TEPCO's cleanup operations spread radioactive cesium to rice paddies more than 12 miles from Fukushima

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(NaturalNews) Efforts to remove radioactive waste from the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan have merely displaced it to nearby fields growing rice, according to disturbing new reports. The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) intends to move forward with plans to continue removing contaminated debris from the site, even though sources say prior work has already contaminated at least 14 rice paddies located as far as 12 miles from the site.

Safety tests conducted by Japan's agriculture ministry last fall revealed that more than a dozen rice paddies in Minami-Soma, which is located outside the official Fukushima evacuation zone, tested high for radioactive cesium. The tainted rice crops, which were harvested last autumn, tested higher than the 100 becquerels per kilogram (Bg/kg) safety limit established by the Japanese government.

Following this discovery, ministry officials urged TEPCO to be more careful in its cleanup work and to establish preventive measures that would avoid further radioactive spread. TEPCO responded by immediately suspending the remediation project when this information came out, but now the company plans to resume it with the deconstruction of Fukushima's Reactor No. 1 building.

If TEPCO hopes to resume rubble-clearing operations, "providing information on the possibility of the spread of (contaminated substances) is a major premise," stated Takehiko Murayama, a risk management professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, to The Asahi Shimbun.

Rice paddies were contaminated as late as year-end 2013, say officials

Since the harvested rice was not uniformly contaminated with radiation, officials added that the radiation had to have been spread later rather than earlier. If the rice crops had pulled up radiation in the immediate aftermath of the disaster, in other words, it would have been distributed evenly throughout the plants, which was not the case.

"If the crops had drawn up radioactive substances released into the soil immediately after the Fukushima nuclear plant was hit by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, those substances would be detected uniformly throughout the plants," wrote Miki Aoki for The Asahi Shimbun.

"Since they weren't, the ministry concluded that the radioactive substances had been newly released at least by the end of September 2013, the harvest period for the rice crops."

As Fukushima rubble is displaced for removal, radioactive dust spreads far and wide

One major source of this contamination is believed to be a large piece of rubble pulled from the No. 3 reactor building last August. According to reports, when this piece was dislodged, radioactive dust that had settled underneath it caught the wind and blew away, exposing at least two workers in the process.

Local government officials agreed, declaring at the time that increased air radiation levels were caused by these rubble removal efforts. And since the Minami-Soma area where the rice paddies became contaminated is located downwind from where the removal took place, it only makes sense that this removal was also the most likely cause of the radiation spread.

"We cannot think of any other factors," stated a prefectural official to The Asahi Shimbun. "It is almost certain that the rise in readings was caused by the clearance work."

According to the System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose Information (SPEEDI), which collects real-time radiation levels at marked spots, it would have taken about three hours for the radioactive dust to travel from the No. 3 Reactor building to the rice paddies 12 miles away.

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