You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that a nuclear meltdown of any size is going to be dangerous, especially for those who live and work inside 50 mile radius. In fact, there are some disturbing similarities between the 1986 Chernobyl disaster and the March 11th calamity at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant, where three nuclears reactors partially melted down following the massive 9.0 earthquake and tsunami.
Later in the year, we learned that contaminated water had leaked from a treatment system at the plant, with some potentially entering the sea. This was confirmed when, months after the initial meltdown, levels of radiation in the ocean near the plant remained extremely high.
The average person might assume that it would be years, even decades, before people would begin fishing or swimming in the waters near Fukushima. But they’d be wrong.
Just yesterday, local authorities decided to open Nakoso beach, located just 40 miles south of the stricken plant, after declaring the water safe. Joji Kimura, an Iwaki city official, was quoted as saying that airborne radiation levels at the beach have measured 0.08 mSv/hr, which the government maintains is far below dangerous levels. Water contamination in the area is being reported at under 1 bq/L.
Trusting the government’s decision (even though officials have offered changing, and sometimes conflicting, accounts about the radiation levels at Fukushima throughout the crisis), thousands of Japanese families flocked to the beach this week, splashing in the surf wearing nothing but bathing suits. Interestingly, there are no plans to reopen other beaches in the area.
Despite the government’s assurances, there are plenty of people in Japan who are aware of the risks, and will be avoiding the water. The day before the beach reopened, more than 170,000 protesters marched through Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park to demand the government bring an end to Japan’s use of nuclear power.
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