Japan's radiation leaks

Updated: 2011-08-16 08:10

(China Daily)

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Dangers from the nuclear leaks at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi power plant still exist.

In a statement released on July 31, China's State Oceanic Administration announced that the waters in the Western Pacific region east and southeast of Fukushima are "clearly affected" by the radioactive materials that have leaked from the crippled nuclear power plant.

The results of the tests deserve serious attention. Elevated levels of radioactive cesium-137 and -134, as well as strontium-90 were found in samples collected from these areas.

According to the oceanic administration, cesium-134 can't be detected in seawater under normal conditions, while the amount of cesium-137 detected in the samples was 300 times the normal background radiation level in China's territorial waters and the strontium-90 level was 10 times the normal level.

The impact of these amounts of radioactive materials on marine life in these areas is unknown.

When Japan released radioactive water into the ocean near its stricken nuclear complex, experts didn't take its impact seriously. They didn't think it would pose a widespread danger to marine life and spread up the food chain to humans.

The 252,000 square kilometers of ocean that the administration monitored are a lot larger than the area that Japan said had been contaminated.

The Japanese government has unveiled a draft plan to restructure its nuclear regulatory organizations and functions in a response to the disastrous accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. The plan proposes creating a new nuclear regulatory body by separating the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. The proposed agency will have some new functions and will phase out nuclear power generation in that nation.

In doing so the administration of the outgoing Prime Minister Naoto Kan has announced a clear shift in government policy by pledging to take steps toward reducing Japan's dependence on nuclear power. Some people in Japan have said it should begin this process by scrapping aged reactors and facilities that might be vulnerable to major earthquakes and other disasters.

Reshuffling its nuclear regulatory agency and proposing a safety standard for lifetime exposure to radiation for its citizens, is the right thing to do. But the Japanese government is also responsible for taking steps to keep its sea free from radioactive leaks so that its neighbors don't suffer.

China's oceanic administration said it would keep publishing the results of further tests. We expect that our government will come up with plans to deal with the oceanic administration's results and their impacts on the country.

(China Daily 08/16/2011 page8)