Radiation Worries Persist for Japan
Posted on Tuesday, April 12, 2011 at 2:11 PM
Author: Ryan Gula (Science Editor)
Clothes blow in the wind, dogs scavenge through the streets, cars sit parked, and trees rustle. This is not a normal day for the town of Minamisoma, Japan.
The town, which lies within the 12-mile exclusion zone around the destroyed nuclear facility, is now one of many ghost towns. What was once a busy and bustling neighborhood has become a scary sight almost overnight.
Occasionally, the eerie silence is broken as military patrols roll through with groups of officers in lead vests looking for victims’ bodies still trapped in the rubble.
The street lights still come on at their programmed times, and the red lights continue their flashing, as if directing invisible cars. What was once seen only in horror films has become a real-life situation for many towns in the exclusion zone.
The elevated levels of radiation pose too great a risk to the former inhabitants, who still remain in shelters and are not allowed to return.
Japanese officials announced last week that it will be several months before residents are allowed back, and even then, it may only be for a short time so they are able to gather some belongings that were, abandoned after the plants accident.
Scientists continue to take samples of the radiation levels throughout the neighborhood as workers begin to scrape away the top layers of soil, which are contaminated with radioactive particles released from the plant and that fall when it rains.
Residents expressed their frustrations last week, wanting access to their homes so they can get their pets and belongings, which they were forced to leave when they evacuated.
Experts expect to see a rise in cancer rates around the area and throughout the entire country. Radiation has been found in milk and even fish, which is a popular food in Japan.
The plant has finished patching a leak, which was allowing thousands of gallons of highly radioactive water to go into the sea.
Fishermen are upset, as they fear their catches will be affected with radiation and that public concern will drive demand down.
The United States and a few other countries have banned seafood from Japan to prevent any radiation from entering our food system.Meanwhile, experts continue to monitor radiation levels and work to reduce exposure levels that are considered safe for the repopulation of the area.
The chances of residents allowed to permanently return to the area appears even more dim as the exclusion zone surrounding the plant was expanded beyond it’s current boundaries from fears of prolonged exposure.
All this as a 7.1 magnitude aftershock stuck exactly a month after the initial 9.0 magnitude disaster. Although this has been one of many, earthquakes many are shocked that the effects of the quake are still being felt a month later.
Officials continue to take precautions to avoid additional property damage.