Saturday, April 09, 2011

Japan: Radiation Up Tourism Down Neighbours Alarmed

Japan's neighbors alarmed over risk of radiation threat
April 7, 2011

The world's worst nuclear disaster in 25 years is also raising concerns over safety in the United States, which has more atomic reactors than any other country, especially at one plant which is similar to the one in Fukushima wrecked by last month's 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami.

Engineers, who sealed a leak this week that had allowed highly radioactive water into the sea, are now pumping nitrogen into one reactor to prevent the risk of a hydrogen gas explosion.

Operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) (9501.T) said the chances of a repeat of the gas explosions that ripped through two reactors in the first days of the disaster were "extremely small."

But as engineers battle multiple crises -- some the result of efforts to try to cool reactors -- officials admit it could take months to bring the reactors under control and years to clear up the toxic mess left behind at the plant 240 km (150 miles) north of Tokyo.

"Data shows the reactors are in a stable condition, but we are not out of the woods yet," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told reporters.

The government has already set up a 20 km (12 miles) exclusion zone around the plant, banned fishing along much of the northeast coast and set up evacuation centers for the tens of thousands forced to leave their homes following the crisis.

An estimated 28,000 people were killed or are missing following the disaster.

China's health ministry said traces of radioactivity in spinach had been found in three provinces.

India earlier this week banned Japanese food imports for three months.

In South Korea, some schools closed because parents were worried that rain across the country could be toxic.

"We've sent out an official communication today that schools should try to refrain from outdoor activities," an education official in South Korea said.

South Korea's nuclear safety agency reported a small level of radioactive iodine and caesium particles in rain in the south but said it was not enough to be a public health concern.

Nevertheless, many Koreans donned face masks, and streets near schools in Seoul were more congested than usual as parents drove children to work rather than let them walk.

"We are geographically closer to Japan than others like the United States or Europe. We people are bound to be more worried," said President Lee Myung-bak, who has set up a ministerial task force to ensure public health and food safety. more page 2

No comments: