Fukushima Update - cesium in the rice

Update #55: August 26, 2011

by Nelle Maxey

Prime Minister Kan resigned today as he promised in the spring following the Fukushima disaster.

5 candidates run for Democratic Party presidency

"Five candidates are running for the presidency of Democratic Party of Japan to succeed Prime Minister Naoto Kan…." Saturday, August 27, 2011 07:51 +0900 (JST)

There has been little news over the last few days at NHK on the Fukushima disaster.

The beef cattle shipping ban has been lifted in Fukushima since the government decided the contaminated beef came from cattle who HAD eaten radioactive hay. 4 prefectures have now had the ban lifted. And today the cattle auctions resumed in Miyagi. This is all despite the questionable testing standards that SFK has discussed in previous posts.

Auction of Miyagi beef resumes

"Auctions of beef from Miyagi Prefecture resumed on Friday, one week after the Japanese government lifted a ban on shipment of beef cattle from the prefecture….Sendai City decided to independently test all beef sold at its wholesale market. But due to limits of its testing capacity, the city says it can only handle around 90 heads of cattle a day, roughly 60 percent of the amount that was being traded before the ban." Friday, August 26, 2011 14:32 +0900 (JST)

SKF carries this on the beef/contaminated hay story today:

Radioactive Rice Hay Story Still Doesn't Quite Add Up for Me Personally

Friday, August 26, 2011

"Quid est veritas? [What is the truth?}

The answer seems to be whatever is reported by the largest number of media outlets, mainstream and alternative. I'm just wondering aloud about my personal misgivings. (For those who insist on facts and figures only, you can stop right here, and have a nice weekend.)

The official story of radioactive rice hay is as follows:

The rice farmers left the rice hay in the fields after the harvest last fall, because the weather was supposedly not good. Too much rain, not enough time for the hay to dry.

When Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant reactor buildings blew up, the rice hay was sitting on the ground. Then the rain and snow fell on the hay, contaminating it with radioactive materials.

The rice farmers collected the hay and sold/gave it to cattle farmers, who then fed the rice hay to their cows to improve the texture of the meat before the cows are sold to the market.

The cows were later found with radioactive cesium, and it was determined that it was from the contaminated rice hay that they ate.

Here are my problems:

If the rice hay had been sitting on the ground since August/September last year and it rained and snowed, wouldn't the rice hay pretty much rot by March this year?

The radioactive rice hay, particularly that from Miyagi Prefecture, has been shipped all over Japan. Why? Because, apparently, the rice hay from Miyagi (and Iwate) is considered high quality because the rice there is considered premium. Cattle farmers outside Miyagi purchase the Miyagi rice hay to feed their premium cows. This cattle farm in Yamagata proudly says their premium cows are fed with only quality rice hay from Miyagi and Yamagata.

Would the cattle farmers all over Japan buy the rice hay that was sitting on the ground for more than 6 months in rain and snow?

Another problem I have is that these cows start to be fed with rice hay one year before they are sold to the market. The cows that were found with radioactive cesium in July were sold and processed into meat between April and July. So they must have been eating rice hay since March – July of last year, and ate the radioactive rice hay for less than 3 months at most. Many cows were sold and processed in April, so they ate the radioactive rice hay for less than a month.

It turns out that Miyagi Prefecture is the number one producer of rice hay for cattle feed in Tohoku. Even if the rice hay producers do not roll the hay until it's ready to be shipped, I would think they keep it indoors at all times.

The government says it's the rice hay that contaminated the cows, the media outlets say so too. Producers, wholesalers and retailers of domestic beef all say so.

The cows got contaminated, and the rice hay got contaminated. But they may be the two separate events, and may not have happened the way people say it happened.

Just my non-expert musings."


SKF also carries this story on the rice harvest and radioactive contamination which is not covered at NHK. Whether the public will accept this test results, seems to be the question.

Radioactive Rice in Chiba and Ibaraki, but Not in Fukushima

Friday, August 26, 2011

"Not to the extent that may cause "chaos" as Professor Kosako predicted, but the prefectural authorities have tested the early harvest and radioactive cesium has been found in Ibaraki and Chiba.

The first to find radioactive rice was Ibaraki Prefecture, but the governor vows to fight the "baseless rumor" to promote rice from his prefecture.

From Sankei Shinbun (8/19/2011): [Japnese charactrs removed]

As the brown rice grown in Hokota City in Ibaraki Prefecture was found with radioactive cesium, Governor of Ibaraki Masaru Hashimoto answered the reporters on August 19 and said "There is no problem with safety. After the formal testing is complete by the end of August, we will persuade the consumers that there's nothing to worry about consuming Ibaraki rice", and that he will do his best to counter the "baseless rumor".

Governor Hashimoto emphasized safety by saying "It is not the level to worry, even if you eat [the rice] for one whole year". At the same time, he said "Since radioactive cesium has been detected in vegetables, I wouldn't have been surprised to see it detected in rice".

Radioactive cesium was detected in the brown rice in the preliminary testing. Total 52 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium was found, with 23 becquerels/kg of cesium-134 and 29 becquerels/kg of cesium-137. The amount was far below the national provisional safety limit (500 becquerels/kg total radioactive cesium).

Governor Hashimoto is a former career bureaucrat and a graduate of Tokyo University.

Next to detect cesium in rice was Chiba.

