148. Small Amount of Radioactive Substances Found in Breast Milk from Women Living in Fukushima etc., but No Health Effects

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare in Japan released a survey result which shows that small amount of radioactive substances have been found in the breast milk of seven women. The tests were conducted on breast milk samples taken from 23 women living in Fukushima Prefecture and Kanto area. The health ministry officials said the survey result showed “undetected” or “small detection” of radioactive substances so they assumed that there would be no threat to the infant health even if mothers provide breast milk.

According to the health ministry, the breast milk samples were taken on April 24 and 25. As for the amount of the radioactive substances per one kilogram of the breast milk of a woman living in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, 3.5 becquerels of radioactive iodine and 2.4 becquerels of radioactive cesium were founded. In addition, the amount of radioactive iodine that was found in the samples of five women living in Ibaraki Prefecture and one in Chiba Prefecture ranged from 2.2 to 8.0 becquerels.

No radioactive substances were found in the samples taken from the remaining 16 women (three in Fukushima, four in Ibaraki, one in Chiba, one in Saitama, and seven in Tokyo).

There are no national safety standards for radioactive substances in breast milk; therefore, the health ministry provided the assessment based on the provisional drinking water standard (radioactive iodine: 100 becquerels (infants), radioactive cesium: 200 becquerels).

Those surveyed are breast-feeding women living in areas where food shipments are suspended or residents are required to refrain from drinking tap water. The health ministry asked for their cooperation through the Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Source: Asahi Shinbun, Apr 30, 19:00
Translated by M. Kato
Link to original article: http://www.asahi.com/national/update/0430/TKY201104300238.html

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147. Ministry announces provisional safety limit for school

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) announced Apr 19 the provisional standard for the utilization of kindergartens, elementary schools and high schools in Fukushima Prefecture after the prefecture was struck with the nuclear crisis. The ministry has come up with a guideline for deciding whether the school grounds and buildings can be used: in order to stay within the 20 millisievert annual exposure safety limit, all outdoor activities need to be stopped when the radiation level at the schoolyard hits above 3.8 microsievert/hr.

Currently, 13 school institutions fall under this restriction. Dosimeters have been distributed to all facilities, and they will monitor the changes (in the radiation level). This provisional standard will be revised at the end of August.

The current guideline was calculated based on the suggestion given by the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) that “the annual radiation exposure limit after this state of emergency has been brought under control should be (raised to) between 1 to 20 millisievert”. All outdoor activity is to be stopped in the schools if a reading of 3.8 microsievert/hr was recorded in the schoolyard.

If one stays outside for 24 hours when the radiation is at this level, they will be exposed to more than 20 millisievert in a year. However, if a student stays inside the wooden school buildings for 16 hours, the radiation exposure will be reduced to 60%, keeping it below the 20 millisievert limit.

The 13 schools, kindergartens, and nurseries that exceeded this limit are located in Fukushika City, Kooriyama City and Date City, with a total of 3,560 students affected. Outdoor activities in the school grounds and sandboxes are limited to 1 hour in these institutions. Washing hands, gurgling and shaking off the soil from the bottom of their shoes when they arrive at home are some of the suggestions for the children.

Tests on contamination in the school reveal that the effects of internal exposure from breathing in radioactive dust is only 3.5 %, even in schools with high readings of radiation levels, and it was concluded that there was no need to take it into account.

Tests on the radiation level will be held in the facilities every week from now on, and the lift on activity restrictions will be reviewed.

A Nuclear Safety Commission official said in a press conference Apr 13 that when it comes to schools, “the annual radiation exposure safety limit for the children should be half that of adults’ at 10 millisievert,” but withdrew his statement the next day, stating that it was not based on an official decision.

Representative chairman of NRC, Yutaka Kukita, commented Apr 19 that a few reasons, such as the low likelihood of a student remaining outside school buildings for more than 8 hours, means that “we can expect the radiation exposure for each student to remain below 20 millisievert, even if the radiation level exceeds 3.8 microsievert/hr.”

