Further updated on Oct 20th

Radiation map gives close-up fallout readings (Japan Times, Oct 20)
The science ministry said Wednesday it has posted a radiation map that visitors to its website can enlarge to see to what extent their neighborhoods had been contaminated by fallout from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

The website launched by the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry is now available in Japanese only.

The map shows measurements of radiation and radioactive cesium taken from aircraft in 10 prefectures, including Tokyo and Fukushima, between April and September. It also includes data the ministry collected from soil samples at around 2,200 sites in Fukushima Prefecture and radiation levels within a 100-km radius of the power plant.

Roads, schools and other public facilities such as city halls are visible on the 1-to-12,500 scale map, in which 1 cm is equivalent to 125 meters. Areas with the highest radiation level, over 19.0 microsieverts per hour, are colored in red, while dark blue indicates the lowest level, no more than 0.1 microsievert per hour.

Users can also locate sites, such as police boxes and post offices, by typing in their names.

According to aerial measurements taken on Sept. 14-18, the Imperial Palace is covered in dark blue, indicating the lowest radiation level. In contrast, a post office in Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, is colored red, based on measurements taken from May 31 to June 24.

“We are providing the public with the information in a way that anyone can view,” said Hirotaka Oku, a ministry official. “It would be appropriate for people to refer to this and consider the best way to avoid exposure to radiation.”

Radiation monitoring by drone begins in Fukushima  (NHK, October 19, 2011)

A city near the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has begun monitoring radiation levels of farmlands and forests with a small unmanned helicopter.

The move comes after the central government lifted an evacuation advisory for parts of Tamura City and 4 other municipalities outside the 20-kilometer no-entry zone around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant at the end of last month.

On Wednesday, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency began monitoring radiation using the drone at the request of the city. The agency tested a 300-meter-long, 150-meter-wide area of a rice field from a helicopter equipped with a measuring instrument about 20 meters above the ground. It also carried out tests on forests.

Data transmitted by the helicopter is reportedly translated into radiation levels 1 meter above the ground and indicated by instruments at ground level.

Aircraft are suitable for measuring radiation levels of large areas and other locations that are difficult for people to access.

In the areas of Fukushima Prefecture where the evacuation advisory has been lifted, residents had previously been advised to stay indoors and prepare for emergency evacuation. But many residents decided to evacuate their homes.

The tasks facing Tamura and the 4 other municipalities are decontamination and radiation monitoring for both residents and evacuees.

3 tons of radioactive water leaks at Fukushima facility(Mainichi, Oct 20)

Three tons of radioactive water leaked from an absorption unit within a treatment facility that purifies highly radioactive water at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, Tokyo Electric Power Co., the plant operator, said Oct. 18.

The radioactive water remained within the treatment facility and did not leak outside, the utility said.

This is the second-largest amount of radioactive water to leak at the purifying plant since a leakage of 6 tons in June.

TEPCO said the water leakage was found in the radioactive cesium absorption unit manufactured by Kurion Inc. of the United States. The location and cause of the leak are under investigation.

The radioactive water had a cesium-137 concentration of 290,000 becquerels per cubic centimeter. The radioactive water that leaked has already been recovered and restored to the central waste treatment facility where it was originally located, the utility said.

Tokyo ward decontaminates areas near elementary school (Mainichi, Oct 19)

Officials from Tokyo’s Adachi Ward, where high radiation levels were detected near an elementary school, announced Oct. 18 that radiation levels decreased significantly after they took immediate measures to decontaminate the affected areas.

The Adachi Ward Office on Oct. 18 removed about 10 centimeters of tainted topsoil found below the gutter of a pool machinery room at the Higashifuchie Elementary School in the ward on Oct. 17.

Ward officials announced that after carrying out the soil decontamination, radiation levels decreased to 0.15 microsieverts per hour from the 3.99 microsieverts initially detected at the school.

The removed soil was placed in bags and buried in the ground approximately 4.5 meters away from the elementary school.

Environmental associations detect high radiation in Tokyo’s Katsushika Ward  (Mainichi, Oct 19)

Two environmental associations in Tokyo’s Katsushika Ward met the ward’s mayor, Katsunori Aoki, on Oct. 18, seeking radiation tests and decontamination measures after they detected radiation of up to 5.47 microsieverts per hour in the ward.