From Mainichi Shinbun (8/26/2011): [Japanese characters removed]

Chiba Prefecture announced on August 25 that 47 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium was found in the mochi-rice (glutinous rice) grown in Shirai City in Chiba Prefecture in the preliminary test before the harvest to survey the effect of radioactive materials from the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident. The amount of radioactive cesium was far below the national provisional safety limit (500 becquerels/kg). It is the second case of radioactive cesium detection in the country, the first one being in Hokota City in Ibaraki Prefecture.

  According to the division for safe agriculture promotion in Chiba prefectural government, the brown rice taken at two locations within Shirai City on August 22 was tested. From one location, 47 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium was detected, with cesium 134 22 becquerels/kg and cesium-137 25 becquerels/kg. The prefectural government plans to conduct the full survey on the brown rice after the harvest by the end of August, and if the rice tests under the provisional safety limit it will be allowed to be shipped.

But in Fukushima, hardly any radioactive cesium was detected in the early harvest rice.

From Yomiuri Shinbun (8/26/2011):

Fukushima Prefecture announced on August 26 the test results of the early-harvest rice harvested in a location in Nihonmatsu City, two locations in Motomiya City, and one location in Koriyama City.

From the location in Nihonmatsu City, 22 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium was found. No radioactive cesium was detected in all the other locations. Based on the results, the prefectural government has allowed the rice harvested in these locations, except for one in Motomiya City, to be shipped. It will be the first shipment of rice from Fukushima after the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident.

According to Fukushima Prefecture, two types of early-harvest rice harvested on August 25 and 26 were tested. When the rice in the Nihonmatsu City location was milled, no radioactive materials were detected. As to the location in Motomiya City (Arai-mura), the testing was done on all rice fields. If the results show the level of radioactive cesium is less than the provisional safety limit, the rice will be allowed to be shipped.

These cities are located in "Naka-dori" (middle third) of Fukushima Prefecture where highly radioactive rice hay has been found. 500,000 becquerels/kg of cesium was found in rice hay in Koriyama City, and in Motomiya City, 57 kilometers west of Fukushima I Nuke Plant, the number was even higher at 690,000 becquerels/kg.

For your reference,

‧ Fukushima's radioactive cesium detection limit, according to the prefecture: 10 becquerels/kg

‧ Radioactive cesium (cesium-137) in rice in Fukushima before the accident: ND to 0.14 becquerels/kg, after milling

‧ Radioactive cesium (cesium-137) in rice in Chiba before the accident: ND, after milling

‧Radioactive cesium (cesium-137) in rice in Ibaraki before the accident: ND to 0.045 becquerel/kg, after milling

(source data for radioactive cesium in rice in Fukushima, Chiba, Ibaraki from Japan Chemical Analysis Center, from 2000 to 2009)"

Also reported at SKF and Physics Forum is the news that the decontamination system at the plant site is shut down, yet again.

Contaminated Water Treatment System Stops for the Nth Time at Fukushima I Nuke Plant

Friday, August 26, 2011

Yomiuri Shinbun (3:59PM JST 8/26/2011): [Japanese characters removed]

"TEPCO announced on August 26 that the contaminated water treatment system at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant stopped temporarily.

The pump that transfer the treated water from Kurion's cesium absorption system to AREVA's co-precipitation system stopped automatically at 2:21PM.

The treatment system last stopped on August 12 due to the abnormal signal from the control system. TEPCO thinks the stoppage this time is due to too much load on the pump, and is currently looking into the cause."

Physics Forum report on this shut-down:


In the international press, another excellent video at RT TV with Paul Gunter of Beyond Nuclear. This video covers not only Fukushima but also the plants in the States that have been affected by the 5.9 earthquake two days ago. Note the interviewer ends this 10-minute interview with the bald statement that nuclear energy is the most expensive and most unsafe type of energy production.

Interview with nuclear energy expert Paul Gunter, Big Picture, August 25, 2011:

There is much more news on the Virgina Nuke plant at EnergyNews. Here is the latest:

Virginia Gov. declares state of emergency: Damage from quake greater than first reported – Hurricane threatens already weakened structures

August 26th, 2011 at 06:16 PM


McDonnell declares state of emergency for earthquake damage, Times-Dispatch, August 26, 2011:

Gov. Bob McDonnell today declared a state of emergency […] because damage assessments appear to be more extensive than initial reports, aftershocks have caused further problems and the potential for high winds from Hurricane Irene threaten to further damage weakened structures.

More significant damage has been found closer to the epicenter in Louisa […]

In Louisa, meantime, officials said earthquake-damaged schools will remain closed for the rest of the year. […]

Related Posts

1. "Emergency Declared": Aftershock causes quake-hit Virginia nuke plant to report Unusual Event August 25, 2011

2. Paper discusses worrisome scenario that quake caused "underground" damage at Virginia nuke plant – Hardest place to inspect August 25, 2011

3. Emergency diesel generator fails at Virginia nuke plant hit by 5.9 quake August 23, 2011

4. Dam at Virginia nuke plant inspected for damage after quake – Engineering experts had classified it as "high-hazard" August 25, 2011

5. Company admits Virginia nuke plant only designed to withstand a magnitude 5.9 – 6.1 earthquake – Today's quake was 5.9 August 23, 2011

5 Issues/yr — $25 print; $15 digital