Source: Asahi Shinbun, Apr 20, 1:36
Translated by I. Salim
Edited by English native speaker
Link to original article: http://www.asahi.com/special/10005/TKY201104190598.html

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146. Radiation increases slightly Apr 19, all prefectures remain above normal level

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) released data on the radiation level in the atmosphere for Apr 19. The levels for 6 Prefectures and the Capital, including Tochigi Prefecture, Saitama Prefecture and Tokyo, increased slightly due to the rain.

Some areas 30 km southwest of the plant showed slight increases the day before but  has since dropped. The levels are as follows: 21.8 microsievert/hr (28.6 the previous day) in Akougi, Namie City; 9.4 microsievert/hr (17.5) in Shimotsushima, Namie City; and 9.6 microsievert/hr (15.5) in Nadagoro, Iitate village.

Record-high readings of cesium-137 were also detected in nine locations, including Fukushima City and Nihonmatsu City, out of 60 different locations from soil samples taken in Fukushima Prefecture Apr 17 to Apr 18. Nadagoro in Iitate village and Kawamata town recorded 90,000 becquerels/kg and 34,000 becquerels/kg of cesiu respectively.

“The readings may fluctuate depending on the weather and wind direction. We should keep close observation,” a Nuclear Safety Commission official commented on the readings.

Source: Asahi Shinbun, Apr 19, 19:44
Translated by I. Salim
Edited by English native speaker
Link to original article: http://www.asahi.com/special/10005/TKY201104190456.html

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145. Govt lifts spinach restriction

The Kan Administration lifted the shipping restriction placed on spinach harvested in some cities in Ibaraki Prefecture Apr 17. Spinach from the prefecture was detected with radioactive substances exceeding the limit. The restriction remains in effect for spinach in two cities, Kita Ibaraki and Takahagi, in Ibaraki Prefecture. The bans on “kakina” and parsley were also removed for all regions in the prefecture.

The shipping ban was first made Mar 21 for spinach and parsley, and Mar 23 for kakina. The three past tests done on these items in all cities within the prefecture, with the exception of Kita Ibaraki and Takahagi, showed readings below the limit.

The items currently under shipping bans are leaf vegetables in Fukushima Prefecture, raw milk and fresh shiitake mushrooms (grown outdoors) from some municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture, and spinach from all areas in Tochigi Prefecture and 3 cities and towns in Chiba Prefecture.

According to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, monitoring inspections conducted in Fukushima Prefecture detected 880 becquerels of radioactive cesium in fresh shiitake mushroom grown outdoors, which is 1.8 times higher than the provisional limit. No ban has been imposed on this item, but the cesium was detected before it was shipped and distributed into the market.

Source: Asahi Shinbun, Apr 17, 19:57
Translated by I. Salim
Edited by English native speaker
Link to original article: http://www.asahi.com/special/10005/TKY201104170190.html

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144. 6-9 months before complete cold shutdown

TEPCO announced on Apr 17 a progress schedule on the tie up of the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, which has been releasing radioactive substances. It will take 6 to 9 months to shutdown the reactors safely. This is the first time that TEPCO has given a forecast of the amount of time it will take to bring the situation under control. The timeline also showed that the containment vessel in No. 2 and the building that holds the spent nuclear fuel pool in No. 4 were damaged and steps are being taken to address the problem.

Step 1 in the timeline shows that it will take 3 months to cool the reactors for certain and reduce the amount of radiation leak. Step 2 will lead to “cold shutdown”, a stable condition where the reactors remain below 100 degrees, and a great reduction in the radiation leak. The goal is to achieve this stage in 3 to 6 months.

The status of the reactors and buildings were also made clear in the resolution schedule. Cooling in Reactors No. 1 – 3 has only progressed to the level where a further rise in temperature has been avoided while the risk of hydrogen explosion remain. The containment vessel in No. 2 is damaged and highly radioactive water is leaking from the reactor. The spent nuclear fuel pool in No. 4 has been releasing radioactive substances into the air and the schedule indicates that it is not adequately equipped to handle explosions or earthquakes.

