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Health risk or not? Cesium levels high in hundreds of Fukushima reservoirs

FUKUSHIMA–Very high levels of accumulated radioactive cesium have been detected in the mud of hundreds of reservoirs used to irrigate farmland in Fukushima Prefecture, where agriculture is a key industry.

The finding comes as prefectural authorities continue to try to assuage public concerns of contaminated food following the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant three years ago.

A joint survey by the prefectural government and a branch office of the farm ministry found that the levels exceed 8,000 becquerels per kilogram of soil in 576 reservoirs. In 14 of those cases, the level tops 100,000 becquerels.

The central government says that reservoirs, many of which are located in residential areas, are not covered by its decontamination program.

The survey covered 1,939 reservoirs, or slightly more than half of the 3,730 in Fukushima Prefecture for agricultural use.

Prefectural authorities, fearing that contaminated mud from the reservoirs may reach farmland and create a health hazard for residents, is asking the central government to remove the waste.

Contaminated soil exceeding 8,000 becquerels corresponds to designated waste that must be removed at the central government’s initiative.

According to the Environment Ministry, the amount of waste that exceeds 100,000 becquerels accounts for one-2,000th or less of all the debris produced as a result of decontamination work in Fukushima Prefecture.
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