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Friday, 19. July 2024

Extend the Evacuation Zone, Measure Plutonium Levels

The physician’s organisation IPPNW Germany and the President of the German Society for Radiation Protection (GfS), Sebastian Pflugbeil, believe that an extension of the evacuation zone around the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant is urgently needed. They call on the Japanese government to evacuate the population promptly from a much wider area, in particular to ensure the protection of children and pregnant women.
The recommendation of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency that the evacuation zone be extended to 80 kilometres could be a helpful first step, say the two organisations. Evacuation zones, however, are only a method of helping to roughly mark out a possible area of contamination and in reality the radioactive exposure depends on wind direction, strength and precipitation. Twenty-five years ago, when the Chernobyl disaster occurred, there was an irregular distribution of contamination and “hot spots” emerged, where the Soviet authorities found contamination of more than 555.000 becquerel per m2.

Reinhold Thiel, member of the German Board of IPPNW, is especially worried about the danger posed by unit 3: "This unit is run on MOX fuel which contains plutonium and black smoke is billowing out of it. I am concerned that large amoungts of plutonium are now being released into the air.” IPPNW calls on the German government to press for an immediate publication of all existing measurements of plutonium levels . "It could be, however, that Chancellor Merkel already has that information“ said Thiel.

Plutonium is a highly toxic emitter of alpha radiation which does approx. 20 times more biological damage than the same dose of gamma emitting radionuclides such as Cesium 137. Breathing in plutonium easily leads to bronchial and lung cancer. If plutonium is taken into the body via food and drink, it concentrates in the liver and bones and has a biological half-life of 40 years in the liver, 100 years in bones.

According to IAEA, high levels of beta-gamma radiation were found at distances between 15 and 58 km away from the nuclear power plant. The measured levels were between 200,000 und 900,000 becquerel per m2. This means, according to Prof. Edmund Lengfelder of the Otto Hug Institute on Radiation, that the Fukushima disaster has evidently reached the same dimensions seen in Chernobyl. After the Chernobyl disaster, contamination reached more than 555,000 bq/m2 (Cesium 137) in Ukraine, Russia und Belarus.

Japanese authorities have found up to 55,000 bq/kg iodine 131 in spinach from the Ibaraki prefecture. These levels are way above the acceptable levels for Japan for consumption (2,000 bq/kg).

IPPNW and GfS call on foreign minister Guido Westerwelle to actively pursue the publishing of the radiation measurement data that the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO) has collated through its global network of monitoring stations. The CTBTO shares this information with the WHO and IAEA but has not yet made this data public.

Contact: Xanthe Hall, Tel: +49-30-698074-12, e-mail, German section of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, Physicians for Social Responsibility (IPPNW), Koertestr. 10, D-10967 Berlin