The Katsushika Aozora no Kai, an association that has tackled the issue of atmospheric pollution in Katsushika Ward, and the Katsushika branch of the Tokyo Kogai Kanja to Kazoku no Kai, which represents victims of pollution and their families, made the request after conducting their own radiation tests at 314 locations starting in July. …

Both associations took their measurements below gutters, where it is easy for radioactive materials to collect, using simple radiation measurement devices. At 65 locations, they found the radiation level one to two centimeters above the ground was 1 microsievert per hour or greater, and at least 5 microsieverts per hour in two of those locations.

Officials in Katsushika Ward have been taking weekly measurements at 7 parks in the ward since the end of May, and in August, they conducted radiation tests at all 436 sandpits at kindergartens, schools and other educational facilities. The highest level that had been detected during those tests was 0.57 microsieverts per hour, recorded on Aug. 12 at an elementary school sandpit.

The Katsushika Ward Government has decided to take measurements on roads and other areas near where the two associations detected high levels of radiation, and decide whether or not to go ahead with decontamination measures based on those results.

“This is a level that has not been detected before so we’re surprised,” a ward official commented. “We can’t enter private land, but we want to conduct measurements on public land in the vicinity.”

Katsushika Aozora no Kai head Noriaki Yoshikawa commented, “The situation surrounding Katsushika is extremely serious. The ward should proceed to ascertain the state of contamination and proactively decontaminate these areas.””

High radiation dose found in school ditch in suburban Tokyo (TOKYO, Oct. 19, Kyodo)

Radiation much higher than surrounding levels has been detected in a ditch at an elementary school in Higashimurayama, a suburb of Tokyo, city officials said Wednesday.

Up to 2.153 microsieverts per hour of radiation was found Tuesday when the reading was taken several centimeters above the mud in a ditch near the school’s kitchen, the officials said. The city’s normal radiation dose is about 0.08 microsievert an hour.

The mud was cleaned up on Wednesday. The officials said the high radioactive concentration was likely caused by accumulated rainwater, but did not say whether the contamination is linked to radioactive materials leaked from the crisis-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Fukushima Prefecture.

School’s radioactive compost was 74 times the maximum(Asahi, Oct 19)

UTSUNOMIYA — Compost handled by students at an agricultural high school in Tochigi Prefecture contained 74 times more radioactive cesium than the government’s safety standard.

The Tochigi prefectural board of education said on Oct. 17 that 29,600 becquerels per kilogram of radioactive soil had been found in compost used at the Tochigi Agricultural High School in Tochigi city, far above the government maximum of 400 becquerels per kilogram.

Up to 160 students at the school may have touched the contaminated material, which was supplied through a sales agent on June 27 and July 21. The school used 48 of 70 40-liter bags sourced from a firm in Kanuma, Tochigi Prefecture, for such tasks as preparing pots for seedlings.

Even after the compost from the bags was mixed with soil, the soil-compost mix contained 5,380 becquerels of radioactive cesium.

In July, high concentrations of radioactive cesium were detected in compost from the Kanuma producer by the Tochigi and Akita prefectural governments and, in late July, the Tochigi prefectural government demanded that the producer collect compost that contained excessive radioactive material. The producer did not collect all the compost.

The producer submitted a list of purchasers of the compost to the Tochigi prefectural government, but it was found to be incomplete.

No student has yet been reported to be suffering from health complications related to radioactive exposure.”

Earlier: Adachi school drainpipe has mini hot spot (Japan Times, Oct 19) Excerpted below:

“The radiation reading — 3.99 microsieverts per hour — was detected 5 cm above the ground near the drainpipe at Higashi Fuchie Elementary School when the ward checked Monday, official Hiroyuki Komatsu said. That compares with the 0.25-microsievert threshold the ward set, above which it would remove soil or take other decontamination action, he said.

The end of the downspout stops dozens of centimeters from the ground, and thus rainwater falls to the soil, not to a sewer, he said.

Adachi Ward is in eastern Tokyo, where radiation levels are higher than other southern Kanto areas apparently due to March rains. High-radiation mini hot spots may also be found in other parts of Kanto, including Kashiwa, Chiba Prefecture.

“There will be hot spots we have yet to identify. We will try to find them and take proper measures,” Komatsu said.

The reading of 3.99 microsieverts per hour translates into 21 millisieverts a year, higher than the government limit of 20 millisieverts a year. The ward’s standard, 0.25 microsieverts, is equivalent to 1 millisievert a year.

