” FUKUSHIMA–With its team of international researchers, Fukushima University’s Institute of Environmental Radioactivity moved into full-scale operation on Dec. 3.
An official ceremony was held to mark the opening of its new two-story-high facility built with a government subsidy of roughly 1.8 billion yen ($15 million).
Established in July 2013, the institute studies the effects of the fallout from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant accident triggered by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster as well as various forms of environmental contamination globally.
“With varying factors such as terrain, soil composition, water flow and vegetation, each region is influenced differently by radiation,” said Takayuki Takahashi, director of the institute and a professor of robotics at the university. “Rather than conducting symptomatic treatments, we aim to take part in the recovery efforts by clarifying what effects radiation has in a scientific scope.”
There are currently 13 researchers at the institute, nine of whom are from Russia, Ukraine or other nations. They have already begun conducting studies in cooperation with other research organizations and universities looking at lake beds and marshlands using underwater drones. They have also surveyed the distribution of radioactive materials in the oceans, woodlands and other parts of the ecosystem.
The first floor of the facility has nine germanium semiconductor detectors that study radioactive content such as cesium levels in water, plants and soil samples. Some of the equipment is so sensitive they can detect the most miniscule traces of radiation while other machines are capable of studying 50 samples simultaneously.
The facility also has an electron microscope that can magnify images up to 3 million times. The researchers plan to use the device to observe how radioactive substances attach themselves to minerals in the hope of finding more effective decontamination methods.
“When we make progress, we will inform the public to give them a better understanding of our work,” Takahashi said. ”