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Effects of the reactor disaster in Fukushima
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Fukushima – 2 years after the disaster

On March 11th, 2011 a heavy earthquake followed by a tsunami ruined large areas of the Japanese east coast. As a consequence of this environmental disaster, 4 of 6 used nuclear power plant blocks of the NPP site Fukushima-Dai-ichi were badly damaged and/or extensively destroyed. Large quantities of radioactive material were released, both in the air and also in the sea water. As a direct result of the reactor disaster, the population in an area of 30 km around the nuclear power plant had to be evacuated. An exclusion zone was set up.


Größere Kartenansicht

2 years after the disaster, Fukushima is mostly disappeared from daily press.

It is difficult – especially without in-depth knowledge- to get an objective overview of the current radiological situation in the region of Fukushima or in general for Japan. By evaluating several kinds of information from the Internet, we have tried to create a clear overview, basing ourselves as much as possible on facts and abstaining from political comments.


From our point of view,
the radiological situation can be summarized as follows:


Ambient dose rate

The ambient dose rate is mainly determined by the Cesium nuclides plated out in the ground (Cs-134, Cs-137). Before the reactor disaster, the background radiation (terrestrial and cosmic radiation) in the region of Fukushima was approx. 72 nSv/h (hint: On our homepage you find the current background radiation value at our site in Dülmen). In the autumn of 2012 – i.e. 1.5 years after the disaster – the dose rate in the same region was 192 nSv/h, that corresponds to an increase of 120 nSv/h. In comparison, the increase in western Japan was approx. 70 nSv/h.

Foodstuff

The radiation in foodstuff is strongly supervised. In Japan, the limit values were decreased again in September 2012. Looking at the prefecture (district) of Fukushima, the average value of contamination in foodstuff is approx. 300 Bq/kg. In the surrounding prefectures, the average value was approx. 180 Bq/kg, in western Japan approx. 70 Bq/kg.
Basic nuclides in foodstuff are Cs-134 and Cs-137. These nuclides have different half-lives: For Cs-134 it’s 2 years, for Cs-137 it’s 30 years (physical half-life). Due to different effects during release and plate-out of the radioactive substances (wetter situation, geological structures,…), both the values of ground contamination and the radiation values in foodstuff are partially very different. Furthermore, different kinds of food also show very different contamination levels. The previously mentioned values are orientation values.

Particularly in Japan, fish is a very important part of food. Several weeks after the disaster, large quantities of radioactive water were still flowing into the sea. Even if the sea’s enormous volume guarantees an intensive blending and dilution, increased activity levels are detected in fish. Flatfish living on the sea ground contains approx. 300-400 Bq/kg. Predators contain even higher values.

Decontamination

In many areas around the reactor site Fukushima, a decontamination i.e. cleaning was made to reduce the radiation level. Part of the decontamination measures consists of digging contaminated ground. As a result, large plastic containers with contaminated material are stored everywhere. A radioactive interim stock in the open !

Situation in and on the destroyed reactor blocks

The current situation at the destroyed reactor blocks and in the fuel element storage areas cannot be determined by us.
We expect that an objective determination of the radioprotection situation for those areas in which a meltdown has taken place will not be possible now or in the medium term.

Also in future there will be areas around Fukushima which cannot be populated anymore. Many inhabitants of the prefecture of Fukushima have lost their homes. Like the reactor disaster of Chernobyl, the reactor disaster of Fukushima will put a strain on us for many decades.

As a manufacturer of radiation measuring instruments, we have delivered lots of measuring instruments (CoMo 170 contamination monitor, ANNA and EL-25 foodstuff counters) to Japan. In this way we have enabled governmental institutions, fishing cooperations, industrial companies as well as private persons to carry out their own, independent measurements. Our Japanese partners have supported us intensively in this. Thank you very much.

With this short summary we would like to give a small overview. In daily newspapers, only single headlines appear 2 years after the disaster. The Internet offers lots of information.


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