Japan is poised to impose a ban on shipments of cattle from Fukushima prefecture – the scene of its worst ever nuclear crisis – after discovering that meat containing abnormally high levels of radioactive caesium had been processed and consumed. The cows had been fed on rice straw containing high levels of the radioactive isotope that was harvested after the 11 March tsunami triggered a core meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. While officials said consuming the meat did not present an immediate threat to health, the incident has highlighted concerns over food safety in the wake of the crisis, which has caused contamination in milk, tea, leaf vegetables, fish and water. The government is expected to announce the suspension of cattle shipments from Fukushima, and possibly other areas nearby, on Tuesday. "The most likely outcome is that we will ban beef shipments," Goshi Hosono, a special adviser to the prime minister on the nuclear clean-up, said on a TV programme. "We are discussing the matter along these lines. We have to ensure food safety." Authorities in the prefecture confirmed that 84 head of cattle from five affected farms had been shipped to eight locations, including Tokyo and Osaka, between late March and mid-July. Local media reported that the contamination risk could be more widespread, affecting farms 60 miles from the power plant. Kyodo news agency said it had calculated that as many as 143 cows sent to all but 10 of Japan's 47 prefectures may have been exposed to radiation via feed. "We may need to increase our response by checking the distribution of contaminated straw," said Kohei Otsuka, the senior vice-minister for health. "We are currently considering Fukushima prefecture, but we may have to consider the need for a further response by checking the distribution of contaminated straw." Retailers said it was highly likely that some of the contaminated beef had already been eaten. On Sunday, the Aeon chain of supermarkets said 319kg (703lb) of beef from a farm in Asakawa in Fukushima, had been sold at 14 of its stores in Tokyo and the surrounding area between late April and the middle of last month. Tests on straw at a farm in Koriyama city in Fukushima prefecture showed caesium levels as high as 500,000 becquerels per kg. Those readings are about 378 times the legal limit set by the government. Farmers in the area said they had not been told about a government warning, issued days after the nuclear accident, not to give their animals feed that had been stored outside. The Tokyo metropolitan government said on Sunday that high levels of radioactive caesium were detected in meat from a cow shipped to a packing plant in Tokyo from a farm in Koriyama. The meat contained radioactive cesium at measurements as high as 2,400 becquerels per kg, nearly five times the government-set safety limit of 500 becquerels per kg. Efforts to track down exposed cattle began earlier this month after meat from cows at a farm in Minamisoma, about 15 miles from Fukushima Daiichi, were found to have been fed with contaminated straw. Authorities in Tokyo said they had detected radiation levels in beef originating from the farm of up to 2,300 becquerels per kg. Government officials and some experts played down the risk to health. "This is not a number that would clearly cause abnormal effects on health even if the beef was eaten," Ikuro Anzai, honorary professor of radiation protection at Ritsumeikan University, told Kyodo. But he added: "It would be better to refrain from eating it until the situation becomes clear."
RAWATBHATA, RAJASTHAN: Moving ahead with its nuclear programme despite the Fukushimaaccident, India on Monday began construction of its 25th atomic power plant.
The first pour of concrete for the 700 MW indigenous Pressurised Heavy Water Reactor (PHWR), the seventh nuclear plant at the Rajasthan Atomic Power Station (RAPS), took place in this bustling Rajasthan township, about 65 km from Kota.
The first pour of concrete ceremony, which signals the beginning of the construction of a nuclear plant, was attended by Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Srikumar Banerjee and Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) CMD Shreyans Kumar Jain.
Banerjee gave the command to pour the concrete by pressing the button on the control panel of the concrete pressure pump. Soon after the M45 grade concrete began pouring in the foundation of what would be the emergency core cooling system of the new reactor building.
The concrete is being poured at the rate of 90 cubic metres per hour and at a controlled temperature of 19 degree Celsius. To monitor the temperature, ice is being mixed with the concrete.
The 700 MW PHWR, designed by NPCIL by scaling up its 540 MW PHWRs under operation at Tarapur since 2005, is expected to be completed in the next five years.
Banerjee said, "The 540 MW PHWR at Tarapur was built by NPCIL in a record time of four years and ten months. We will try to beat that record".
