Deaths and mutations spike around Fukushima; No safety threshold for radioactive cesium exposure — GlobalResearch

” Plants in the area around Fukushima, Japan are widely contaminated with radioactive cesium, which is producing mutation and death in local butterflies, according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of the Ryukyus, Okinawa and published in the journal Scientific Reports.

The butterflies were found to experience severe negative effects at all detectable radiation levels, even very low ones.

“We conclude that the risk of ingesting a polluted diet is realistic, at least for this butterfly, and likely for certain other organisms living in the polluted area,” the researchers wrote.

Insects hard hit

The researchers note that although the 2011 meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant released “a massive amount of radioactive materials … into the environment,” few studies have looked at the biological effects of this disaster. Researchers have, however, measured elevated radiation levels in the polluted area, and have chronicled the accumulation of radioactive material in both wild and domestic plant and animal life in the region.

Studies have also suggested that insects may be particularly hard-hit by the increased radiation. One study found an increase in morphological abnormalities (physical deformities) in gall-forming aphids. Another found that insect abundance has decreased in the affected region, particularly butterfly abundance.

In order to test the effects of the radioactivity on local insects, researchers collected pale grass blue butterfly (Zizeeria maha) larvae from Okinawa, which is distant from Fukushimaand “likely the least polluted locality in Japan.” They then fed the larvae on plant leaves collected from one of five different regions: Hirono, Fukushima, Iitate-flatland, Iitate-montane and Ube. Because the five regions are all at different distances from Fukushima, the researchers expected that plants collected there would have differing levels ofradioactive cesium, which tests confirmed. The plants from Ube contained essentially no radioactivity, and were used as a control group.

The pale grass blue butterfly is a species commonly found in many regions of Japan, including near Fukushima.

The researchers found that caterpillars that ate radioactive leaves pupated into mutated butterflies that did not live as long, compared with caterpillars that ate non-radioactive leaves. These mutations and increased mortality were seen even in butterflies that consumed only very small doses of radioactive cesium.

“There seemed to be no threshold level below which no biological response could be detected,” the researchers wrote.

Small dose increases lead to large jump in mutation and death

The more radioactive cesium that the larvae consumed, the greater the rates of mutation and early death. Indeed, rates of both problems increased more rapidly than dosage (a non-linear relationship).

The study was not designed to test for similar effects on human beings, but the researchers warn that there is still enough evidence to be concerned. Two of the locations that radioactive leaves were collected from – Fukushima City and Hirono Town – currently have people living in them. In addition, the study findings were consistent with radioactivity levels found in plants following the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

The Chernobyl meltdown led to a sharp rise in infant deaths in locations as far from the plant as Western Germany and the United States. A recent study, published in the journalRadiation Research, linked a sharp jump in thyroid cancer rates in the years following that disaster directly to the amount of radioactive iodine that children were exposed to in the months immediately after the meltdown and explosion.

The triple meltdown at Fukushima is now considered by many scientists to be the worst civilian nuclear disaster the world has ever seen, surpassing even Chernobyl.

Both sites have yet to be fully cleaned up or sealed off. ”



Fukushima youths ready to desert irradiated hometowns, survey finds — The Japan Times

” FUKUSHIMA – In 30 to 40 years from now, a majority of the young people living in 12 radiation-contaminated municipalities in Fukushima do not plan to be living in the same place where they experienced the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, it has been learned.

A survey by a panel from the Reconstruction Agency found that more than 50 percent of those respondents between the ages of 10 and 29 stopped short of choosing their prefectural hometowns as the place where they want to be living three or four decades from now.

The 12 municipalities were tainted by fallout from the triple core meltdown that crippled Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s poorly protected Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power station in March 2011 — a man-made disaster triggered by the quake and tsunami.

Many of the locales are partially or entirely within the evacuation zone designated around the power plant.

Based on the survey results, the panel plans to draw up proposals on the future of the 12 municipalities as early as this summer, informed sources said.

The survey, conducted in February and March, covered members of some 13,000 households randomly selected from the 77,600 still remaining in the 12 municipalities. Valid answers were only obtained from about 5,100 of the households.

The survey said the proportion of respondents willing to stay in the municipalities where they were residing at the time of the disaster topped 60 percent among those in their 30s or above. For those between 10 and 29, including elementary and junior high school students, the share dropped below 50 percent.

While a majority of those between their 30s and 60s expressed hope of working in their hometowns in the future, the ratio was less than 40 percent for younger people.

“The results are very shocking,” said Satoshi Endo, mayor of the town of Hirono, adding that the town, one of the 12 municipalities listed, needs to create a future vision that appeals to children.

About 60 percent of those who evacuated Hirono have not yet returned.

The Fukushima Prefectural Government will present a clear vision so young people can have hope about their hometowns, a senior official said.

The Reconstruction Agency established the panel last December to discuss the future of the 12 evacuated municipalities.

The proposals will be reflected in the agency’s budget request for fiscal 2016.

The remaining 11 municipalities were the cities of Tamura and Minamisoma, the towns of Kawamata, Naraha, Tomioka, Okuma, Futaba and Namie, and the villages of Kawauchi, Katsurao and Iitate. ”


Fukushima may end free housing for voluntary nuclear evacuees in 2017 — The Japan Times

” FUKUSHIMA – The Fukushima Prefectural Government may stop providing free accommodations at the end of March 2017 for people who voluntarily left areas in the prefecture not subject to nuclear evacuation advisories, sources said.

Officials hope to encourage people who evacuated on their own to return home, but the proposed end to the assistance will certainty draw objections from them.

There have been calls in some Fukushima municipalities that are worried about the lack of progress in the return home of evacuees for an end to the support program.

The prefecture will decide after listening to the opinions of local officials later this month, the sources said.

Of about 115,000 people who have taken refuge in and outside the prefecture, some 36,000 are believed to be from areas that are not covered by the central government’s evacuation advisories for radiation from the nuclear crisis that started in 2011.

Many voluntary evacuees are people with children as well as former residents of such areas as the town of Hirono, the village of Kawauchi and the city of Minamisoma, all geographically close to the government-designated evacuation zones.

They sought refuge outside their hometowns mainly due to concerns over exposure to radiation from the reactor meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 plant.

Under the Disaster Relief Act, the prefectural government provides prefabricated temporary housing for nuclear evacuees for free and fully finances their rent for private apartments.

The aid program was originally supposed to run two years, but it was extended by a year twice, with the current version set to expire at the end of next March. For voluntary evacuees, the prefecture hopes to terminate the assistance after another one-year extension, the sources said.

It is looking at continuing the free accommodations for people who fled the designated evacuation areas, the sources said. ”