The ward will remove at least 5 cm of soil at the hot spot and bury it on the school premises in a deep hole, Komatsu said.

The ward will also check other areas at Higashi Fuchie Elementary School and take similar action if other hot spots turn up, he said.

The ward received reports Monday from residents that five locations, including the downspout at the school, recorded high radiation levels. All five places are near the end of drainpipes. The ward checked the sites and four other places and found readings of 0.66, 0.95, 0.43 and 0.68 microsieverts per hour 5 cm above the ground.

From June to August, the ward checked radiation levels at 790 locations, the water in 122 outdoor pools and sand of 593 sandboxes. Those sites are mainly at schools and parks.

The per hour to per year sievert conversion is calculated under the assumption that someone stays outside eight hours and indoors 16 hours a day, and the indoor exposure is 0.4 times that of being outdoors.”…Read more here.

Related: High levels of radiation detected near elementary school pool in Tokyo (Mainichi, Oct 18)

High levels of radiation were detected near a pool at an elementary school in Tokyo, prompting officials to cordon off the area.

A sandbox at an elementary school, where the sand is being replaced, is pictured in Tokyo's Adachi Ward on Aug. 24. (Mainichi)

A sandbox at an elementary school, where the sand is being replaced, is pictured in Tokyo’s Adachi Ward on Aug. 24. (Mainichi)

The Adachi Ward Office announced on Oct. 17 that 3.99 microsieverts of radiation per hour were detected near a machine house for a pool at the Higashifuchie Elementary School in the ward.

According to the ward office, the high levels of radiation were observed five centimeters above the ground below a gutter attached to the machine house. Since there is no drainage, it is easy for water to accumulate in the area, ward officials said. Officials have taken such emergency measures as roping off the area to prevent people from entering.

“We believe the levels detected are localized and would not affect human health, but we will look into our response as soon as possible,” said a ward official in charge of crisis management.

The radiation scare emerged after local residents voluntarily measured radiation and detected 1 microsievert or more per hour of radiation at five locations in the ward including the elementary school. The residents’ move prompted the ward to conduct its own measurement, which has detected levels of radiation ranging from 0.43 to 0.95 microsieverts per hour at the four remaining locations including a park.

Adachi Ward has set its own safety limit, at 0.25 microsieverts per hour, and is supposed to decontaminate an area if higher levels of radiation than the limit are detected. The radiation levels detected in the five locations all exceeded the ward’s safety standards.

High radiation detected at Tokyo school (Yomiuri, Oct. 19, 2011)

Radiation of nearly 4 microsieverts per hour–a level that slightly exceeds the government-set benchmark for designating evacuation zones–was detected Monday at a primary school in Adachi Ward, Tokyo, ward officials said.

The reading was recorded under the drainpipe attached to a gutter of a machinery room next to a swimming pool at Higashi-Fuchie Primary School. Tests conducted Monday found radiation of 3.99 microsieverts per hour at five centimeters above the ground. At the same point, 0.41 microsieverts per hour was measured at a height of 50 centimeters, and 0.24 microsieverts per hour at one meter.

Ward officials have made the area around the “hot spot” off-limits to students. The area will be decontaminated and the topsoil removed, the officials said.

A radiation reading of 3.99 microsieverts per hour equates to a cumulative dose of about 21 millisieverts a year, surpassing the 20-millisieverts-a-year standard the government used to designate expanded evacuation zones after the crisis erupted at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, according to the officials.

“The high reading possibly was caused by the accumulation of rainwater that contained radioactive material released at the outbreak of the nuclear accident,” a ward official said.

The ward office measured radiation levels at the school Monday after being tipped off by residents who had detected high readings at 20 locations in the ward. The office chose five of the 20 points–including Higashi-Fuchie Primary School–where residents had found radiation levels of more than 1 microsievert per hour.

Radioactive cesium detected in Tokyo tea leaves (NHK, October 19, 2011)

Radioactive cesium in levels above the government standard has been detected in tea leaves produced in Tokyo and Saitama, north of the capital. The contamination is believed to have been caused by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant accident.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government says 3 brands of tea leaves grown in northwestern Tokyo have been found to contain 550 to 690 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram. The government limit is 500 becquerels.

The Saitama prefectural government says it found 504 to 2,063 becquerels per kilogram in locally-grown leaves of 97 brands.

