Archive for the ‘Dangerous Japanese Goods’ Category

The last nuclear power plant reactor in Kyushu was taken off-line towards the end of December 2011, leaving the Japanese southern island free of nuclear produced-electricity. Off-line reactors are not necessarily safe in case of earthquake, tsunami or human error, all of which are far too common in Japan to allow such utilities to be but ticking bombs.

It is however a first step towards a nuclear-free island, which produces most of the domestic food, including beef (the famous so-called “Kobe beef” is raised in Miyazaki, Kyushu) now that Hokkaido is contaminated. Besides nuclear fallout, the town of Tomakomai in Hokkaido decided to incinerate nuclear waste against the will of citizens, as reported in Tomakomai Minpo on 2011 December 8. The translated and commented article is available on Ex-SKF blog here. Tomakomai is located on the southern shore, about 50 km / 30 miles away from Sapporo, with a mostly residential / industrial plain between these cities (agricultural products come mainly from Tokachi plain on the east coast which has been under nuclear fallout most of spring and summer 2011).

Politicians and executives will likely get away with public opinion manipulation and other scandals in Kyushu as articles below show: a mere salary cut whereas in some more democratic countries, they might have been jailed. Besides, the Nishinippon Shimbun newspaper cancelled the publication of an anti-nuclear book due to pression from the same utility, which shows that public opinion manipulation is deeply rooted in Kyushu Electric Power Co. and Kyushu political institutions. Indeed, Saga Gov. Yasushi Furukawa is assured to get a highly paid sinecure in Kyushu Electric Power Co. after he “retires”.

Kyushu is the last large clean food producer in Japan and it has not accepted any nuclear waste for incineration yet: it may as well become the future of Japan.

Hereafter are reproduced several articles found in Japanese news in December 2011, as original articles might become unavailable soon: (more…)

Safe food is getting scarcer in Japan, even out of the no man’s land, in what I call the monitored land. Surviving in Japan supposes boycotting any food from areas northeastern of Nagoya included and of course any sea product from the North Pacific Ocean. This strict rule makes shopping complicated but nowhere as eating out. The end of the year brings a new threat in traditional food gifts that Japanese offer, i.e. “oseibo” (in Japanese 「お歳暮」. It is hard to be always on one’s guard and make rational choices as to what to eat and it is socially a burden when one constantly has to ask for the source of ingredients of any food in shops and restaurants. Furthermore, when the temptation is from one’s relatives and friends, it is almost impossible for anyone to resist and discard the gift, like Snow White could not decline the shiny red apple for the gentle old, poor woman who actually was intent on killing her.

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Butter in Japan mainly comes from its northern island Hokkaido, along with many dairy products such as milk, which is at the center of the latest radioactive food scandal.

The east coast of Hokkaido was visited by radioactive fallout from Fukushima most Spring and Summer days. Fishermen bring in their catch from radioactive Pacific Ocean close to Fukushima so that fish can be sold nationwide as products “from Hokkaido”. It is rumored to arrive at night in Nagoya for distribution throughout Japan. Domestic fish has become a major public health hazard in Japan and is exported worldwide.

There might be some safe areas left in Hokkaido but the prefecture lost all my trust for allowing various food scams to support contaminated regions. Besides it’s impossible to tell where in Hokkaido butter comes from, much less which milk and cream were used as ingredients.

A popular butter in Japan is the Snow Brand Hokkaido Butter, from the company that poisoned 15000 Japanese in 2000 and secretly recycled old milk to make other products – not to be trusted in these trying times. (more…)

A lot of the rationale of supporters of non-evacuating Tokyo seems to revolve around the notion of hotspots. Hotspots are limited areas in which ground radiation spikes up compared to the surroundings. Although radiation is not negligible in Tokyo, some argue that it is even higher in similar cities where there hasn’t been any known nuclear incident, such as Hong Kong with more than 0.3 uSv/h at 1m above ground. Tokyo hotspots detected in Setagaya, around the Imperial Palace, etc. were not very satisfactorily explained in the news by the supposed presence of radium bottles left over (same explanation used several times).

