A team of international researchers has found that levels of radioactive material in farmland in parts of northeastern Japan exceed safety standards.
The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, found that Fukushima prefecture was “highly contaminated” after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was damaged in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
The level of radioactive material found in neighboring prefectures, such as Miyagi, Tochigi and Ibaraki, was lower but could still pose a threat to food production in some areas, the researchers said.
The study, led by Teppei Yasunari of the Universities Space Research Assn. in Maryland, looked at levels of cesium-137, which is of particular concern because it takes decades to decay.
The researchers used daily measurements collected in most prefectures along with computer-generated models of particle dispersion based on weather patterns to estimate the level of contamination across Japan.
The legal limit in Japan for concentrations of cesium-137 and cesium-134 in farm soil is 5,000 becquerels per kilogram (2.2 pounds). Cesium-137 makes up about half of the total for the concentrations, which are produced together.
The study found that the level of contamination in east Fukushima exceeded the safety limits. Results from neighboring prefectures were within the legal limits, but the researchers advised local authorities to conduct supplementary soil sampling.
TOKYO – JAPAN banned the shipment of green tea leaves grown in four prefectures around Tokyo on Thursday after radioactive caesium above legal levels was found in samples, a media report said.
It was the latest produce shipment ban since the massive March 11 seabed quake and tsunami crippled the Fukushima nuclear plant northeast of Tokyo, which has since leaked radiation into the ground, air and sea.
The ban covers tea leaves from parts of the Tochigi, Chiba and Kanagawa prefectures and all of Ibaraki prefecture, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare said, Kyodo News agency reported.
Kanagawa, southwest of Tokyo, said in early May it had detected radiation above the legal limit in tea grown there and blamed it on the stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant, which suffered partial meltdowns.
Kanagawa prefecture then started a recall of the tea after measuring about 570 becquerels of caesium per kg in leaves grown in the city of Minamiashigara. The legal limit is 500 Bq/kg.
The Fukushima Daiichi plant is located some 220km north-east of Tokyo and 280km from Minamiashigara. — AFP
“The alarm is ringing. That means danger,” says Keiko Sanpei, above, with a nervous laugh as she looks at a meter which shows radiation levels, at her dairy farm, more than five times the health limit. “I was afraid when I first returned. But being with the cows, that fear goes away.”
Sanpei’s home is in Namie, a radiation hotspot 17 miles downwind of the leaking Fukushima nuclear plant. It is just outside the government’s mandatory exclusion zone, but the ground here was so contaminated during the crisis residents are now exposed to almost as much radiation as someone standing outside the plant’s west gate.
Namie has become a ghost town. The fields, normally a hive of activity in this season, are deserted. Roads are almost empty, apart from emergency vehicles and a police van that blocks the route into the 16 mile-radius exclusion zone.
Almost all of the 2,000 residents followed government advice to evacuate after the explosion at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant on 15 March, but Sanpei and her husband were among a few dozen farmers who returned, more concerned for their cattle than their personal safety.
“I could hear the cows in my ears mooing. I couldn’t sleep. I was so worried,” says Sanpei as one of the herd licks her arm. “We came back after a week. Even though the radiation was frightening, when we saw the cows again we had peace of mind.”
TOKYO >> More than 200 farmers brought two cows to Tokyo where they shouted and punched the air Tuesday in a protest to demand compensation for products contaminated by radiation spewing from Japan’s crippled nuclear plant.
The farmers from northeastern Japan wore green bandanas and held signs saying “Nuclear disaster is human disaster” and “Stop nuclear energy” outside the headquarters of Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the plant damaged in the March 11 tsunami.
Radiation leaking from Fukushima Dai-ichi plant — about 140 miles (220 kilometers) north of Tokyo — has been found in milk, water and leafy vegetables such as spinach from around the plant.
“I could not sit still in Fukushima. I want TEPCO to understand our frustration, anxiety and worries over our future,” said 72-year-old Katsuo Okazaki, who grows peaches and apples. “My patience has run out. The nuclear crisis is totally destroying our farming business,” he said.
Hawaii state health officials have sent samples of Big Island groundwater for testing after the release of radiation from Japanese nuclear power plants last month.
West Hawaii today reported Friday health officials took samples from Waimea’s groundwater supplies to be sent to the mainland for testing.
Results are expected next week or early next month.
County officials are to ask the Board of Water Supply to approve a contract change that would allow for in-house lab tests for radiation or to request tests from the lab contractor.