The samples tested by the prefecture were not early-picked leaves, which are said to be more likely to contain radioactive material. The prefecture had already found that such leaves of 14 brands contained radioactive cesium above the limit.

The authorities have asked the producers to dispose of their tea leaf stocks.

From the Herald Tribune: Citizen’s Testing Finds 20 Hotspots Around Tokyo (Oct 14)

TOKYO- Takeo Hayashida signed on with a citizens’ group to test for radiation near his son’s baseball field in Tokyo after government officials told him they had no plans to check for fallout from the devastated Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Like Japan’s central government, local officials said there was nothing to fear in the capital, 160 miles from the disaster zone.

Toshiyuki Hattori, who runs a sewage plant in Tokyo, surrounded by sacks of radioactive sludge.

Kazuhiro Yokozeki for The New York Times

Then came the test result: the level of radioactive cesium in a patch of dirt just yards from where his 11-year-old son, Koshiro, played baseball was equal to those in some contaminated areas around Chernobyl.

The patch of ground was one of more than 20 spots in and around the nation’s capital that the citizens’ group, and the respected nuclear research center they worked with, found were contaminated with potentially harmful levels of radioactive cesium.

It has been clear since the early days of the nuclear accident, the world’s second worst after Chernobyl, that that the vagaries of wind and rain had scattered worrisome amounts of radioactive materials in unexpected patterns far outside the evacuation zone 12 miles around the stricken plant. But reports that substantial amounts of cesium had accumulated as far away as Tokyo have raised new concerns about how far the contamination had spread, possibly settling in areas where the government has not even considered looking. …”

““Radioactive substances are entering people’s bodies from the air, from the food. It’s everywhere,” said Kiyoshi Toda, a radiation expert at Nagasaki University’s faculty of environmental studies and a medical doctor. “But the government doesn’t even try to inform the public how much radiation they’re exposed to.”

The reports of hot spots do not indicate how widespread contamination is in the capital; more sampling would be needed to determine that. But they raise the prospect that people living near concentrated amounts of cesium are being exposed to levels of radiation above accepted international standards meant to protect people from cancer and other illnesses.

Japanese nuclear experts and activists have begun agitating for more comprehensive testing in Tokyo and elsewhere, and a cleanup if necessary. Robert Alvarez, a nuclear expert and a former special assistant to the United States secretary of energy, echoed those calls, saying the citizens’ groups’ measurements “raise major and unprecedented concerns about the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.”

The government has not ignored citizens’ pleas entirely; it recently completed aerial testing in eastern Japan, including Tokyo. But several experts and activists say the tests are unlikely to be sensitive enough to be useful in finding micro hot spots such as those found by the citizens’ group.

Kaoru Noguchi, head of Tokyo’s health and safety section, however, argues that the testing already done is sufficient. Because Tokyo is so developed, she says, radioactive material was much more likely to have fallen on concrete, then washed away. She also said exposure was likely to be limited. …”

“Tokyo residents knew soon after the March 11 accident, when a tsunami knocked out the crucial cooling systems at the Fukushima plant, that they were being exposed to radioactive materials. Researchers detected a spike in radiation levels on March 15. Then as rain drizzled down on the evening of March 21, radioactive material again fell on the city.

In the following week, however, radioactivity in the air and water dropped rapidly. Most in the city put aside their jitters, some openly scornful of those — mostly foreigners — who had fled Tokyo in the early days of the disaster.

But not everyone was convinced. Some Tokyo residents bought dosimeters. The Tokyo citizens’ group, the Radiation Defense Project, which grew out of a Facebook discussion page, decided to be more proactive. In consultation with the Yokohama-based Isotope Research Institute, members collected soil samples from near their own homes and submitted them for testing.

Some of the results were shocking: the sample that Mr. Hayashida collected under shrubs near his neighborhood baseball field in the Edogawa ward measured nearly 138,000 becquerels per square meter of radioactive cesium 137, which can damage cells and lead to an increased risk of cancer.

Of the 132 areas tested, 22 were above 37,000 becquerels per square meter, the level at which zones were considered contaminated at Chernobyl.

Edwin Lyman, a physicist at the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington, said most residents near Chernobyl were undoubtedly much worse off, surrounded by widespread contamination rather than isolated hot spots. But he said the 37,000 figure remained a good reference point for mandatory cleanup because regular exposure to such contamination could result in a dosage of more than one millisievert per year, the maximum recommended for the public by the International Commission on Radiological Protection.

