January 21, 2014
Radiation at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant has now exceeded more than eight times the radiation limit set by the Japanese government – presenting new concerns for problems that many say are exacerbating.
The largely government-owned Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) admitted that radiation levels had elevated to an estimated 8 millisieverts per year (mSv/y) outside of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in December.
This greatly eclipses the Japanese government-set limit of 1 mSv/y, put in place as part of the officially-sanctioned reactor decommissioning plan for the disaster-stricken nuclear plant as a safety measure to diminish the level of harmful effects on the surrounding areas so that the exclusion zone can eventually be lifted.
According to NHK, Japan’s public broadcaster, the plant was measuring at below the required 1 mSv/y benchmark back in March 2013, but the increasing emission of beta-rays from the contaminated water, and particularly strontium-90, stored in above-ground tanks was spiking these levels. However, the Asahi Shimbun reported that a very high level of 7.8 mSv/y was recorded back in May 2013.
Official media accounts blamed the approximately 1,000 above-ground storage tanks, explaining that the metal tank containers reportedly amplify the beta-rays to create stronger X-rays and, thus, higher readings.
Asahi carried this account of the official explanation: “Beta rays released from radioactive strontium and other substances in the water reacted with iron and other elements in the storage tank containers to generate the X-rays, the officials said.”
TEPCO and the Japanese government knew about elevated radiation, but didn’t bother to tell the public
Government officials admit, as NHK reports, that they have been aware of the issue of beta-ray emission for “a certain period of time” but have not addressed it due to overriding concerns with the volume of contaminated water – some 300-400 tons of which is leaking into the Pacific Ocean on a daily basis.
The Asahi Shimbun revealed January 8 that TEPCO had been hiding public disclosure of more than 140 measurements showing excessive strontium levels – claiming at the time that they were “wrong,” because they were above the total beta-ray numbers in some cases.
Company officials “insisted” that there was no attempt to conceal information, but rather that the concerns were over accuracy. TEPCO claims that it will release “corrected” reading numbers by the end of the month after reconciling them for inconsistencies.
Once again, both Japanese government and TEPCO officials were complicit in keeping the truth from the public, both there among the Japanese population and abroad in international circles.
A memorandum of cooperation between the International Atomic Energy Agency and Fukushima, and also the Fukui Prefecture, was recently revealed, proving that a confidentiality clause exists between the United Nations-level atomic safety agency and TEPCO officials, allowing proprietary information to be kept from disclosure and to be restricted under classification. This agreement pertains in particular to the decontamination of the Fukushima plant, the waste management of radioactive materials and the release of surveys on the radiological effect on human health conducted by the Fukushima Medical University.
Since public admissions that Fukushima had reached levels of 8 mSv/y, officials have been scrambling to increase monitoring and mitigation strategies.
Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority has been meeting in recent days to evaluate how to manage these excessive levels and minimize the amount of escaping radiation, as efforts have been made to increase monitoring stations in the surrounding areas of the exclusion zone.
The Nuclear Regulation Authority effectively doubled the number of radiation monitoring devices it had set up, expanding its deployment of 446 instruments to 815. These nearly 400 extra monitors were installed in a reported 12 cities, towns and villages in the area. The devices allow testing of the air just above the ground at 10-minute intervals.
The full scale of effects has yet to be seen, as radiation levels continue to increase and the control of contaminated water remains an uphill battle.
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This article was posted: Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 11:08 am