15 November 2011, 08:03
Japan farm radioactive levels probed
LONDON. November 15. KAZINFORM New research has found that radioactive material in parts of north-eastern Japan exceeds levels considered safe for farming.
The findings provide the first comprehensive estimates of contamination across Japan following the nuclear accident in 2011.
Food production is likely to be affected, the researchers suggest, BBC News reports.
The results are reported in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) journal.
In the wake of the accident at Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant, radioactive isotopes were blown over Japan and its coastal waters.
Fears that agricultural land would be contaminated spurred research into whether Japanese vegetables and meat were safe to eat.
An early study suggested that harvests contained levels of radiation well under the safety limit for human consumption.
Now, an international team of researchers suggests this result deserves a second look.
To estimate contamination levels, Teppei Yasunari, from the Universities Space Research Association in the US state of Maryland, and his colleagues, took measurements of the radioactive element caesium-137 in soil and grass from all but one of Japan's 47 regions and combined these results with simulations based on weather patterns following the meltdown.
Caesium-137 lingers in the environment for decades, and so is more of a concern than other radioactive elements released in the cloud of steam when the reactors' cooling systems failed, leading to explosions.
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