The most contaminated spot in the Radiation Defense survey, near a church, was well above the level of the 1.5 million becquerels per square meter that required mandatory resettlement at Chernobyl. The level is so much higher than other results in the study that it raises the possibility of testing error, but micro hot spots are not unheard of after nuclear disasters.” — end of excerpt.

More earlier news about a contaminated Edogawa municipal ballpark complex hotspot … One Tokyo neighborhood still oblivious to radiation hotspot (VOA)

Cesium detected in air until August at 100 km from Fukushima plant(Asahi, Oct 18)

Radioactive cesium discharged from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant was detected some 100 kilometers from the stricken facility even until late August, research shows.

The finding was announced by a joint research team of the Geochemical Society of Japan, the Japan Geoscience Union and the Japan Society of Nuclear and Radiochemical Sciences.

The cesium concentration remained roughly constant at about 0.01 becquerel per cubic meter of air from June to August, but fell to 0.0001-0.0005 becquerel per cubic meter in late August and did not show up at all by the end of August.

Radioactive iodine, with a half-life of only 8 days, was detected only until July at a site 100 km from the plant used for measurements. No contamination was detected in August.

The study team conducted air measurements at 11 sites within 300 km of the Fukushima plant. It was scheduled to present its findings Oct. 18 at an atmospheric chemistry symposium in Uji, Kyoto Prefecture.

According to Fukushima Diary blog, cesium has been found in wildlife in Saitama and data from the Saitama prefectural official website (in Japanese), also from the Fukushima Diary blog, reports of finds of iodine-131 from Tokyo hotspot soil samples sent for testing in late Sept:

According to Tokyo shimbun 10/18/2011, citizens in Hachioji Tokyo, where is one of the worst hot spots around in Tokyo, measured Iodine-131 from the dirt in a gutter.

The gutter is in a public park. Scared citizens measured the gutter, it was0.38 uSv/h.

They took out the soil and sent to a lab on 9/30/2011.

The lab published the result on 10/3/2011.

The data showed:

  • Iodine-131 = 179 Bq/Kg
  • Cs = 8,434 Bq/Kg

The point is, it was in the soil so it has not been affected by medical usage of Iodine.

On 10/1/2011, I posted the article to show Iodine was measured at several different points in Japan.

However, the Iodine was measured in August.

So this case may prove Fukushima went back to recriticality after that again.

Also, 10/3/2011, 32 Bq/Kg of Iodine-131 was measured in sewage sludge of Kawasaki, which is south of Tokyo.(Source)

Sending kids to school becomes heartwrenching decision (Yomiuri, Oct. 19, 2011)

MINAMI-SOMA, Fukushima–It was back to school Monday for five primary and middle schools for the first time since emergency evacuation preparation zones were opened for parts of Minami-Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, and Hisae Suzuki had a special request. “Could you drive the kids to school?” she asked her 65-year-old mother.

A nurse at a hospital in Minami-Soma, Suzuki, 36, worked the night shift the previous day. She plans to drive her three sons to and from Haramachi Daiichi Primary School except for six or seven times a month when she has to work night shifts.

Although emergency evacuation preparation zones created in the wake of the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant have been opened, parents like Suzuki remain worried about their children’s exposure to excessive radiation.

All five schools are located in Minami-Soma’s Haramachi district, which was inside the emergency evacuation preparation zone that covered all or part of five municipalities in the prefecture.

The Suzukis, however, still live at emergency rental housing in Soma available to evacuees after the March 11 disaster, even though the emergency evacuation preparation zone in Minami-Soma was dissolved on Sept. 30.

“Due to concerns over radiation exposure, we won’t return to our house unless we can confirm it’s safe,” Suzuki said.

She is considering sending her eldest son, sixth-grader Shigeyuki, 12, to a middle school in Soma–instead of a school near their original house–in April next year after he graduates from primary school.

Whether or not her children can play their favorite sport, baseball, in Haramachi, will factor into the decision.

However, her two younger sons–fourth-grader Yusuke, 9, and second-grader Kiyonori, 8–have been urging Suzuki to return to Haramachi, saying, “All our friends are there.”

“I’d like my sons to have more freedom to do the things they like,” Suzuki said. “I know we shouldn’t stay at the [Soma] shelter for too long.”

Meanwhile, Reiko Sato, 41, whose family evacuated from Minami-Soma to Yonezawa, Yamagata Prefecture, decided not to allow two of her children to return to Haramachi Daiichi Primary School when it reopened.