Tokyo cityscape changes continually and buildings may disappear suddenly as one visits a street after a few years. Besides construction work and demolitions, low to medium intensity earthquakes regularly shake the city and cause shelves, TV sets, etc. to fall and smash on floors. It is difficult to imagine radium bottles lying around for 50 years untouched in these ever-moving conditions. Such bold statements from the government were largely accepted by the population who is eager to cling to any reassuring explanation for their hotspots.

Hotspots are perceived to be like rotten apples in an otherwise healthy basket, singularities which statisticians can dismiss in order to focus on the average radiation environment. Scarcity of hotspots seem to support this view, however monitoring is imperfect and reporting even worse.

Shortly after March eleven, a green tea grower from Shizuoka prefecture (south-west of Tokyo and near the Mount Fuji) reported that his tea was radiation-hot after he got it analyzed on a voluntary basis (Cf. link to New York Times story in Analysis Of Japanese Government Radiation Spread Report on SurvivalJapan). Panic followed among green tea growers who made sure that none of them would ever carry their tea leaves to a laboratory again. This is anecdotal but it illustrates how hotspots are discovered and buried in Japan. Therefore hotspots tend to seem isolated whereas, if the population wanted to seriously investigate, there might be more rotten apples.

Here is another anecdote: in the farming village from where I buy local vegetables and rice, I proposed a foreign friend of mine who grows organic food there to make some radioactivity measures – and in order to make it significant, to get organized with the local Japanese community and offer to check out their fields and rice paddies too. My friend replied that such discussions had already taken place and that the consensus was that, although it would nice to know that the soil is safe, it would have a devastating effect with commercial consequences, should we find anything unusual. I discreetly made a measurement there which showed it was alright (0.125 uSv/h with Inspector Alert right next to the wet, black soil) and told my friend about it. From reading the news and hearing people talks, I am convinced this is a relevant example of farmers’ attitude with respect to radiation monitoring nationwide – and hence the explanation of the scarcity of reported hotspots.

Hotspots monitoring in Japan is like searching for a sick tree at the edge of a forest, cutting the tree down and never look in this place again. (more…)

The Beer In Japan post on SurvivalJapan offered some advice on how to choose food products with minimal radiation exposure risk in an environment devoid of reliable information source, with beer as an example. Three months ago, my post titled Safer Food Quest warned about such Tokyo-headquartered dairy product companies as Meiji, which distributes milk of course, but also chocolate snacks, ice cream, etc. Warning eventually became a scandal – one in many to come in Japan criminal food industry – as reported by Bloomberg today (read the article below).

Bloomberg – Cesium in Meiji Milk Powder Spurs Recall Amid Radiation Threat

By Kanoko Matsuyama, Dec. 6

Radioactive cesium was found in milk powder made by a Meiji Holdings Co. unit, Kyodo News said, causing the shares to fall the most in eight months and raising concern that nuclear radiation is contaminating baby food.

Meiji, Japan’s largest supplier of infant formula, is voluntarily recalling 400,000 cans of its “Meiji Step” brand product, which may have been contaminated by radiation leaked from the Fukushima nuclear plant, Kyodo said today. Affected cans have 2012 expiration dates of Oct. 4, Oct. 21, Oct. 22. and Oct. 24, it said.

Levels of cesium found in the 850-gram cans of baby milk powder are within safe limits and pose no health risk, the Tokyo-based company said in a statement today. The product may have been contaminated by cesium in the air, it said. The product was made in Saitama prefecture, north of Tokyo , it said.

Prolonged exposure to radiation in the air, ground and food can cause leukemia and other cancers, according to the London- based World Nuclear Association. Japanese consumers have spurned certain food products, including beef, after evidence that fallout from Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501)’s nuclear plant, crippled in the March 11 earthquake, entered the food chain.

