Our Uncertain, Nuclear Future
On September 9, 2019, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) received a copy of Japan’s report on the discharge record and seawater monitoring results. Purified groundwater pumped from the subdrain and groundwater drain systems still contained radionuclides, including Cs-134, Cs-137, Gross α, Gross β, and Sr-90. TEPCO has been clear for years that it wasn’t capable of completely removing nuclear material from the water used to cool the cores that were damaged eight years ago.
TEPCO’s stance, which hasn’t changed for years, brings into question just how safe the world is from the radioactive water. Furthermore, TEPCO stated that it is also running out of space to contain the waste water. The easy way out would be to begin dumping this water into the ocean. However, Japan is proximate to Korea, Malaysia, and many other states who want nothing to do with the consequences of the nuclear accident. People’s lives are also at risk, as the medical community continues to be uncertain as to how radioactive foodstuffs can affect the human body over a period of generations. The idea of exposing people to radionuclides that can increase the risk of different kinds of cancer is unacceptable. Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority seems to be thinking along the same lines, as it has decided to reboot the probe as to why the plant’s cooling system failed, which resulted in the catastrophic meltdown of three reactor cores.
The initial probe was suspended by the NRA because the affected structures had been deemed too dangerous to enter, save for the committed employees of the TEPCO itself. The World Health Organization’s analysis of radiation exposure of the Japanese within the affected zones in Japan stated that the Japanese were exposed only to “very low” levels of radiation. Even those who were exposed to 50 mSv/yr were still deemed safe, as per the international SI system for accumulated background radiation exposure.
A related report by the World Health Organization stated that the Japanese government did report the presence of radioactive iodine and caesium in concentrations that were above the regulatory limit in some food commodities in the country. However, this was during the early period of the incident.
Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare currently publishes a comprehensive archive of radionuclide test results for food in the country. In a July 2019 report, several food items tested positive for radioactivity levels exceeding limits in each prefecture.
Fukushima – wild animal meat (boar meat) – 2 foods tested positive
Miyagi – agricultural products – Pteridium aquilinum, Japanese royal fern, koshiabura, Aralia sprout, bamboo shoot – 42 foods tested positive
Ibaraki – Koshiabura – 8 foods tested positive
Tochigi – wild animal meat (boar meat) – 17 foods tested positive
Gunma – agricultural products, fishery products – Aralia sprouts, Char (Iwana), Land-locked cherry salmon (Yameme) – 2 foods tested positive
Chiba – 0
Aomori – 0
Iwate – agricultural products (Koshiabura) – 1 food tested positive
Akita – 0
Yamagata – wild animal meat (Asian black bear meat) -3 foods tested positive
Saitama – 0
Tokyo – 0
Kanagawa – 0
Niigata – agricultural products (Koshiabura) – 7 foods tested positive
(All other prefectures tested negative)
As we can see from the report, it appears that radionuclides released into the air and into the land (as well as groundwater sources) are still contaminating some food items and agricultural products in Japan – eight years on.
If landlocked food items like ferns can become radioactive and exceed regulatory levels for radiation, what happens to seafood from Japan’s seas and neighboring countries if TEPCO’s water waste is released gradually into the ocean? While the Japanese government is quick to dispel any anxieties about this possible move, it remains that long-term studies on radioactive food contamination have yet to be released by the scientific community.
We don’t know how these radionuclides will affect the human body over a period of years. What kind of genetic damage are we looking at? What kinds of health risks are we exposed to because of the continuous release of tainted water from TEPCO’s plant? If Japan’s tainted seawater have reached North America and Canada, what happens to the rest of us around Japan?