She said she would decide on the timing “after taking [the district’s] decontamination efforts into account.” Her youngest child, Hiromu, is only 4 years old, and Sato’s main priority is to avoid any future health risks to her children posed by excessive radiation.

Her husband, Hidemasa, 41, spends five days a week in Minami-Soma working at his used car sales and real-estate rental businesses.

The couple’s children–eldest son Taiko, 12, and daughter Haru, 9–are adjusting to primary school in Yonezawa, but sometimes become homesick.

Sato therefore takes the children to play baseball in the Soma district on weekends when other children from Haramachi are there.

“Of course I’m worried about radiation exposure,” Taiko said, “but I want to attend middle school in Haramachi.”

Yet the sixth-grader’s mother had a more immediate concern: “I’m wondering where his primary school graduation ceremony [in March] will take place–Minami-Soma or Yonezawa.”

Facing the reality of radioactive decontamination (Asahi, Oct 17) Excerpted below:

“Kimura originally worked as a researcher at a corporation under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, but the organization restrained him from conducting a survey in Fukushima right after the outbreak of the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant catastrophe, so he immediately quit. He entered the affected area on March 15, just four days after the March 11 quake and tsunami, and created a radiation contamination map based on his surveys. He also toured various areas offering support to residents.Kimura’s efforts were featured three times in specials on NHK’s education channel, eliciting a great response from the public, so his efforts are known in Japan to a certain degree. As an experienced researcher, Kimura understands how big the job of decontamination is.”Decontamination is extremely difficult,” he says. “Without special equipment, even if someone worked frantically for two days to decontaminate his or her home, the amount of radioactive materials would only be reduced by about half.”To decontaminate homes in hot areas (areas with localized high radiation levels), a space within a 100-meter radius of each home must also be decontaminated; otherwise radiation will not fall back down to 0.1 microsievert per hour (the level occurring naturally in the environment). In practical terms I think this is near impossible.” “…”

A government map displaying radiation levels in 10 prefectures relatively close to the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant. Areas in red show over 3 million becquerels of cesium per square meter, whereas those in light brown show less than 10,000. (Data as of Sept. 18. Image courtesy of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology)

A government map displaying radiation levels in 10 prefectures relatively close to the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant. Areas in red show over 3 million becquerels of cesium per square meter, whereas those in light brown show less than 10,000. (Data as of Sept. 18. Image courtesy of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology)

In order to understand the reality, radiation levels must first be measured. When I went to the city of Fukushima the other day, my radiation dosage meter showed a level of 0 microsieverts at the time of my departure from Tokyo. After staying overnight in Fukushima and then returning to the capital, the reading was 2 microsieverts. Over the next three days in Tokyo, the total dosage rose to 6 microsieverts.

I approached an expert about this, commenting that the level in Tokyo was also high. I received the following response:

“The level of naturally occurring radiation is 0.05 microsieverts per hour, so that’s nothing out of the ordinary. Two microsieverts for 24 hours spent in Fukushima is normal.”

The device I was carrying showed the accumulated external radiation dosage. This type of device functions differently from measurement equipment that gauges the specific amount of radiation in the atmosphere at any given time. Hitachi-Aloka Medical, one of Japan’s biggest producers of such devices, says that one popular dosimeter is priced at about 30,000 yen. Radiation measurement devices cost in the range of 245,000 yen. Both types are reportedly in short supply with customers having to wait several months for radiation measurement devices.

“Before the quake and tsunami disaster, we were only putting out a few hundred a year, but now we’re selling 400 to 500 a month,” a company representative says. The company has reportedly received inquiries from all over Japan, but predominantly from people in the Kanto region. This is understandable. Recently in the Tokyo metropolitan area there has been a lot of talk about spots with high levels of radiation and their decontamination.

Kimura has the following to say about the issue:

“There is no need to fret at every little thing. We should be cautious in an appropriate manner.”

This summer pine wood contaminated with cesium from Rikuzentaka was barred from being used in a ritual in Kyoto. Kimura says that this was a typical example of unreasonable fear.

After the outbreak of the nuclear crisis triggered by the March 11 quake and tsunami, a thick radioactive cloud hung over the Japanese archipelago. But even before that, Japan was already contaminated with radiation from past nuclear tests and the Chernobyl disaster. Compared with this radiation, the level in the pine wood was several hundred thousandths of the amount.

