Friday, February 24, 2012

Fukushima Update

We don't get to hear this sort of news in the US press too much as the nuclear melt down in Japan has long since cycled out of public consciousness but there is news still coming out of the broken reactors, and none of it seems too good. From Mainichi Dail News:

FUKUSHIMA (Kyodo) -- The Fukushima Prefecture government said Monday that the residents of three municipalities located near the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant are estimated to have been exposed to up to 23 millisieverts of radiation in the four months after the accident triggered by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

"As annual radiation exposure of up to 100 millisieverts poses no specific cancer risks, the estimated radiation is unlikely to cause any adverse health effects," Fukushima Medical University Vice President Shunichi Yamashita told a press conference. "It is important to reduce future radiation exposure as much as possible."

While the allowable radiation exposure limit is ordinarily set at 1 millisievert per year, the International Commission on Radiological Protection has recommended an emergency limit of 20 to 100 millisieverts.

Of 9,474 residents, excluding nuclear plant workers, in Namie, Kawamata and Iitate, 5,636 people, or 57.8 percent, were exposed to radiation of less than 1 millisievert during the four months, the local government said.

Those exposed to radiation of 1 to less than 10 millisieverts totaled 4,040 people, or 41.4 percent.

Around 71 people were exposed to 10 millisieverts or more, including two people exposed to over 20 millisieverts. The maximum exposure was 23 millisieverts.

Radiation of 20 millisieverts was adopted as the standard for designating the so-called emergency evacuation preparation zone -- outside the no-go zone around the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

Including nuclear plant workers, the number of residents of the three municipalities exposed to 10 millisieverts or more of radiation totaled 95 people. The maximum exposure among that larger group was estimated at 47.2 millisieverts.

The prefectural government is now conducting a health survey of all its approximately 2 million residents. They were sent questionnaires asking where they were after the nuclear crisis began and about their activity since.

However, only 52.1 percent of the questionnaires sent to the residents of the three municipalities, and 21 percent of all the questionnaires sent throughout the prefecture, had been collected as of the end of January, according to the local government.

In another development on Monday, a civic group said it had detected radioactive cesium of up to 1.08 million becquerels per kilogram in soil from a car park in Minamisoma located in the evacuation preparation zone set after the nuclear plant crisis. The designation of the location for evacuation was lifted in September.

In this March 24, 2011 file photo, a young evacuee is screened at a shelter for leaked radiation from the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant in Fukushima, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)"The high-level radioactive contamination indicates that humans should not be allowed to live near the car park," said Kobe University Professor Tomoya Yamauchi, who conducted a radiation test on the soil.

The crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant has resulted in heavy concentrations of radioactive substances at various locations in Minamisoma.

The civic group said its discovery indicates that a fact-finding survey is urgently required throughout the city.

Minamisoma municipal officials said they have detected radioactive cesium of around 710,000 becquerels per kilogram in the soil at the car park. But the soil is thin and limited in volume and area, presenting little health hazard, they said.

(Mainichi Japan) February 20, 2012

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