Based on these facts, Step 1 works towards preventing another hydrogen explosion by filling the containment vessel with nitrogen, and also filling it up with water for stable cooling. As for No. 2, the areas around the damaged parts will be strengthened with cement so that water will not leak out. Step 2 aims to maintain cold shutdown by repairing the cooling devices in the reactors and ensuring coolant water circulation in the facility.

Step 1 for the fuel pool at No. 4 consists of constructing concrete props in the empty space at the bottom of the facility. Step 2 involves continued water pumping using water trucks, while restoring the cooling devices to ensure water circulation. Mid-term task includes retrieving the nuclear fuel and storing it (some place safe).

For the problem of radioactive water leaking into the ocean and the atmosphere, Step 1 works to obtain tanks to store the highly radioactive water whereas the next step will try to cover the reactor buildings with tent-shaped sheets. The third step will be to build concrete buildings around the reactor buildings. A system to inform the residents of the radiation level quickly and simply is also being expanded.

“We are not saying this plan will be fully achieved. But we need to start doing all that we need in order to bring the situation under control and cool the reactors,” said the chairman of TEPCO, Tsunehisa Katsumata.

Source: Asahi Shinbun, Apr 17, 20:56
Translated by I. Salim
Edited by English native speaker
Link to original article: http://www.asahi.com/special/10005/TKY201104170124.html

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143. Cesium and Iodine exceeding standard off Fukushima coast

Cesium-137 twice the limit at 186 becquerels/liter and iodine-131 four times the limit at 161 becquerels/liter were detected in the ocean 34 km east of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, announced the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology on Apr 16. This is the highest level ever detected in this area, and the first time cesium was detected exceeding the limit in seawater.

It is very likely that highly-radioactive water leaked and spread into the ocean from the plant.

The samples were taken Apr 15 morning from 10 meters below the surface of the ocean. Two other locations further south also revealed radioactive iodine that almost reaches the limit. The lower level samples taken 10 meters below the ocean surface did not show any radioactive substances.

The concentration level of radioactive substances near the sluice gate of Reactor No.2 has increased again, announced TEPCO Apr 16. Previously, the water leaked into the ocean from cracks but it is believed that it may have leaked out through different routes this time.

Iodine-131 was 1,100 times above the limit on Apr 14, but the number jumped to 6,500 on Apr 15. As for cesium-137, the reading of 370 times higher than limit on Apr 14 increased to 1,400 times above the limit the following day. Water curtain (silt fence) was installed at the sluice gate to prevent the spread of radioactive contamination. It is possible that the test reading went up due to the accumulation of radioactive water behind the curtain, but the possibility of water leaking from different cracks cannot be dismissed either.

Source: Asahi Shinbun, Apr 16, 23:52
Translated by I. Salim
Edited by English native speaker
Link to original article: http://www.asahi.com/special/10005/TKY201104160390.html

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142. Russian tests reveal Tokyo radiation half of Moscow

Head of Russia’s Federal Medical-Biological Agency, Vladimir Uiba, visited Japan to investigate the effects of the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. He held a press conference in the embassy in Tokyo Apr 15 and indicated his intentions to propose to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to lift the advisory warning against travel to Japan.

“The radiation level in Tokyo is half of Moscow’s, which has a higher natural radiation level than Japan to begin with,” he explained.

Upon his arrival Apr 8, Secretary Uiba tested the radiation level in the embassy and in Tokyo. Results reveal that the radiation level in Tokyo is half of the regular standard of Moscow. Health inspections of embassy staff also do not show any abnormalities in their thyroid glands. The Russian government had placed the warning against tourist travels to Japan based on their own experience with the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

Source: Asahi Shinbun, Apr 16, 0:40
Translated by I. Salim
Edited by English native speaker
Link to original article: http://www.asahi.com/special/10005/TKY201104150580.html

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