Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) said that the amount of radioactive cesium-137 released into the air as a result of the Fukushima crisis is equal to 168 Hiroshima bombs. So far, the Fukushima Daiichi plant has released 15,000 terabecquerels; the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima released 89 terabecquerels. Cesium-137 remains in the body for decades and causes cancer.
Equipment needed to detect radiation in food is in short supply in Miyagi and Fukushima Prefectures, raising concerns among both producers and consumers that food supplies will not be adequately protected. Pressure is mounting as beef and rice farmers are competing to get their products tested. Fukushima Prefecture is scheduled to install six new detectors in September, six months after the disaster, in an effort to protect consumer safety “as soon as possible,” according to a prefecture official. The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries has criticized blanket testing of beef, saying the practice is contributing to the backlog of samples requiring testing.
The government has released a map showing several areas around the Fukushima Daiichi plant that exceed IAEA emergency levels. In Okuma, radiation readings measured 29.46 million Becquerels per one square meter.
The Agricultural Ministry has released a map of radiation levels in Japanese farmland. Samples were taken from 580 areas in six prefectures; in nine spots, cesium exceeded 5,000Bq/kg. Areas in Fukushima and Namie measured over 20,000 Bq/kg. The Ministry will increase monitoring in these areas.
Greenpeace announced that in spite of efforts to decontaminate them, two day care centers and a high school 60 km away from the Fukushima Daiichi plant have radiation levels 70 times higher than international standards allow, and in some cases, exceed Japan’s own standards, which are more lax. Measurements were taken August 17-19, 2011. Fukushima City officials said the schools are safe and refused to delay their opening. In spite of that, many parents have removed their children from schools in the prefecture.
Radioactive ash has begun to accumulate in seven prefectures across Japan, as the government tries to decide what to do with it. Ash that measures 8,000 Bq/kg or less of cesium can be buried provided there are no houses nearby, but more radioactive ash must be temporarily stored until the Environment Ministry decides how to handle it. Ash in Fukushima Prefecture has measured over 93,000 Bq/kg.
Prime Minister Naoto Kan has asked the Governor of Fukushima Prefecture to temporarily store highly radioactive soil and debris for an unspecified period of time, until the government determines how to dispose of it. Governor Sato was not pleased with the request.
Meanwhile, some residents of towns located near the Fukushima Daiichi plant are considering allowing them to be used to store nuclear waste, since they are now uninhabitable. The waste is so radioactive that standing near it for less than 20 seconds would prove fatal, and Japan is having a difficult time finding storage space for it.