Back on Day 282 (Dec 19), I started a translation of an article from the #87 issue of the Chernobyl Children’s Fund, Japan, Newsletter which is published every three months. See past issues (in Japanese) at http://homepage2.nifty.com/chernobyl_children/news.html
Here, I continue with part of the article. Again, this is a summary of the most important points in the article. I am an amateur translator, no guarantees of complete accuracy.
Rates of children’s thyroid cancer in Europe are one in 1,000,000. In Japan, it’s such a rare disease that there hasn’t been much data collected on it. In Chernobyl, children’s thyroid cancer is 3,000-4,000 times the world average. Of 350 children tested, 1 had thyroid cancer.
100-120 kms away from Chernobyl is the city of Kiev. Children were evacuated from Kiev. The Ukrainian prime minister was a woman. She ordered schools closed, and the children were told, “We’re going to have an early summer vacation,” in a place the children longed for, the Krimea region, at a Black Sea resort. She told them, “I will give you this trip as a present.” She did not use the word “evacuate”, but said it would be a fun summer vacation. Many, many children were so happy to board the train to leave. The wealthy had made their reservations to spend the summer at this resort area, but all the reservations were cancelled, and the children went.
The flow of food is going to be very important from now on.
In the case of Chernobyl, where the food was made was important, but it doesn’t stop there. Citizens were living many kms away. The food was being carried from dangerously contaminated areas, and they didn’t know it. People who were really in trouble financially had to sell contaminated food to make a liviing. Those people who were really in trouble would not say where the food was made. In Japan, this is going to be the same situation.
We only know a tiny bit about where our food comes from. Food from Fukushima is brought at night. It is sold at the main market in Nagoya very, very cheaply, so eastern Japan buyers go there to buy it. In this way, it can never be known exactly where the food came from. So, we must protect ourselves on our own, and the only way to do that it is by measuring the food we are eating.
The IAEA said that there were no cases of children’s thyroid cancer in Chernobyl, so even if cases of child thyroid cancer are found, the WHO cannot report the cause as being form Chernobyl.
Gov’t unveils lower radioactive limits for food
TOKYO (Kyodo) — The health ministry proposed Thursday new limits on radioactive cesium found in food and a task force under its food sanitation council approved the proposed stricter ceilings at a meeting.
It plans to enforce them from April.
The proposal calls for a ceiling of 100 becquerels per kilogram for regular food items such as rice, meat, vegetables and fish, one-fifth the current 500-becquerel limit.
It calls for a limit of 50 becquerels of cesium per kg of milk or infant food, including powdered milk, and a 10-becquerel limit on drinking water, against the current 200-becquerel limit set by the government following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in March.
Grace periods of between six and nine months will be set for food items such as rice and beef.
The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry will refer the proposal to the science ministry’s radiation council and hold briefing sessions in seven prefectures, including Fukushima, Tokyo and Osaka, from January and will seek public comment.
(Mainichi Japan) December 23, 2011
Radioactive Rice from Watari District, Fukushima City: 1540 Bq/Kg
News of radioactive cesium rice just keeps coming from Fukushima Prefecture. This time, it is from Watari District again, and the number is the highest found so far.
From Yomiuri Shinbun (12/22/2011):
Radioactive cesium exceeding the national provisional safety limit (500 becquerels/kg) has been found in rice harvested in Fukushima City and other cities in Fukushima Prefecture. On December 22, the Fukushima prefectural government announced that 1540 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium was found in rice grown by a farmer in Watari District in Fukushima Prefecture.
It is the highest level of radioactive cesium in rice detected so far. The rice is kept at the farmer’s home, and not sold in the market.
Well, it is the “official” highest level, and it is approaching the “unofficial” high (2600 becquerels/kg) measured in rice grown in the soil taken from Iitate-mura by Professor Kazue Tazaki of Kanazawa University. A similar amount of radioactive cesium was detected in rice grown in Iitate-mura (unofficially by an irate farmer who was forced to relocate).
Farm soil in Watari District in Fukushima was never officially tested for radioactive materials. An NPO (FoE Japan) tested soil samples from Watari with the help of Professor Yamauchi of Kobe University, but they are not from rice paddies or fields. The Fukushima prefectural government still doesn’t test it. I am very curious to know the radiation levels in the farm soil in Watari and elsewhere where radioactive cesium has been detected in rice exceeding the provisional limit.
As you can imagine, sales of Fukushima rice, which was shipped with great fanfare with the declaration of safety by the governor of Fukushima in early October, has ground to a halt. But I hear that a large food distributor Aeon is determined to sell bento (lunch box) and onigiri (rice ball) proudly featuring the “safe” Fukushima rice to help Fukushima farmers, supposedly.
Radioactive Tomato in Kashiwa City, Chiba Prefecture
18.5 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium has been detected from tomatoes grown in Kashiwa City in Chiba Prefecture. The survey was done by one of the largest supermarket chain AEON.