Meiji fell as much as 13 percent in Tokyo trading, ending trading down 9.7 percent at a 30-month low of 3,020 yen. Rivals Morinaga Milk Industry Co. plunged 3.5 percent to a three-year low of 275 yen and Megmilk Snow Brand Co. declined 3.6 percent.

Cesium Traces

Traces of cesium-137 and cesium-134 were first detected in the Meiji milk product on Dec. 3 and were found again on Dec. 4, the company said today.

In a nuclear accident, radioactive isotopes including iodine-131 and cesium-137, which are normally contained inside the fuel rods, may be released into the atmosphere as gases or particulates if the rods are damaged. These can be inhaled or ingested through contaminated food or water. Children are especially susceptible to radiation poisoning from iodine, which can accumulate in the thyroid and cause cancer, according to the World Health Organization.

Cesium-137 that enters the body is distributed throughout the soft tissues, especially in muscle. Cesium-137 is eliminated faster from the body than other radionuclides, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kanoko Matsuyama in Tokyo at kmatsuyama2@bloomberg.net .

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jason Gale at j.gale@bloomberg.net

Shoppers are becoming aware as the apparition of milk with certified unique origin from places out of the no man’s land suggest. For instance, milk ″from Hyogo prefecture only″ is now available in some supermarkets  (see picture below with red box added to mark this mention in Japanese). Previously, tainted Hokkaido milk was difficult to avoid – although the northern island east coast is regularly visited by plumes from Fukushima. Besides, milk origin is ambiguously labelled ″packaged in″ any given factories without any details about the actual origin of the milk itself, hence discreetly giving decision power over whether companies mixed healthy milk with radioactive waste. Of course, there isn’t any guarantee that milk marketed as originating from the monitored land does not come from cows just imported from the no man’s land. Premium Kobe beef, for instance, only needs to be raised one year in that crowded region to be legally labelled and sold and such – cows are generally raised in greener and cheaper places such as Miyazaki (Kyushu)or Ishigaki (Okinawa) and then sent to Kobe. Although moving is costly, the cost can be passed on more easily on Kobe beef eaters than on Hyogo milk drinkers, hence providing a relative security for the latter ones. However the price of safe milk will rise with along with its increasing scarcity and it may reach a level where moving “hot” cows for their milk make economic sense on the very short-term. Food industrials should take notice with the example of milk packers that it damages their image, equity and bottom line very rapidly though. (more…)

This post is an update of Geiger Counter Case Study: Inspector Alert published on SurvivalJapan in which some questions remained open, mainly about the relatively high values (although still in the safe range) which I measured with the system kindly lent to me by Safecast and from whom I received some further advice.

The Safecast bGeigie system is designed to measure mainly gamma rays (high energy protons, akin to X-rays) and hence is used at least one meter above ground in their radiation maps. Since I live in the monitored land, several hundred miles away from Fukushima, gamma radiation is low and not really a concern. Therefore I had measured instead beta radiation (high energy electrons or positrons which are emitted back from the ground after radioactive fall-out) at about one foot above ground. For convenience, I monitored the level of radiation with the Safecast display which communicates by radio with the Inspector Alert safely cast in its lunchbox style (in Japanese “bento”) box, along with the GPS and SD memory card to geo-locate and store results. The Safecast team advised against this methodology for beta radiation pick-up and advised me to use the Inspector Alert alone for that matter – which I did.

I read the user manual to set the Inspector Alert display in uSv/h as opposed to CPM (count per minute) as I am more familiar with this unit and it is more relevant for body effects. The user manual explains that the factor used by the device to convert CPM into uSv/h is based on Cesium-137, the radionuclide used for its calibration, so the uSv/hr display is less accurate for other nuclides (such as Cesium-134, Strontium-90, Iodine-131 and of course Uranium and Plutonium…). This is why Safecast uses the CPM raw data instead.

