Strongly radioactive fish off Fukushima



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Record levels of radioactive cesium in fish off Fukushima

After it became known only recently that around half of all butterflies in the Fukushima region have serious mutations and damage after the nuclear disaster in 2011, the power plant operator TepCo announced the next bad news on Wednesday, according to Japanese media reports: Such high levels of radioactive cesium in marine fish measured that the limit set by the state and classified as safe for consumption was exceeded by 258 times. A high level of radiation exposure to the grain is also to be expected for the upcoming rice harvest. According to the media, every sack of rice should be checked by the authorities.

Contaminated fish caught 20 kilometers from Fukushima
The overall extent of the nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant after the 2011 tsunami is only gradually becoming apparent. As has now become known, fish caught at a depth of 15 meters at a depth of 15 meters in early August 20 kilometers off the coast of Fukushima are significantly radioactive. According to the nuclear power plant operator TepCo, "a value of 25,800 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram of fish was measured in two green bodies". Accordingly, the fish before Fukushima have record radiation levels. The measurement "corresponds to 258 times the amount of cesium that the Japanese government considers safe for consumption". Fishing off the coast of Fukushima Province has been voluntarily restricted to prevent radiation-contaminated fish from entering the market.

It was only in mid-August that Japanese scientists from Ryukyu University in Okinawa published an investigation in the online scientific journal Scientific Reports, which showed that butterflies have an accumulation of malformations and damage that can be attributed to the radioactive radiation from the nuclear disaster in Fukushima. Almost a year and a half after the meltdown, the scientists discovered that today more than half of the butterflies from the region have mutations such as deformed wings or eyes. Although the results are not transferable to humans one-to-one, they nevertheless show that the damage does not only occur in the first generation that was exposed to the radiation, but also in the second and third generations, as the researchers report. In 240 examined butterflies caught six months after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in the region, malformations occurred in 52 percent of the offspring.

After a severe earthquake shook Japan and especially the Fukushima region on March 11, 2011, a century of tsumami devastated large parts of the region and caused a meltdown in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Large amounts of radioactive ponds were released into the environment and caused severe damage not only in Fukushima Province.

As the reactor accident in Chernobyl in 1986 shows, such a catastrophe has serious repercussions decades after the event. Nevertheless, an association between the massive radiation exposure and the high number of cancer cases, reduced fertility and a related decline in the birth rate and the increasing number of malformations in newborns is still partially denied by the official side. The long-term consequences of Chernobyl are still not foreseeable.

Rice harvest is also likely to be heavily radioactive
Although the situation in the nuclear power plant was officially declared stable, the current radiation findings lead to great concern among the population. For the upcoming rice harvest in the north-east of the country, one of the most important agricultural regions in Japan, the authorities are planning, according to media reports, to check every single rice bag for its radiation exposure before it goes on sale. In 2011, samples with significantly higher cesium values ​​were discovered. The state-set limit currently corresponds to 500 becquerels per kilogram. As of October, the limit is to be lowered nationwide to 100 becquerels, with the local authorities in the Fukushima province setting this value earlier and wanting to sort out any rice sacks that exceed this mark.

The Japanese government is currently working on a new energy policy. The calls from the population for a nuclear-free energy supply are getting louder. In an official survey of 290 citizens, almost half said they were in favor of a nuclear phase-out by 2030. Other government options for the future share of nuclear power in energy generation are 15 percent or 20 to 25 percent by 2030. (ag)

Read on:
Mutant butterflies in Fukushima
Doctors are calling for the shutdown of all nuclear power plants
Radioactive radiation: consequences for health
Former Fukushima director suffering from cancer
How dangerous is radioactive radiation?
Health: late effects from radioactive radiation

Image: Gerd Altmann, Pixelio.de

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