From Savechild.net (12/23/2011):
The large supermarket chain AEON announced on November 8 that it would conduct a more thorough analysis of radioactive materials in food items, and it has been publishing the results on its homepage. There has been occasional detection of radioactive cesium in marine products, but never in vegetables. However, according to the result published on December 22, 18.5 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium was detected from tomatoes grown in a contract farm in Chiba Prefecture.
The tomatoes in question were tested on December 15, according to the AEON’s webpage.
Savechild.net reports that a quick phone call to AEON revealed that the tomatoes came from a contract farm in Kashiwa City which is located in the high-radiation northwest corner of Chiba Prefecture.
Savechild.net also speculates that at this time of the year these tomatoes must be grown in a hot house.
So where could radioactive cesium have come from? Water? Soil? Fertilizer? (I hope they weren’t using rice hay as soil cover…)
AEON’s page that lists the results of vegetable surveys is here. It looks the detection limit for tomatoes (as well as other vegetables) were higher in the earlier surveys, so it is possible that radioactive cesium had been there in the earlier samples but not detected.
AEON’s page that lists the results of the radiation survey is here.
On a separate piece of news, AEON’s subsidiary AEON MALL has won the contract for a redevelopment project right behind the Onahama Port in Iwaki City in Fukushima Prefecture, according to Fukushima Minpo. Promoting Fukushima rice and produce has paid out well for AEON Group, it looks.
And since we’re on the topic of food tonight, if you are in the U.S.A., you might be interested in what the FDA is allowing to enter the country… Have a look for yourself at:
Yokohama radiation testing facility: Resident personally detects 1,850 disintegrations per second in a liter of soil — 250 km from Fukushima meltdowns (VIDEO)
News with video at:
From Bloomberg – Business Week at:
Hosono Says Fukushima Plant Is in ‘Equivalent of Cold Shutdown’
December 19, 2011, 6:03 AM EST
By Stuart Biggs
Dec. 19 (Bloomberg) — Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s crippled reactors in Fukushima are in a state “equivalent to cold shutdown” even though the definition would be different in the case of an undamaged plant, Goshi Hosono, the minister in charge of responding to the disaster, said today.
“We understand that there is a difference between the cold shutdown state for a normal nuclear reactor and the state of cold shutdown that we have achieved at Fukushima Dai-Ichi,” Hosono told reporters in Tokyo. “The goal is to have nuclear fuel where it is kept in a cold state and to ensure that radioactive materials are not emitted. That is the whole point of the cooling system that we have in place.”
The government on Dec. 16 announced Tokyo Electric had achieved the milestone, which has been disputed because some scientists have argued that cold shutdown doesn’t apply to melted reactors.
Cold shutdown describes a reactor’s cooling system operating at atmospheric pressure and below 93 degrees Celsius (200 degrees Fahrenheit), according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Tokyo Electric has released data showing it meets these criteria at Fukushima, Hosono said.
My present state (from KS in Fukushima)
Declaring that the Situation is Safe with No Clear Explanation Led to Anxiety
The explosions at the nuclear power plant right after 3.11 were a great shock to all of my family. The earthquake affected phone connectivity, but my father who lives away from us due to his work managed to contact us by phone. He told me, “Get your wife and child and run, right away!” I did not understand what he meant. I thought, “Why do we need to run, when the government is saying that it’s safe?”
We had a heated argument on the phone – It’s the only time I have been yelled at by my father since I became an adult. He said to me, “Look at the map!” Then I realized that the nuclear power plant was much closer to our home than I had thought. I realized how close it is to our home, although it felt so far away when I went there with my family in my childhood.
However, I could not convince myself to leave my mother and my grandparents behind. It is a natural thought because they are my family. But in reality, it was impossible — both of my grandparents are over 85 and they require nursing care. Evacuating could have made them ill, so we had to make a sad decision. They had to stay with my mother. When we were having this discussion, I saw my grandmother cry for the first time. Facing the reality that they could not evacuate, although they wanted to, left me feeling powerless. We packed our things with tears in our eyes.
My mother saw us off with a smile, telling me, “We have no regrets because we have lived long enough. We want you young people to stay healthy and live long. That will make us happy. You should do everything you can to protect your wife and child!” I have not forgotten how sad it was to see my mother shedding tears in the rear view mirror as we drove off.
After we arrived at our new apartment in a different town, we opened the boot of the car to find the food that I had originally brought to my parents’ house to give to my mother and grandparents after the earthquake, as well as the food from my parents’ house. My mother must have packed them for us.
I decided to write this blog article because I wanted people to know that even people who lived outside the evacuation zones found themselves in this surreal situation.
Our Health Problems / Neighboring People’s Reaction to the ContaminationMy family members experienced health problems around three weeks after the nuclear disaster. My grandmother suffered a cerebral infarction caused by high blood pressure although she used to have low blood pressure. My grandfather, who insisted on eating budded leaf vegetables harvested from his contaminated kitchen garden, suffered from very bad diarrhea and lost weight rapidly. My mother’s voice became raspy just like a boy at puberty. I am not an expert and cannot tell if exposure to radiation directly caused these changes, but I was surprised to see my family members suddenly fall ill because before then they had not had any major diseases. I also felt weary and I felt light-headed for about a month after the explosions at the nuclear power plant.
