Millions at fatal risk as Fukushima radiation poisons Pacific

Voice of Russia

A man in a protective suit stands in front of a fuel-handling machine on the spent fuel pool inside the Fukushima Daiichi plant

A man in a protective suit stands in front of a fuel-handling machine on the spent fuel pool inside the Fukushima Daiichi plant

Download audio file

Nuclear regulators on Friday called on Japan’s plant operator TEPCO to address rising radiation levels near the crippled Fukushima reactors that have jumped to 7.8 millisieverts, causing a great deal of panic across the Pacific. TEPCO has attributed this rise to radiation emitted from tanks storing contaminated water, which is generated in the process of cooling the damaged reactors. The Voice of Russia has talked to Professor Chris Busby, Scientific Secretary of the European Committee on Radiation Risk and a member of the UK Department of Health Committee Examining Radiation Risk for Internal Emitters (CERRIE), who says he doesn’t believe this explanation. In his opinion, such high amounts of radiation can only come from materials that are already outside the tanks.

How dangerous is the current radiation level of 7.8 millisieverts for humans?

If it were caused by the explanation that TEPCO have given then it would not, in my opinion, represent a very great hazard. But I don’t believe their explanation. I’ve done calculations myself, which show that it’s almost impossible for this kind of dose to occur within a reasonable distance of about 10 meters from the radioactive tanks on the basis of the fact that strontium-90 is inside the tanks. So what I think the 7.8 mSv represent is it represents measurements that are of beta-radiation and gamma-radiation that are coming from materials that are already outside the tanks, and that is basically in the ground. And this is very, very dangerous because it actually represents a contamination of the ground of about 250 becquerels per square meter. That’s 250,000 disintegrations per second per square meter. And that comes from material that can be inhaled due to resuspension, where it can get into people in various other ways. That represents a very serious hazard.

According to the operator’s report the radiation level at the Fukushima plant was 8 higher than norm back in August. Isn’t it strange that the Japanese authorities have urged the company to take measures only now?

This whole procedure has been dogged by arguments between various people in the government and various people in nuclear industry and so on. So I imagine this is just a consequence of a lot of arguments between various sides of the issue and the nuclear industry people and the government people. Eventually, it was the government people who have won. That’s why it has taken them so long for some remark like this to be made. I mean I would guess it’s entirely political, it has nothing to do with reality.

But do you think that TEPCO’s clean-up activities are effective enough? Are they doing enough right now?

I don’t think there’s much more they can do, to be honest. I think the thing is out of control, and I can’t see what they can do. Basically, what we have here, in my opinion and others too, is that the core material from the reactors is outside of the containment and in the ground, so the ground water is picking up this radioactivity and bringing it onto the surface. Of course, they are taking as much ground water as they can – this contaminated water – and pumping it into tanks to store it. But until they actually address the basic problem of this stuff being outside the containment then there’s not much they can do. They can attempt to clean up the stuff that is in the tanks – and it itself will be a quite complicated business – but as for the stuff that is outside the tanks in the ground, I’m not sure I see any way in which they can do it.

Rather than being in the ground, I think that the Japanese have admitted to releasing 400 metric tons of water into the Pacific Ocean I think on a daily basis since the tsunami and the whole situation occurred. That’s three years and 400 metric tons. Does it coincide with figures that you have?

Yes, and also, of course, there’s the amount of material that blew out to sea and ended up in the Pacific right at the beginning, and so this is an ongoing problem. So you have enormous amounts of radioactivity in the Pacific from the beginning and then an ongoing very large quantity – probably about the same amount eventually – being pumped out into the Pacific all the time. And this is in fact affecting the Pacific biotope. I mean there’s lots of evidence now that there’s a complete crush in the life forms. We are seeing lots and lots of evidence for this. And this is really quite terrifying. This is having an effect on Pacific life. And, of course, Pacific life is the source of food for a very large number of people inside East Asia and elsewhere.
Read more: