This is one section of our annual report, the full report can be found here.
We will be posting a section per day over the next week for ease of reading.
An effort by the Japanese government to remove some of the radiation monitors in Fukushima prefecture, was later walked back. This has caused some confusion about what radiation data is still available in Japan.(62) Ambient radiation monitoring data is still available from Japan’s nuclear regulator. Daily monitor station readings can be found along with sea testing, and an interactive map of radiation levels. (63)
Live station data is no longer available via government sources. Daily spreadsheets of readings, and a daily graph format are available. It is unfortunate the government has discontinued the live monitoring option but data is still being made available in a less convenient format. (64)
The Ministry of Health continues to put out food related radiation testing results. The relevance of this data has been questioned in more recent years. Many of the recorded readings are cattle meat in prefectures unaffected by the disaster and unlikely to show up as radioactive. The “not detected” readings for cattle meat are used to tout that a set percentage of the testing done by the government shows as “clean”. Cattle in Fukushima and other
impacted prefectures are required to import hay and other cattle feed to assure the cattle don’t become contaminated.(65)
Among all of those somewhat useless food tests were some minor points of interest. Mushrooms seem to consistently show up contaminated. One surprise was that the highest mushroom contamination in the hundreds of becquerels came from Yamanashi prefecture. Fish from Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures had a few contaminated fish but they were low readings. (66)
Citizen generated radiation data is readily available. Minna – no Data, a group that compiles information generated by 30 citizen run radiation testing labs in Japan provides this information online in both Japanese and English. This includes food, soil and other readings for multiple years. (67)
Mother’s Radiation Lab in Iwaki has been providing consistent data for a number of years. Their state of the art lab has become a reliable resource for information outside of the government. (68)
Their most recent data, available in English for November and December of 2019, has some interesting readings. Findings from this lab frequently show highly radioactive samples among their testing results. On their December report the lab tested a group of soil and moss samples collected from a tennis court complex in Tomioka. Tomioka is located near Fukushima Daiichi, portions of the town have been reopened to the public.
While some of the samples around the tennis courts were in the teens or hundreds of becquerels per kilogram, some were shockingly high. These are levels comparable to some of the higher levels in the evacuation zone found in 2011. There were 8
samples that were over 10,000 bq/kg. The highest was 82,580.0 bq/kg of combined cesium 137 and cesium 134. The samples were not tested for other radioactive isotopes. Many other samples from the tennis court were in the thousands of becquerels.
This tennis court appears to have multiple hot spots that are disturbingly high.
Another test result of note from their December report was of “pine leaves”, assumed to be pine needles. The sample was taken from Okuma, near Fukushima Daiichi. The pine needles recorded 30,210.0 bq/kg of combined cesium 137 and 134. Okuma is also slated for a partial reopening to the public.(69)
Both the December and the November reports showed many samples of contaminated mushrooms. This is a known problem from Chernobyl, where mushrooms, wild berries and game are highly contaminated in the regions that received fallout.
We see the same pattern in locations of significant fallout in the Tohoku region. Also of interest from their November report was a pair of cleaning wipes tested for contamination.
One was used to wipe what is described as “under the floor” and another used to clean a refrigerator, both from Iwaki. It wasn’t mentioned if the refrigerator cleaning was outside or inside the appliance. Both were over 5000 bq/kg of combined cesium each. Iwaki is south of Fukushima Daiichi and outside the evacuation zone. Fish readings from both months showed relatively low readings
in the single or double digits. This seems to track with what the government and TEPCO have found. (69)
TEPCO tested fish near the plant in January of 2020. Fish within 20km of Daiichi were mostly “not detected” with a few single digit readings and one 19 bq/kg reading. (70)
Fish in the port have higher levels of contamination than outside the port. One fish tested exceeded the government limit of 100 bq/kg. A flatfish tested at 376 bq/kg of combined cesium. (71)
The issue of microparticles has become more profound as understanding has evolved. In the first year these were mysterious, highly radioactive substances found by citizen scientists. Then academic researchers began to research them. Today, TEPCO fully admits their existence and how they were formed in the reactors. We document the technical details of the samples TEPCO collected from the three failed reactors in our 2019 report. (72) Microparticles pose a specific threat to public health and the environment. They are highly
radioactive, containing long lived radioactive isotopes including uranium, and are small enough to be inhaled into the lungs. Once in the lungs they can give a localized high dose of radiation to nearby tissue. This increases the potential of these microparticles to cause cancers or other damage.
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