The first measure that I made was inside my home and the display changed widely even in a single place. A Geiger counter is not like a weighing scale: it does not give a result at once nor does it give a stable result. Therefore when a value is broadcast either by citizens or a governmental organization, it should be taken with a grain of salt. For instance, I could measure 0.120 uSv/h and any value between 0.090 and 0.150 uSv/h, that is about 25% more or less than the central value. Sometimes, some wilder values would come up: how do we interpret these?

Radiation is a random phenomenon which occurs naturally, so when a particle hits the Geiger counter sensor plate, it is registered and changes the overall measure value. The Inspector Alert averages measures over 30 seconds in order to get a more statistically relevant measure. Even then, the result is only displayed every 3 seconds so if one is moving, there is a delay between the measure and the display. Then there is the 15% accuracy which is probably an average: it means that some wild values (standard deviation) can occur from time to time. Other factors which can affect the results are solar flares (there was just a sunstorm by the way) and, probably, thermal drift if the device electronics is not properly compensated when temperature changes (any kind of electronics sensor is subject to this phenomenon). The bottom line is that measures could be twice as high depending on temperature, solar activity, randomness of natural radioactivity, types of radionuclides (including artificial ones from nuclear plants) and radiation (here it is a synthetic result of alpha, beta, gamma and X-rays), accuracy, resolution, etc.

Indeed, I could still measure inside and outside values from 0.055 to 0.225 uSv/h and even up to 0.355 uSv/h when spot on granite blocks which are naturally radioactive. These new measures were consistent with the range I had already measured with the full Safecast system. I could also check that the outer casing of Safecast suitcase and bento box did not emit stronger radiation than the room so the Geiger counter is likely not contaminated (and there should not be any calibration issue either according to the user manual).

I still could not double-check with another type of Geiger counter yet but these new results convinced me that they are normal. The maximum international value (except in post-Fukushima Japan) accepted is 1 mSv/year, which equates to 0.114 uSv/h. Given a 15% accuracy, it means that the Inspector Alert should read between 0.097 and 0.131 uSv/h which is indeed what it does most of the time (so we can dismiss occasional lower and higher results as products of standard deviation).

A final word of advice which I received from Safecast and which is also documented in the user manual is to use the timed count function of the Inspector Alert over at least 10 minutes to further smooth out results. There should be about 15% difference maximum between two such timed counts.

I hope that this update helps you to get a better idea about the capabilities and limitations of Geiger counters in general and specifically of the Inspector Alert – and of the analytical mindset and of the basic radiation knowledge necessary to properly use them. In any case, purchasing a Geiger counter to try and measure radioactivity in food does not make any sense (unless the food is irradiated to such a level that just staring at it is dangerous) and that monitoring the food trace is a safer and more reliable procedure. Thankfully, this is getting easier.

Nine months after the disaster, the Japanese Science Ministry finally gave birth to a report about radiation spread across Japan, as published by Asahi Shimbun newspaper (article also reproduced below). Although from the relatively small size of Japan compared to Chernobyl-stricken Belarus, it was obvious from the onset that Cesium would fall “all over Japan” (breaking news title from the Asahi Shimbun article), the issue was to assess concentrations.

