Friday, July 22, 2011

Japan nuclear scare triggers run for radiation checks

Japanese private research labs with radiation testing gear have been flooded with orders for checks on food and soil samples after shipments of contaminated beef deepened public anxiety over radiation leaks from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant.

Private institutions are bearing the brunt of a surge in demand from the public for radiation inspection, with public research facilities already overwhelmed with requests from the central and local governments, schools and farm cooperatives.

"It's totally understandable that people are worried. But we are barely keeping our heads above water with such tasks as pre-shipment checks on farm products," said an official in Fukushima prefecture, where the stricken plant is located.

A 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami on March 11 knocked out the cooling functions at Tokyo Electric Power Co's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant 240 km (150 miles) north of the capital, triggering the radiation crisis.

The government said last week radioactive cesium three to six times higher than government safety standards was found in beef shipped to Tokyo from a farm near the Fukushima plant. Some of the contaminated meat was sold to consumers.

"We are even receiving orders all the way from western Japan. The distribution of (contaminated) beef has made them realise this is not someone else's problem," said Akira Hanawa, president of Isotope Research Institute in Yokohama, near Tokyo. (more)