Radioactive cesium levels rise sharply in Fukushima, according to citizen watchdog
A Japanese citizen watchdog has reported that cesium-137 levels rose more than five times in Fukushima over a 24-hour period between March 15 and 16.
The online Fukushima Diary pointed out that there were no megabecquerels per square kilometre of cesium-137 detected between March 8 and March 11. But it rose to 17.8 MBq per kilometre from March 11 to March 12. The following day, it reached 25.1, before rising to 128 on the next day.
The Fukushima Diary—which carries the statement "We are against media blackout"—said there was no explanation for the sudden increase from the Tokyo Electric Power Company, which owns the nuclear-power plant in Fukushima.
Cesium-137 has a half-life of 30 years and exists in tiny amounts in soil and water. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, cesium-137 is produced when uranium and plutonium undergo fission and absorb neutrons in the creation of nuclear power.
"Exposure to waste materials, from contaminated sites, or from nuclear accidents can result in cancer risks much higher than typical environmental exposures," the EPA states on its website. "If exposures are very high, serious burns, and even death, can result. Instances of such exposure are very rare. One example of a high-exposure situation would be the mishandling a strong industrial cesium-137 source."
Levels of cesium-134, which has a half-life of just over two years, also shot up over the same period. It went from from zero MBq per kilometre on March 10 to 88.6 MBq per kilometre between March 15 and March 16, according to the Fukushima Diary.
In November, it reported that cesium-134 and cesium-137 releases from Fukushima were already at 95 percent of what was discharged from the Chernobyl nuclear reactor when it exploded in Ukraine in 1986.
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