A study by Japanese scientists evaluating the biological impact of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster has uncovered growth differences in wild Japanese monkeys since the disaster.
Shin-ichi Hayama and colleagues at the Nippon Veterinary and Life Science University in Tokyo performed external measurements on fetuses collected from 2008 to 2016. They found that compared with the 31 fetuses conceived before March 11, 2011 -- the date if the disaster -- the 31 conceived after that date had "significantly lower" body weight growth rate and head size.
Hayama has been studying the monkeys since 2008, in particular the bodies of those wild monkeys that are part of annual culling, (or "systematic management," as Hayama calls it) by the Fukushima City government in order to curb the population of monkeys, which are well known for destroying agricultural crops. It was through these studies that Hayama became aware of the changes induced by the exposure to radiation that contaminated large swathes of land in Fukushima and caused the evacuation of around 160,00 residents.
The Fukushima disaster exposed a large number of humans and wild animals to radioactive substances, Hayama states in the paper, which is published in the peer-reviewed Scientific Reports, a Nature publication. While several studies of wild animals in Fukushima looked at the health effects of the disaster, such as abnormalities found in pale grass blue butterfly, carp and wild mice, "there is no research investigating long-term exposure to radiation on mammals that typically have long life-span to date," according to the study. "This study is the first report to observe long-term biological effects of the pre- and post-NPP disaster on non-human primates in Fukushima," it continues.
According to an article in Forbes, Hayama recently presented his research as part of the University of Chicago where he said: "I’m not a radiation specialist, but because I’ve been gathering data since 2008 ... it seems obvious to me that this is very important research. I’ve asked radiation specialists to take on this research, but they have never been willing to take this on because they say we don’t have any resources or time to spare because humans are much more important ... If we don’t keep records, there will be no evidence and it will be as if nothing happened.”
Hayama's team had previously studied radioactive exposure and its effect on the health of Japanese monkeys in Fukushima City. The prefecture capital is located approximately 70 km from the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant that experienced multiple meltdowns and explosions in March 2011, but had nonetheless shown high concentrations of radiocesium in its soil. The team looked into chronological changes in muscle radiocesium concentrations in monkeys inhabiting the city from April 2011 to June 2012. The cesium concentration in monkeys’ muscle captured at locations with high radioactive concentrations actually decreased over the 3 months following the disasters, only to increase again in some animals during and after December 2011, although it returned to previous levels the following April.
The results suggested that "the short-term exposure to some form of radioactive material resulted in hematological changes in Fukushima monkeys," according to that study.
"The effects associated with long-term low-dose radiation exposure on fetuses are among the many health concerns," Hayama states. "Children born to atomic bomb survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki showed low birth weight, high rates of microcephaly, and reduced intelligence due to abnormal brain development. Experiments with pregnant mice or rats and radiation exposure had been reported to cause low birth weight, microcephaly or both."
Hayama's team also identified a similar study on wild animals following the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986. The report found that "the brains of birds captured in the vicinity of the Chernobyl NPP weighted lower compared to those of birds captured elsewhere."
The full report can be found here
The Japan government has announced that soil contaminated by the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant will be transported to an intermediate storage site in on of the towns worst affected by the March 2011 nuclear disaster.
According to the announcement made by the Environment Ministry the relocation of the radioactive soil will commence on October 28, even though the amount of soil to be moved is more than double that of the land so far acquired to accommodate it.
The move sticks of desperation, with the growing number of temporary sites housing millions of bags of radioactive debris around Fukushima Prefecture becoming a veritable eyesore and yet another stigma on the shattered communities. The debris has been painstakingly collected in the aftermath of the march 11 2011 disaster, where the Fukushima No. 1 plant underwent multiple reactor meltdowns and explosions.
The newly created intermediate storage site, located in Okuma and Futaba towns, which house the plants 6 reactors, will cover a 16-sq.-km area and is designed to accommodate up to 22 million cubic meters of radioactive debris. It's lifespan is a maximum of 30 years, after which it will need to be transferred to more permanent storage.
Such permanent storage became a hot topic in September when the government drew up a nuclear waste map earmarking places throughout Japan where temporary storage facilities could be installed. Those facilities are estimated to take up to 100 years to complete
The environment ministry is continuing talks with landowners in the area with an eye to purchasing more land for the temporary storage site. So far it has managed to finalise acquisition agreements for just 40 percent of the required land for the project.
The facility was originally slated for the start of 2015 but found resistance from residents, causing several delays.
On Oct. 28, contaminated soil that has been stored within Okuma will be moved there and a similar facility is being scheduled on the Futaba side.
Following on from an earlier blog on Sept. 14, Japan’s nuclear watchdog has now approved safety measures implemented by TEPCO at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant in Niigata, clearing the way for the restart of two of the reactors there.
The approval is the first for the beleaguered utility since the March 2011 nuclear disasters at its No. 1 nuclear power plant in Fukushima.
The Nuclear Regulation Authority said yesterday that the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant -- which is one of the world's largest -- now met the new safety criteria that was put into force following the multiple meltdowns explosions in Fukushima that forced the evacuation of around 160,000 residents.
Before the restarts take place, the NRA will seek approval from the public. Residents living near the plant are expected to oppose any restarts. It is believed by some experts that the plant sits atop as many as 23 seismic faults.
It will also ask the views of the head of the ministry of of economy, trade and industry, which will be charged with overseeing TEPCO's management policy concerning its restart initiative and its decommissioning of the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
Concerns have been raised about the utility's commitment and responsibility toward that decommissioning effort -- which is estimated to take 40 years. As mentioned in an earlier post, it came to light last month that workers at the Fukushima No. 1 plant had erroneously set water gauges to measure groundwater levels of wells around reactor buildings. As a result it is thought that leaks of highly contaminated water to the outside water, including the ocean, may well have taken place.
Local media is reporting that the restarts are not guaranteed even if TEPCO passes all the required tests and screenings. It also will be required to gain the approval of local governments
Niigata Governor Ryuichi Yoneyama has said that he will wait until his prefectural government completes its own investigation into the cause of the Fukushima disaster before making any decision on restarts at Kashiwazaki-kariwa plant. This is expected to take another three or four years to complete.
There is not a little irony in the NRA seeking approval from the industry ministry. As mentioned in Yoshida's Dilemma, the ministry was deemed to have been a key player in a number of nuclear industry scandals, including coverups involving the doctoring of data and airbrushing out reactor defects and the outing of industry whistleblowers. In the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster it was decided that the cozy ties between the nuclear industry and nuclear regulator should be severed and a new regulatory body, the NRA, that was completely unconnected to the economy ministry, was established. Experts have commented that there is a growing tendency for the NRA to start resembling its corrupt predecessor, NISA.