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article imageRadioactivity in ocean up 7.5 million times near Japan reactor

By Lynn Herrmann     Apr 5, 2011 in Politics
Tokyo - New readings taken from the Pacific Ocean near the Japan's Daiichi nuclear plant show radioactive iodine-131 readings are 7.5 million times the legal limit, with growing criticism from the international community over the Japanese government's actions.
A sample of seawater taken on Saturday, two days before the government decided to dump tons of contaminated water into the ocean, near the intake at the No. 2 reactor near Fukushima has reached alarming levels of radioactive contamination, with radioactive iodine-131, cesium-134 and cesium-137 all off the charts.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) on Monday said radioactive iodine-131 reached 200,000 becquerels per square centimeter, five million times the permissible amount. That number was down from 300,000 becquerels recorded on Saturday.
Also on Saturday, cesium-134 was two million times the maximum amount allowed and cesium-137 was 1.3 million times the amount permissible.
Cesium has a longer half-life than iodine and is expected to begin accumulating in the upper food chain. Masayoshi Yamamoto, professor of radiology at Kanazawa University said the high cesium levels are a problem. “By the time radioactive iodine is taken in by plankton, which is eaten by smaller fish and then by bigger fish, it will be diluted by the sea and the amount will decrease because of its eight-day half-life. But cesium is a bigger problem,” he said, according to the Japan Times.
Cesium-137’s half-life is 30 years and cesium-134’s half life is two years. Yamamoto stated these radioactive materials will likely be detected in fish and marine products in the short and long terms, and could pose serious risks to seafood industries in other nations.
“All of Japan's sea products will probably be labeled unsafe and other nations will blame Japan if radiation is detected in their marine products,” Yamamoto said, the Japan Times notes.
Inside the reactor’s cracked storage basement radiation levels were even higher. On Saturday, a water sample showed radioactive iodine had reached 5.2 million becquerels per square centimeter, 130 million times the maximum permissible amount. Water leaking from the crack was even higher, at 5.4 million becquerels, TEPCO said, according to the Japan Times.
Meanwhile, there is growing criticism over Japan’s decision to dump massive amounts of reportedly low-level radioactive water into the ocean in order to make room at the incapacitated nuclear facility.
South Korea, as a neighboring country, has said it will ask Tokyo officials to be allowed on-the-spot seawater radiation tests, Kyodo News reports.
Boris Preobrazhensky, a researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences, has criticized the Japanese government for the decision to dump radioactive water, saying it could have adverse effects on migratory fish in the western Pacific and on the Russian fishing industry as well.
However, Japanese officials are defending the decision. Hidehiko Nishiyama, spokesman for Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency expressed regret over the growing concerns, stating: “We feel very sorry for causing anxiety among our neighbors. We could not help but resort to the measure, but we will provide full explanations from now on,” according to Kyodo News.
Japan’s foreign minister, Takeaki Matsumoto, said in a Tokyo press conference the radioactive water release poses “no significant health threats” to humans and added officials will inform the international community of steps being taken to halt the ongoing catastrophe, Kyodo News notes.
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