Since the Japanese government policy remains to downplay the risk, after censoring radiation reports in the news and in the blogosphere, data should be taken with a grain of salt. Last week, the Japanese government has turned its back on the company it had contracted to monitor radiation in parks and school playgrounds around Fukushima, after it suddenly discovered that the accuracy of the Geiger counters it had ordered was substandard (Cf. Mainichi Shimbun news article and comment in Geiger Counter Case Study: Inspector Alert in SurvivalJapan). MEXT data for all regions but Fukushima falsely reported radiation levels close to natural background radiation for months so that I only trust citizens reports such as Safecast. On the Japanese government radiation map below, it is a safe bet to assign to each concentration the level range above each reported, i.e. for 0-10.000 Becquerel/sq.m, the real value is probably between 10.000 and 30.000 Becquerel/sq.m. As for the methodology, only one station per prefecture was used to measure data. The Japanese government and affiliated organizations reportedly used Geiger counters conveniently located to show the least radiation, as in the current case of Tokyo University, which use only their one station with lower readings and switched off the other one which measures higher levels of radioactivity. Japan is not the only country to set their radioactivity monitoring stations at their convenience, this is common practice as shown in France by CRIIRAD with Areva (ex-COGEMA) company for instance, in the context of nationwide contamination from closed uranium mines. Read for instance “Decommissioning Projects – France” on Wise-Uranium with links or directly the English report by Head of CRIIRAD Bruno Chareyron, “Radiological hazards from uranium mining”, available for download in PDF format. CRIIRAD stands for Commission de Recherche et d’Information Indépendantes sur la RADioactivité / Commission for Independent Research and Information about RADiation and Bruno Chareyron was invited in Fukushima.

If absolute figures are probably fudged, relative concentrations of radiation in cities are likely to be trustful (although it says nothing about other cities in each prefecture). Hereafter is a ranking based on the news article, with lowest concentration rounded up to 1 Bq/sq.m for Uto, Kumamoto Prefecture, as the reported value is unrealistically small (0.378 Bq/sq.m) and for the sake of having a non-null integer multiplier. It should be noted that the apparent precision of figures is misleading and I kept the 2 most significant figures for this short ranking:

Kumamoto (Kyushu) : 1

Osaka : 20

Tokyo : 20,000

Yamagata (Fukushima and Miyagi neighbor by the Sea of Japan) : 20,000

Ibaraki (northern neighbor of Tokyo by the Ocean Pacific) : 40,000

In other words, radiation is 10 times lower in Kyushu compared to Kansai (suspiciously, in spite of the Genkai nuclear incident, Cf. Nuclear Incident in Kyushu November Update on SurvivalJapan). Kansai is itself a 1000 times less irradiated than Tokyo. This seems about right and there is of course a gradient between these regions. Indeed, before information black-out was enforced, a Japanese green tea grower in Shizuoka (further south from Mount Fuji, about 150 km / 100 miles south-west of Tokyo) reported high level of radioactivity (read for instance the New York Post article about it). In order to get 680 Bq/kg in dried tea leaves, as was reported there in Honyama area, the soil needs to be pretty contaminated and hence also the air, from which radioactive fall-out precipitates (therefore, other food products from this wider area are contaminated as well). This means that statements like the following one is untrustworthy: “Large amounts of radioactive dust fell in Tokyo, but a separate survey has detected relatively low accumulations of cesium in the soil.” Actually, it was documented in the US in the wake of a nuclear bomb test in Nevada that decontamination of roads and concrete surfaces is impossible even by using hydrochloric acid, so if the latter sounds paradoxical with regards to “large amounts of radioactive dust fell in Tokyo”, then it is another lie by the ministry official : “Tokyo has smaller soil surfaces than other prefectures, but road and concrete surfaces are less prone to fixate cesium deposits, which were probably diffused by the wind and rain”. Read “Secret Fallout” by Dr. Ernest Stainglass available for download in PDF format for more information about the myth of nuclear decontamination and more specifically chapter 1, “Thunderstorm in Troy”.

Likewise, it is just simply impossible to reconcile statements of Ibaraki prefecture being 1 million times more radioactive than 2 years ago on one hand, and the current air radiation level being 0.14 uSv/h, i.e. what I personally measured in my city in the monitored area and which is an ordinary value indeed. Again, the same article mentions that Ibaraki is more than 40,000 times radioactive than Kumamoto in Kyushu (actually 100,000 if we consider the exact values given in the article). It is a wonder that such inconsistencies can exist in an article from a mainstream newspaper without a word of critical analysis. The article leaves a great grey area between Tokyo and Osaka – as it would be interesting to get some values for Nagoya for instance, which is inside the no man’s land in my book (although the Aichi prefecture is supposedly “clean” on the map below), as one needs to draw a line somewhere and radiation reports by citizens were higher than “normal” there.

image

Note: real values probably one notch higher in the scale

Asahi Shimbun – Cesium from Fukushima plant fell all over Japan

November 26, 2011

Radioactive substances from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant have now been confirmed in all prefectures, including Uruma, Okinawa Prefecture, about 1,700 kilometers from the plant, according to the science ministry.