Workers scrub the parking lot of the Minamisoma city hall in Fukushima Prefecture during radiation decontamination work on Sept. 30. (Mainichi)

Workers scrub the parking lot of the Minamisoma city hall in Fukushima Prefecture during radiation decontamination work on Sept. 30. (Mainichi)

Nevertheless, the fundamental concept that excessive exposure to radiation harms people’s genes and could threaten preservation of the species remains unchanged. Restraining internal exposure to radiation from contaminated food remains an issue. What safeguards are appropriate and what is the correct method of decontamination?

Seeking such answers, Kimura is now in the Narodychi district of the Zhytomyr Oblast province of Ukraine, conducting his 15th survey on contamination from the Chernobyl disaster.

Regardless of whether people support or are against nuclear power, they must live with radioactive materials that have already been scattered.

We must understand that decontamination is a difficult task that cannot be solved by merely making declarations of determination or fixing budgets.”


The Asahi Shimbun

High cesium levels found in Niigata Prefecture (Asahi, Oct 13)

Relatively high levels of radioactive cesium have been detected in parts of Niigata Prefecture, according to the science ministry.

The ministry on Oct. 12 released a map showing accumulations of cesium 134 and 137 for Niigata and Akita prefectures.

In aerial surveys between Aug. 30 and Sept. 28, the ministry measured radiation levels from the land surface with highly sensitive detectors. It also measured actual concentrations in soil.

Radioactive cesium, released from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, fell to the ground, apparently with rain or snow, after it was carried away by wind.

In Niigata Prefecture, 30,000 to 60,000 becquerels of cesium 137 were detected per square meter in parts of Uonuma and Aga, which border on Fukushima prefecture, and in parts of northern municipalities, including Sekikawa and Murakami.

Cesium 137 will have a long-term impact on the environment because its half-life period is 30 years, compared with two years for cesium 134.

The areas where 30,000 to 60,000 becquerels were detected per square meter are estimated to have radiation levels exceeding 1 millisievert a year, or 0.2-0.5 microsievert per hour.

The government will be responsible for removing radioactive materials if annual additional radiation levels reach 1 millisievert or more, according to an Environment Ministry plan.

The science ministry said it has not found serious cesium contamination in Akita Prefecture.

The highest accumulation levels of cesium 137 were about 20,000 becquerels per square meter in southern parts of Yuzawa, eastern parts of Akita and other locations.

Radiation levels in these areas were mostly in the range of 0.1 microsievert per hour.

The science ministry plans to carry out aerial monitoring of radioactive cesium in 22 prefectures. With Niigata and Akita prefectures, results for 12 prefectures have been published.

After the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident in the former Soviet Union, areas with 37,000 becquerels of cesium 137 or more per square meter were designated as contaminated zones.

Residents were forced to evacuate from areas with 550,000 becquerels or more.

The Asahi Shimbun

Fukushima victims: homeless, desperate and angry (Reuters, Oct 18) at having to face bureaucratic red-tape before receiving compensation payments.

Farmers stuck with radioactive rice straw (Japan Times, Oct 19)
Farmers in eight prefectures have 7,200 tons of rice straw containing radioactive materials, and there are currently no plans to dispose of it. Read more here

Noda views cleanup in Fukushima (Japan Times, Oct 19) | Noda vows to make efforts to clean up radiation-tainted areas (Kyodo, Oct 18) | Noda visits Fukushima Pref. to inspect decontamination work (Kyodo, Oct 18)

Japan needs to raise nuclear safety to top int’l level: Edano (Kyodo, Oct 18)

Japanese industry minister Yukio Edano said Tuesday during a ministerial meeting of the International Energy Agency in Paris that Japan needs to raise the safety standard of its nuclear power generation to the top international level in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear crisis triggered by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

”Given the nuclear accident, the responsibility our country bears for the future is to enhance the safety of nuclear power generation to the world’s top level,” Edano said, adding that Japan will share the lessons learned from the crisis with the international community to help improve the safety of nuclear energy around the world.

Edano also said Japan will try to diversify its energy sources, including through the use of renewable energy, to help ensure energy security, while reconsidering the nation’s energy policy ”from scratch.”

