plant with the limited information we had, motivated by a sense of impending danger to residents living in close proximity to the power plant. At the mercy of backtracking government and TEPCO officials, however, we were often at a loss as to how to confirm the legitimacy of the information we were given and how the information should be relayed to the public.
A little after 3:30 p.m. on March 12, images of the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant appeared on the screen of a television at TEPCO’s head office in Tokyo’s Uchisaiwaicho district. It appeared as though just the steel frame of the upper part of the No. 1 reactor building remained. The reporters grew alarmed. “Something’s not right,” one said.
However, even after seeing the footage, TEPCO’s public relations officer stubbornly insisted: “We don’t know what’s going on. We’re trying to confirm with those on the scene.” Finally, at a press conference held four hours later, TEPCO admitted that there had been a hydrogen explosion at the plant’s No. 1 reactor.
By that afternoon, radioactive cesium and iodine were detected in the power plant’s surrounding areas. Koichiro Nakamura, then deputy director-general of NISA and the press officer for the agency, explained that it was possible that a reactor meltdown had taken place. Soon thereafter, Nakamura stopped appearing in press conferences. The new press officer refused to offer any further information, sticking to the line: “We can’t discuss anything until the Prime Minister’s Office has made an announcement.” Subsequently, NISA avoided using the phrase “core meltdown,” replacing it with either “fuel damage” or “core damage.”
However, several months later, it emerged that NISA had previously asked power companies to fake support for nuclear power at a symposium, and on Aug. 10, approximately five months after the onset of the nuclear crisis, then NISA director Nobuaki Terasaka announced: “We recognized the possibility of a core meltdown soon after the incident began.”
On March 12, NISA designated the Fukushima disaster a level 4 on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES), but a month later upgraded it to level 7, the worst level on the scale, which had until then been given only to Chernobyl. An understated announcement would be made, followed later by a revision. Statements concerning the nuclear disaster simply repeated this pattern.
So did TEPCO and the government respond appropriately to the crisis? I cannot shake the feeling that the damage could have been reined in far more than it has been. And slowly, through the efforts of the “Investigation Committee on the Accidents at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Station of Tokyo Electric Power Company” set up by the government, it’s become clear what prevented officials from being more effective.
In preparation for a midterm report to be submitted by the end of the year, the committee has been conducting interviews with TEPCO and government officials. These interviews have revealed that it occurred to neither NISA nor to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) to use a computer system called the System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose Information (SPEEDI), in coming up with an evacuation plan. Furthermore, no one in NISA had even recognized the necessity of contacting neighboring countries, let alone raising the issue, before low-level radioactive water was dumped into the Pacific Ocean on April 4.
What I’ve gathered from my experiences trying to understand the disaster is that both TEPCO and the government have failed to look at the crisis from the point of view of the victims.
Norio Kanno, the mayor of the Fukushima Prefecture village of Iitate, lamented that he did not receive any information from the central government for a month or two after the nuclear disaster began, and suggested that it was because “hearts (of government officials) lacked concern for the disaster areas.” There is anger directed toward media, too, which we as journalists must accept and learn from.
The basic mission of newspapers is to collect information in the field and deliver it accurately to the public. At the beginning of the nuclear crisis, however, we had no idea whether the information we had to work off of was accurate. In addition, many experts were divided on what they believed. Requests for permission to go on-site to the power plant to report were denied by TEPCO. When reporters haven’t looked at the scene themselves, how are they to communicate the very limited information that they do have?
Settling of the ongoing crisis, including decontamination beyond the plant’s borders, is expected to take many years. The investigation into the disaster’s cause has just begun. The responsibility to stand on the side of those who receive the news, and write articles that will contribute to reconstruction and to shed light on the cause of the disaster weighs squarely on our shoulders. (By Junko Adachi, Science and Environment News Department)
(This is part one of a six-part series on coverage of the Fukushima nuclear crisis.)
(Mainichi Japan) October 20, 2011
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Journalists strived to get truth about nuclear fallout to public (Part 2)
The question of how much and where radioactive materials were dispersed by the hydrogen explosions at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant have been of the utmost importance to residents of both Fukushima Prefecture and beyond, and one we began to pursue soon after the nuclear disaster started to unfold.
The government initially designated the area within a 20-kilometer radius of the power plant an evacuation zone, while those living between 20 kilometers and 30 kilometers from the plant were instructed to remain indoors. However, high levels of radiation were being detected even beyond those areas. A long-term advisory to stay indoors had not been a part of the government’s disaster preparedness guidelines, and would pose too great a burden on residents. It seemed to us that a designation of evacuation zones based on actual radiation measurements was necessary.
That was when we came up with the idea of calculating cumulative radiation levels at various locations. At the time, radiation monitoring results released by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) and municipal governments were limited to the amount of radiation detected in the atmosphere per hour (dosage rate). But since local residents would continue to be exposed to radiation, we felt it far more important to provide information on cumulative radiation levels.