The ministry said it concluded the radioactive substances came from the stricken nuclear plant because, in all cases, they contained cesium-134, which has short half-life of two years.

Before the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake, radioactive substance were barely detectable in most areas.

But the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology’s survey results released on Nov. 25 showed that fallout from the Fukushima plant has spread across Japan. The survey covered the cumulative densities of radioactive substances in dust that fell into receptacles during the four months from March through June.

Figures were not available for Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, where the measurement equipment was rendered inoperable by the March 11 disaster.

One measurement station was used for each of the other 45 prefectures.

The highest combined cumulative density of radioactive cesium-134 and cesium-137 was found in Hitachinaka, Ibaraki Prefecture, at 40,801 becquerels per square meter. That was followed by 22,570 becquerels per square meter in Yamagata, the capital of Yamagata Prefecture, and 17,354 becquerels per square meter in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward.

The current air radiation level in Ibaraki Prefecture is about 0.14 microsievert per hour, equivalent to an annual dose of about 1 millisievert, the safety limit for exposure under normal time international standards.

Large amounts of radioactive dust fell in Tokyo, but a separate survey has detected relatively low accumulations of cesium in the soil.

“Tokyo has smaller soil surfaces than other prefectures, but road and concrete surfaces are less prone to fixate cesium deposits, which were probably diffused by the wind and rain,” a ministry official explained.

The fallout densities were considerably lower in the Chugoku and Kyushu regions in western Japan. The smallest figure of 0.378 becquerel per square meter came from Uto, Kumamoto Prefecture. The density in Osaka was 18.9 becquerels per square meter.

The peak value in Ibaraki Prefecture was 970,000 times larger than the cumulative fallout density of 0.042 becquerel per square meter in fiscal 2009, found in an earlier nationwide survey before the Fukushima crisis started.

Before the accident, cesium-137, which has a longer half-life of 30 years, had been detected from time to time from atmospheric nuclear tests. But those densities mostly stayed below 1 becquerel per square meter, while cesium-134, with a shorter half-life, was rarely detected, the ministry officials said.

Also on Nov. 25, the science ministry released maps of aerially measured radioactive cesium from the Fukushima plant that accumulated in Aomori, Ishikawa, Fukui and Aichi prefectures.

This was the final batch of the 22 prefectures in eastern Japan where mapping was to be completed by the end of this year.

Nowhere in the four prefectures did the accumulations exceed 10,000 becquerels per square meter, the threshold for defining an area as being affected by the nuclear accident. This reconfirmed the science ministry’s view that radioactive plumes wafted only as far west as the border of Gunma and Nagano prefectures and as far north as the border of Miyagi and Iwate prefectures, ministry officials said.

The ministry also confirmed that radioactive plumes tended to drift just short of mountain ranges where they formed belts of high cesium concentrations due to rainfall and other factors. The mountain ranges included the Ou and Iide mountains along the border of Yamagata and Fukushima prefectures, the Echigo mountains along the border of Fukushima and Niigata prefectures, the Shimotsuke mountains along the border of Fukushima and Tochigi prefectures, and the Kanto mountains along the border of Gunma and Nagano prefectures.

These patterns are shown in three-dimensional plots in an online Japanese-language document released by the science ministry (http://bit.ly/unIfH0).

The ministry also said Nov. 25 that it will conduct aerial measurements of cesium accumulations in soil in regions outside the 22 prefectures starting next year. That is because small amounts of cesium have been detected in dust deposits in Hokkaido and western Japan.

By HIROSHI ISHIZUKA / Staff Writer