Fukushima crisis shows weakness in crisis management (Kyodo news, Oct 12) Excerpted below:

“Initial assessments of Japan’s response to the 3/11 disasters were positive. Tokyo appeared to have responded quickly and efficiently to the combined earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear catastrophes. The government established an emergency response team headed by the prime minister, coordinated over 300 organizations providing disaster relief, and quickly ordered deployment of the Self-Defense Forces to disaster areas.

Yet as time passed, a more critical assessment arose of Japanese indecisiveness, poor coordination amongst national and local governments, and unwillingness to assume responsibility. These factors, combined with the Japanese requirement for consensus-building leadership, hindered effective government disaster response.

The lack of decisive national leadership even delayed the government’s initial understanding of the extent of the Fukushima nuclear disaster which, in turn, degraded Tokyo’s efforts to contain the problem. Kevin Maher, former State Department Japan Desk officer, criticized Tokyo’s efforts, saying, ”It was very clear to me as coordinator of the task force that no one was in charge. No one in the Japanese political system was willing to say, ‘I am going to take responsibility and make decisions.”’

Poor coordination between national and prefecture governments resulted in costly delays to the U.S. military’s disaster response. U.S. Marine Corps ground units were unnecessarily delayed for two days as a result of needless negotiations with local authorities.

Though Japan’s response to the Great East Japan Earthquake was an improvement over those of the 1995 Kobe earthquake, lingering systemic shortcomings are cause for serious concern. Unless corrected, these systemic problems, most notably an inability or unwillingness to make decisions, will undermine Japanese responses not only to natural disasters but also foreign policy crises.”…

Institute develops real-time system for radiation monitoring car (Kyodo, Oct 18)

Hokkaido utility axes plutonium plan (Japan Times, Oct 19)

Stringent tests planned to map radiation spread after hotspot found in Setagaya (Japan Today, Oct 13)

TOKYO —Researchers said Thursday they will carry out stringent tests to map how far contamination has spread from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant after a radiation hotspot was detected Wednesday in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward….

Rice shipped from city in Fukushima (NHK, Oct 18)

Farmers in Nihonmatsu City in Fukushima Prefecture have started shipping rice from this year’s harvest after radioactive contamination levels dropped below the government-set limit.
Two trucks carrying 24 tons of rice left a local agricultural cooperative in Nihonmatsu on Tuesday. The city is about 35 to 70 kilometers from the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
In September, a preliminary check of a sample of pre-harvest rice in the city found 500 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram — the same as the government limit.
Rice shipping was allowed after all samples harvested at 288 locations were found to have radioactivity levels below the limit. The highest level among the samples was 470 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram.

Huhne: Nuclear power a costly failure (Independent, Oct 14)


In other news likely of interest to the regular readers of this blog:

57 stung by wasps in Fukuoka (Japan Times, Oct 19) Fifty-seven people, mostly junior high school students, were stung by wasps Tuesday in a forested area in Okagaki, Fukuoka Prefecture, but no one suffered a serious allergic reaction, police said. Fifty-two students, four teachers and a police officer who had gone to help were taken to a hospital after being stung. The students were on their way back to school after finishing cleanup activities in the area, the police said. The wasps, believed to be yellow hornets, were about 2 cm long, and a nest was found near a mountain path.

Watch the ANN news clip on Youtube

From the NYTimes: Limits Urged on TV for Children Under 2Design School Unites the Old and the New ; In a Battle of the E-Readers, Booksellers Spurn SuperheroesObservatory: On Teamwork, at Least, Chimps and Children VaryRoom For Debate: Should Schools Divide the Sexes? ; Notes From a Dragon Mom (NY Times)

Parents ‘tagged useless or pushy’ (BBC, Oct 17)

Parents are stereotyped as either “feckless” or “pushy” in a society that puts huge pressures on families, experts say. The Family and Parenting Institute says intense scrutiny of parents has led to claims they are responsible for a deterioration in adolescent behaviour. But its chief executive Dr Katherine Rake says there is no evidence of a decline in parenting standards. If anything, parents are becoming more “professional”, she says … Read more here

A*s could be limited at A-Level (BBC) The number of pupils being given the top A* grade at A-Level could be limited in future, Education Secretary Michael Gove has suggested. He is also interested in the idea of students being ranked against others doing the same exam for their results. [which is being done in Japan — editor’s note, but see also Wellington College Head: Schools becoming exam factories “the reliance on school results was ‘dehumanizing'”] 

The world’s best school buildings – see the BBC photo gallery