When we appealed to MEXT to provide this information, we were told it was not something they could do right away. It was decided then that the Mainichi would crunch the cumulative radiation level numbers by adding together dosage rates released by public sources.
Between March 14 and March 21, the cumulative radiation level in the city of Fukushima reached 1770.7 microsieverts. The figure was 299.7 microsieverts for the Fukushima prefectural city of Iwaki and 34.1 microsieverts for the Tochigi Prefecture capital of Utsunomiya for the same period, and 33.2 microsieverts in the Ibaraki Prefecture capital city of Mito between March 15 and March 21. Having found the cumulative radiation in the city of Fukushima to exceed the average 1500 microsieverts of natural background radiation that we are normally exposed to annually, the Mainichi’s Science and Environment News Department debated what to do with the information, concerned about the public response the information could spark.
Ultimately, we decided to release the information along with the explanation that cumulative radiation levels indicate how much radiation one would be exposed to if they stayed outdoors all day, and that radiation levels in general were trending downwards. We also added commentary from multiple experts that the radiation levels posed no health risks for people “stepping out to shop” for groceries, and published the information in the March 23 morning issue of the Mainichi’s Japanese edition.
Following publication, we received inquiries from various municipal governments in Fukushima Prefecture, and were criticized by some readers for “causing panic among Fukushima city residents.” We maintain, however, that by contributing information on cumulative radiation levels — which until then had been largely ignored — we helped residents come to their own conclusions on what to do next.
On March 25, MEXT began releasing cumulative radiation figures. Since then, it has gone on to conduct detailed monitoring of radiation levels, and has posted predicted cumulative radiation levels through March 2012.
We still regret not having been able to predict that radioactive contamination would spread to the extent that it has. We keep asking ourselves if there was any way we could’ve sounded a more precise alarm when large volumes of radioactive materials were released on March 14 and March 15, as we continue working toward protecting the public from unnecessary exposure. (By Taku Nishikawa, Science and Environment News Department)
(This is part two of a six-part series on coverage of the Fukushima nuclear crisis.)
(Mainichi Japan) October 21, 2011
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Journalists keep close eye on Fukushima nuclear worker radiation exposure (Part 3)
The wide perception gap that has surfaced between Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the tsunami-hit Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, the government and other parties has raised serious questions about the management of plant workers’ radiation exposure.
Shortly after the plant was stricken with meltdowns and hydrogen explosions in March, Mainichi reporters, mainly those with the Tokyo City News Department, began interviewing workers struggling to bring the crippled facility under control.
Most of the workers are from Fukushima Prefecture, and many of them commute to the plant from shelters or dorms where they were taking refuge after their homes were badly damaged in March 11’s natural disasters.
A 30-year-old worker for a sub-subcontractor said he had been told by an employee of the subcontractor, “We won’t write down the amount of radiation you were exposed to during the latest work on your radiation management record. You don’t have to worry about it.”
Radiation exposure amounts and the results of regular medical exams are supposed to be stated clearly on each worker’s radiation management record. If workers suffer from cancer in the future, there will be no proof of the causal relationship between their radiation exposure and the disease unless such data is included in their radiation management records, making them ineligible for workers’ accident compensation benefits.
Further interviews with the utility, the government organizations concerned including the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, and other parties have revealed there was a wide perception gap among them over maximum exposure limits for workers.
Health ministry regulations stipulate that nuclear power station workers can be exposed to a maximum of 100 millisieverts over five years, and 50 millisieverts in a single year. However, in the case of an emergency such as a nuclear accident, they can be exposed to up to 100 millisieverts during work to bring the plant under control. In the Fukushima nuclear crisis, the ministry raised the upper limit to 250 millisieverts.
The ministry concluded that workers who are exposed to 100 to 250 millisieverts during efforts to tame the Fukushima nuclear crisis must be withdrawn from further work for five years on the grounds that the conventional regulations apply to the Fukushima crisis.
However, TEPCO was of the view that the conventional regulations do not apply to the work at the Fukushima plant, arguing that workers should not be deprived of employment for long periods. Because of this, the subcontractor omitted the levels of radiation workers were exposed to from their radiation management records.
“In the end, we are the ones who are going to be left holding the bag,” a 28-year-old worker lamented in an interview with the Mainichi.
The Mainichi published an article about the omission of exposure data from the 30-year-old worker’s radiation management record on the front page of its April 21 morning edition.
It was subsequently learned that at least one TEPCO employee had been exposed to more than 250 millisieverts, prompting the ministry to step up its radiation management instructions to the utility.
There have been some cases of plant workers being exposed to excessive levels of radiation during their work because of sloppy management. We are determined to continue to shed light on how workers’ radiation exposure is being handled in an effort to improve their working environment. (By Satoshi Kusakabe, Takayuki Hakamada and Akiyo Ichikawa, Mainichi Shimbun)