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Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Minami-Soma lambastes government, TEPCO for remaining mum on rice contamination

Debris cleared from the No. 3 reactor building at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in August 2013 is believed to be the source of radiation that contaminated rice paddies more than 20 kilometers away in Minami-Soma.

July 15, 2014
Residents of Minami-Soma in Fukushima Prefecture expressed anger with the government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. for keeping them in the dark about radiation that contaminated local rice crops.
"We cannot help but distrust the agriculture ministry, which did not promptly let us know of the matter, despite it being a serious issue," said Minami-Soma Mayor Katsunobu Sakurai.
According to the agriculture ministry, cesium levels of rice harvested in mid-August last year in Minami-Soma exceeded the safety standard of 100 becquerels per kilogram.

The ministry had determined that the removal of debris from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant caused radioactive substances to spread to 14 paddies outside the evacuation zone in Minami-Soma, more than 20 kilometers from the stricken nuclear plant.

The ministry informed TEPCO of the problem in March and ordered the utility to to take preventive measures. However, the ministry failed to inform the city of Minami-Soma of the situation.
The ministry plans to hold a meeting on July 18 to brief local farmers.

Sakurai also said TEPCO is at fault and that he wants answers.
"We protest (TEPCO's) irresponsible clearing of rubble that raises concern among farmers," the mayor said. "We demand an explanation."

During a regular news conference in Tokyo on July 14, TEPCO officials apologized for causing trouble in extensive areas. But the officials added that it remains uncertain if the debris clearance work is the cause of the spread of cesium.

Although the debris clearance work is currently on hold, the utility said it will be resumed later in July. When asked if TEPCO will release radiation readings or details of the clearance process, an official said, "We will consider it before restarting the clearance work."

At a July 14 news conference, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga was asked about the dangers of contaminated rice.
"We inspect every bag of rice when they are shipped," Suga said. "If there is rice with radiation levels exceeding the standards, it won't get shipped to market."

Suga was also asked why the agriculture ministry and TEPCO failed to inform Minami-Soma about the contamination of local rice crops.
"The reasons are unclear," he said. "But I have been informed that investigations will be held soon."
Regarding TEPCO's plan to dismantle the No. 1 reactor building still holding debris with high levels of radiation, Suga said, "The Nuclear Regulation Authority secretariat has asked TEPCO to come up with measures to further prevent and survey the dispersal of radioactive materials."
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