After moving, it took me a while to get better and start thinking about what was going on. I started being concerned about radiation levels where we live.
I measured radiation levels around my parents’ house with a radiation counter that I managed to purchase. It measured between 1.2 and 45.0 μSv/hour outdoors depending on the area. The counter made a continuous noise from the speaker as radiation hit the detector tube. Despite the elevated radiation levels, the neighboring areas looked peaceful and life was going on as usual.
Food shortages, which were the main concern, gradually decreased while the aftershocks continued. However, the general public had no idea that enormous amounts of radiation were continuously hitting their bodies.
Individual people started “declaring that everything was safe” by themselves one after another without having any detailed knowledge of what was going on. My father was one of them.
When I was wondering what I (who evacuated leaving some of my family members behind) could do, I saw Safecast on the TV by chance. I wanted to help with their measurement activities.
Totally Changed LifestyleOur lifestyle completely changed while our family ties strengthened after the explosions at the nuclear power plant on March 12.
My family used to grow various vegetables in our kitchen garden and all the family members joined the “harvest festival” in the harvest season. We would hold various annual events using the harvested vegetables such as barbecues and a “pork miso soup party.” It was my father’s delight to send freshly harvested vegetables to his friends and acquaintances every year who would then call to thank him. However, after gardening for many years he had to stop this year. This is because a Geiger counter we borrowed from Safecast made a continuous noise, just like the snow on an analog TV, when we held the counter close to the garden soil. This told us that a lot of radioactive material fell on the garden. After hearing this sound, my father silently pulled up the vegetables that he had planted.
I later asked my father why he was not growing vegetables in the garden this year. He said that he could not have his garden vegetables checked for radioactivity because his vegetables are not for commercial use and it is unbearable to let his grandchild and other family members eat vegetables which have not been confirmed safe. He also told me that stopping growing vegetables all together is the best way to protect everyone because once he grows the vegetables, it would be very hard for him not to give them to people or eat them himself.
We used to take my child to my parents’ house often so that they can see how fast their grandchild is growing, but such chances decreased after the accident. My child began walking but we cannot let him walk around the garden of my parents’ home any more.
My father and I have just completed a large wooden deck and a sandbox which we were working on since last year. Sadly, they became hotspots (9600 cpm). My family has completely lost the outdoor part of our own home.
Sad Safecast MeasurementI was able to learn how to take measurements using a bGeigie (a Geiger counter in a bento-box) after receiving a brief explanation when I borrowed the device. Taking measurements is very easy. You attach the bGeigie to the side of your car, switch it on and then drive around. You then attach the data to an email and send it.
At first, I did not notice the situation in the areas I was driving around because I was more interested in this new measurement system. As I got used to using the device, I started to feel uncomfortable with what I was seeing.
While I had the radiation counter (that I bought) inside the car, the alarm kept going off, but children in front of me were sitting on the ground and enjoying fishing, elementary school students were running in the water in a roadside ditch as they played tag and a little child and mother were enjoying strolling around.
I did not know if that particular place was dangerous at the time, but the place was marked with red and brown when I later saw the Safecast measurement map (colors closer to red and brown indicate higher radiation levels). I realized that the general public does not know that a large amount of fallout came down on the area. It made me very sad and at the same time, I felt angry at myself because I could not solve any of these problems.
Although it is not glamorous work, I believe that our measurement efforts will contribute to a better future for our children.
US expert: time to scrap reactors unknown
Charles Casto told NHK on Wednesday that the true situation inside the reactors remains unknown. Casto represents a team from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission dispatched to Japan since the nuclear accident in March.
Casto said that after the accident his team advised the Japanese government to continue injecting sea water into the reactors, as well as fresh water, to cool down spent nuclear fuel.
He also said Japanese authorities failed to provide appropriate information to the US government soon after the accident.
Casto said his team felt deep dissatisfaction with Japan for providing only limited information from a small number of engineers.
Last Friday, Japan declared the Fukushima reactors had reached a state of cold shutdown — the second phase in the program to bring the facility under control.
Wednesday, December 21, 2011 20:50 +0900 (JST)
Plutonium brings no real chance of prosperity
Some readers appear to wonder why I recently write only about nuclear power generation in this column. I do so because I believe that it is a crucial issue that will determine the fate of Japan as well as the whole world.
There have recently been various news reports that offer valuable insight into the future of nuclear power generation. The Dec. 2 morning edition of the Mainichi Shimbun ran an article reporting that in 2002, the then administrative vice minister of economy, trade and industry and the chairman and president of Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) were nearing an agreement to withdraw from a nuclear fuel recycling project.
Article continues at:
US nuclear regulator approves new reactor design
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved a new reactor, paving the way for the resumption of nuclear power plant construction in the country.
It was designed by a Westinghouse Electric, a US unit of Toshiba.