RAPS already has six units of PHWRs, five of which are producing over 1180 MW, the largest from a single site.
Construction for the seventh unit began today and excavation work is currently on for the eighth unit, also a 700 MW PHWR.
Monitoring continues around Las Conchas Fire near Los Alamos, Taos News, July 16, 2011:
[New Mexico Environment Department's DOE Oversight Bureau chief Thomas Skibitski] said the department will be looking for radionuclides related to energy and weapons research, as well as industrialtype contaminants [...] He said contaminants, such as those from atmospheric weapons testing that occurred 50-60 years ago, may get “remobilized and redistributed downstream” [...] He said the department may find “measurable levels” of contaminants that don’t pose health or environmental risks, and standards may be exceeded during storm events. [...]
“Sometimes that will manifest itself as a health advisory,” he said. [...]
"Extend and Pretend" continues in Japan, getting beyond delusional particularly in light of more evidence of widespread radiation contamination.
Prime Minister Kan, who survived the vote of no confidence and is determined more than ever to stay on (or dissolve the lower house and hold a general election with "beyond nuke" message, as some analysts have suggested, to appeal to the Japanese who are increasingly anti-nuke), now promises the 12 heads of the municipalities around Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant that completion of the "step 2" of the so-called "roadmap" will be expedited so that their people can go home.
What is the "step 2"? It is to bring the reactors to a "cold shutdown".
Is Japan's nuclear power industry too reliant on people who really don't know what they are doing and too caught up with preventing the public from remembering it's controversial history?
On March 11th, 2011 the first nuclear emergency was declared in Japan after the disaster at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant. The recent series of events at Japanese nuclear power stations are by no means isolated incidents, and the questions raised about safety and regulation are not new either.
Japan imported its first commercial nuclear power plant from the UK in 1966, and completed its first indigenous reactors in 1970. While some herald Japan for its "good reputation" for public safety, the nuclear industry in Japan has also been a barometer of disgrace for the Japanese nation.
The core issues about Japan's nuclear program still remain more than 40 years after inception. Throughout the decades, nuclear accidents have had little impact on government policy, while disasters in the island country continue increasing in size and danger to public health.
While on one hand loudly declaring as long as the proper safeguards are in place nuclear power is safe, clean, and exceptionally powerful, utilities and regulators have knowingly shirked the responsibility to follow through, even to carry out routine safety checks.
If Japanese citizens are only now realizing the re-emerging patterns of denial, cover-up and bureaucratic collusion between the industry and the government, it should only reaffirm the public understanding of Japan's dangerous nuclear program.
The Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, has built a makeshift roof over a turbine building at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant as typhoon Ma-on approaches.TEPCO started work to cover a hole in the roof of the No. 3 turbine building on Monday morning. The hole was caused by a hydrogen explosion in a neighboring reactor building in March.The work ended 6 hours later when the makeshift metallic roof's three parts, each 5 meters long and 16 meters wide, were installed by a crane.The roof is designed to prevent an increase of radioactive wastewater in the building.TEPCO plans to cover another hole in the building's roof on Tuesday.It is also stacking sandbags to prevent rainwater from entering the facility. Monday, July 18, 2011 23:24 +0900 (JST)
‘Colossal blunder’ on radioactive cattle feed / Govt officials admit responsibility for foul-up that let tainted beef enter nation’s food supply, Yomiuri Shimbun, July 17, 2011:
The checks involved electronically measuring the amount of radioactive material on the surface of the animals’ bodies. Shipment is allowed if the detected radioactive emissions are below 100,000 counts per minute. The same amount of radioactive material on a human would require that person to undergo full-body decontamination.
So far, about 12,000 cattle have been subjected to the checks, and all have passed, the agriculture ministry said.
It is ongoing right now, netcast live on USTREAM here.
I will watch the recording tomorrow (it's way past midnight here) and report to you in detail, but here's some of the things I caught in the beginning:
Shukan Gendai (Japanese weekly magazine) sent (I think) the air filters of the cars from Japan, one from Fukushima, the other from Tokyo. From the air filter from Fukushima, plutonium-239 was detected. From the air filter from Tokyo,uranium-235, tellurium-129.