A radiation monitoring post in Fukushima city.
March 14, 2019
Despite government claims, radiation from the 2011 nuclear disaster is not gone.
Fukushima, on the other hand, is dealing with the release of radionuclides, which are fission products from nuclear power plants. These radionuclides are not rays, but dust-like particles that can stick to the body and be inhaled or ingested. Weather factors like wind and rain have displaced many radionuclides like cesium-137, which accumulate in patchy locations, such as ditches, drainage areas, or playgrounds. Because of this uneven dispersion, monitoring posts often overlook the presence of hot spots, places where the level of radiation is significantly greater. Dissatisfied by state-sponsored monitoring, many citizen scientists have collectively tracked and monitored residual radioactivity in Japan, legitimizing the presence of hot spots.
To measure radiation levels in Fukushima, the Japanese government has installed monitoring posts that display the current atmospheric level of radiation on an electronic board. Measurements of radiation levels in the air are taken at different locations and compiled to create an average level of radiation for the cities of Fukushima.
Monitoring posts are also strategically placed and their surrounding areas cleaned so that the levels of radiation remain lower. No monitoring posts are present in forests and mountains, which represent more than 70 percent of the area of Fukushima prefecture.
On top of such problems, radiation posts only measure radiation in the form of gamma rays. Yet the disaster has also released radionuclides that emit ionized particles, that is, alpha and beta particles. These ionized particles are not taken into account by state monitoring posts, even though they are dangerous if inhaled or ingested. Consequently, the data accumulated by monitoring posts is partial and unrepresentative of the extent of radioactive contamination.
Levels of radiation have also decreased due to a massive state-sponsored program of radioactive decontamination in the urban and rural areas of Fukushima. The process of decontamination consists of collecting and removing radioactive pollutants. Radionuclides are then contained in vinyl bags, so as to impede the risk of rescattering residual radioactivity. As a testament of the government-led decontamination, mountains of black plastic bags, filled with contaminated soil or debris, can be seen in many parts of Fukushima, forming a stark contrast against the emerald-green mountains of the region.
As such, decontamination does not imply that radiation has vanished; it has simply been moved elsewhere. Yet in rural regions, where many of the bags are currently being disposed, far away from the eyes of urban dwellers, residents are still forced to live near the storage sites. Many rural residents have criticized the actual efficacy of the decontamination projects. For instance, vinyl bags are now starting to break down due to the build-up of gas released by rotten soil. Plants and flowers have also started to grow inside the bags, in the process tearing them apart. With weather factors, residual radioactivity inside the bags will eventually be scattered back into the environment.
In the end, state-sponsored monitoring and decontamination are remedial measures that manage the perception of radiation in the environment. However, this does not imply that radioactive contamination is gone – not at all. When we look at the official maps of radiation of northeastern Japan, levels are low, but there are many ways to make them appear low. With overall lifespan that exceeds hundreds of years, radionuclides like cesium-137 or strontium-90 will continue to pose a problem for decades to come. However, with the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics, it is doubtful that the Japanese state will ever acknowledge this reality.
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March 12, 2019
A study has found that forests contain most of the radioactive cesium released during the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident.
About 70 percent of the cesium released into the environment is believed to have accumulated in forests near the plant.
There has been concern that the radioactive substance could spread to residential and farming areas, because little progress has been made in decontaminating the forests.
March 13, 2019
There was an increase in the number of operations performed on neonates and infants with complex congenital heart disease after the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami that resulted in a nuclear accident at Fukushima, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
“Although this research focuses on events that occurred in Japan, the potential for nuclear accidents throughout the world is a global health concern,” Kaori Murase, PhD, associate professor at Nagoya City University in Japan, said in a press release. “Our study suggests that a nuclear accident might increase the risk for complex congenital heart disease.”
Researchers analyzed data from annual surveys conducted between 2007 and 2014 by the Japanese Association for Thoracic Surgery. The years that were included in the survey were the 4 years before and after the Japanese earthquake on March 11, 2011. The surveys included information on 45 surgical classifications for congenital heart disease. Patients with congenital heart disease were categorized into two groups based on the time of occurrence during heart development, complexity and the age at operation.
There was a 14.2% increase in the number of operations per 100,000 live births for complex congenital heart disease in neonates and infants. There was no significant change in the number of operations performs in patients aged 1 to 17 years.
“The cause of the increase is unknown, but we should consider the influence of the radionuclides emitted from the Fukushima nuclear power plant,” Murase and colleagues wrote. “More specific patient data such as time, location and amount of maternal exposure would be required to determine the cause.” – by Darlene Dobkowski
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The trial, which began in June 2017, ended on Tuesday. The court is expected to deliver its sentence on September 19.
March 12, 2019
Lawyers for three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. called for their acquittal in their final defense plea on Tuesday in a negligence case stemming from the Fukushima nuclear crisis in 2011.
The defense team said that it was impossible for them to foresee the massive tsunami that engulfed the Fukushima No. 1 power plant and caused fuel meltdowns following a 9.0 magnitude earthquake that rocked the coastal Tohoku region.
The day after the nation marked the eighth anniversary of the March 11, 2011, disasters, the lawyers for Tsunehisa Katsumata, 78, Tepco chairman at the time of the crisis, and Ichiro Takekuro, 72, and Sakae Muto, 68, both vice presidents, told the Tokyo District Court they “do not recognize any predictability in the disaster.”
The three men have been indicted for allegedly failing to take measures against the massive tsunami and causing the deaths of 44 hospital inpatients and injuries to 13 others during the evacuations prompted by fuel meltdowns and hydrogen explosions at the plant.
Court-appointed lawyers acting as prosecutors have called for five-year prison terms for the three, claiming they could have prevented the nuclear disaster had they fulfilled their responsibilities in collecting information and taking safety measures.
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Fukushima, after eight years: Of the 19 to 25 million tons of contaminated topsoil bagged up across the country, the government has suggested incinerating 11 million tons..