The lifetime risk of contracting certain types of cancer rose only slightly for a small group of people, due to exposure to radiation from the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the World Health Organization said Thursday.
Otherwise, any increase in human disease in the wake of the partial meltdown triggered by the March 2011 tsunami is "likely to remain below detectable levels," according to the report.
People exposed in childhood in towns close to the Daiichi power plant are slightly more likely to contract leukemia, breast or thyroid cancer in the course of their lives than the general population, the WHO said.
Radioactive cesium measuring 258 times the amount that Japan's government deems safe for consumption has been found in fish near the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, Japan's Kyodo news agency reported Tuesday.
The Tokyo Electric Power Co. found 25,800 becquerels per kilogram of radioactive cesium in two greenlings in the sea within 20 kilometers of the plant on August 1 – a record for the thousands of Fukushima-area fish caught and tested since the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that led to a nuclear disaster at the plant, Kyodo reported.
Japan's government considers fish with more than 100 becquerels per kilogram unsafe for consumption. A becquerel is a measurement of radioactive intensity.
TEPCO said it also found limit-exceeding radioactive cesium levels in several other kinds of fish and shellfish during the testing, which happened in the Fukushima area from mid-July to early August, according to Japanese broadcaster NHK.
The finding comes 17 months after the disaster at the plant, which spewed radiation and displaced tens of thousands of residents from the surrounding area. It was the worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine.
In the first sign that the Fukushima nuclear disaster may be changing life around it, scientists say they've found mutant butterflies.
Some of the butterflies had abnormalities in their legs, antennae, and abdomens, and dents in their eyes, according to the study published in Scientific Reports, an online journal from the team behind Nature. Researchers also found that some affected butterflies had broken or wrinkled wings, changes in wing size, color pattern changes, and spots disappearing or increasing on the butterflies.
The study began two months after an earthquake and tsunami devastated swaths of northeastern Japan in March 2011, triggering a nuclear disaster. The Fukushima Daiichi plant spewed radiation and displaced tens of thousands of residents from the surrounding area in the worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine.
In May 2011, researchers collected more than 100 pale grass blue butterflies in and around the Fukushima prefecture and found that 12% of them had abnormalities or mutations. When those butterflies mated, the rate of mutations in the offspring rose to 18%, according to the study, which added that some died before reaching adulthood. When the offspring mated with healthy butterflies that weren't affected by the nuclear crisis, the abnormality rate rose to 34%, indicating that the mutations were being passed on through genes to offspring at high rates even when one of the parent butterflies was healthy.
The scientists wanted to find out how things stood after a longer amount of time and again collected more than 200 butterflies last September. Twenty-eight percent of the butterflies showed abnormalities, but the rate of mutated offspring jumped to 52%, according to researchers. The study indicated that second-generation butterflies, the ones collected in September, likely saw higher numbers of mutations because they were exposed to the radiation either as larvae or earlier than adult butterflies first collected.
To make sure that the nuclear disaster was in fact the cause of the mutations, researchers collected butterflies that had not been affected by radiation and gave them low-dose exposures of radiation and found similar results.
"We conclude that artificial radionuclides from the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant caused physiological and genetic damage to this species," the study said.
A Japanese government report Monday heaped fresh criticism on the operator of the nuclear power plant where a disastrous accident was set off last year by the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit the country.
The measures taken by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the plant operator, and the Japanese nuclear regulator to prepare for disasters were "insufficient," the report by a government-formed panel of investigators said, and the response to the crisis was "inadequate."
The crippled Fukushima Daiichi plant spewed radiation and displaced tens of thousands of residents from the surrounding area in the worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine.
Even now, more than one year after the disaster began, TEPCO doesn't seem to be making much effort to clearly investigate the causes of the accident at the plant, the 10-member panel, led by Tokyo University engineering professor Yotaro Hatamura, said in the report Monday.
Japan was once again getting electricity from nuclear power on Thursday after two months as a nuclear-free nation.
Unit No. 3 at Kansai Electric Power Co. Ohi nuclear plant began generating power at 7 a.m., according to a report from broadcaster NHK.
The process of restarting the reactor had begun Sunday night.
The reactor will provide electricity to western Japan - which includes Osaka, Japan's second-biggest city.
Ohi's No. 4 reactor is scheduled to resume operations by July 24.
All 50 commercial nuclear reactors in Japan have been offline since May 5 for safety checks in the wake of the meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi plant after last year's devastating earthquake and tsunami. The government has been conducting simulation tests for restarting its nuclear reactors in response to public concerns.
Before the March 2011 nuclear disaster, Japan had relied on nuclear energy for about 30% of its electricity needs, according to government figures.
The operator of Japan's crippled Fukushima Daiichi power plant admitted Wednesday that it was not fully prepared for the nuclear accident spurred by last year's devastating earthquake and tsunami.
"All who were related to the nuclear plant could not predict an occurrence of the event which was far beyond our expectation," said Masao Yamazaki, executive vice president of Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO). "We did not have enough measures to prevent the accident."
Yamazaki spoke at a press conference announcing a TEPCO report on the nuclear accident that spewed radiation and left tens of thousands of residents displaced.
He acknowledged criticism that his company took too long to disclose information and as well as accusations that TEPCO has been hiding information.
A 62-year-old evacuee from Fukushima Prefecture made a brief visit to his radiation-contaminated home, walked to his shuttered shop, and then hanged himself in a storage space.
The death is yet another sad reminder how the March 11, 2011, disaster in Japan continues to claim victims.
On that day, a magnitude-9 earthquake triggered a tsunami which swamped the Fukushima Daiichi plant, knocking out power to cooling systems and leading to meltdowns in its three operating reactors.
The triple disaster left more than 150,000 dead.
The resulting release of radioactivity forced residents of several towns near the plant to flee their homes, and a 20-kilometer (12.5-mile) zone around the plant remains closed to the public.
The man, who was not named by police, was one of tens of thousands who were evacuated.
He and his wife were briefly granted entry into the exclusion zone around the plant on Sunday, to visit their home and their small store, police said.
After the wife reported him missing, officers and volunteer firefighters in the town of Namie organized a search, police said.
The following day, firefighters found the man's body in his store's storage shed.
A Harley-Davidson motorcycle believed to have traversed the Pacific Ocean to western Canada after being swept from coastal Japan during a March 2011 tsunami has been claimed by a Japanese man.
Ikuo Yokoyama, 29, of Yamamoto, Japan, says a Harley-Davidson representative tracked him down after the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. ran a story about the bike, which was found in a storage container on British Columbia’s Haida Gwaii islands, the CBC reported.
Harley-Davidson now intends to restore the bike, which had rusted but still had its Miyagi Prefecture license plate, and send it back to Yokoyama, Japanese broadcaster NHK reported Wednesday.
Yokoyama, who NHK reported lost three family members and his home in the disaster, said he was "so glad that (the motorcycle) will be returned to me.”
“I would like to thank the man who found my bike in person,” Yokoyama said in an NHK interview aired on the CBC.
Peter Mark, a Haida Gwaii resident, told the CBC that he found the container – and the motorcycle, golf clubs, camping equipment and tools inside – on a beach on April 18.
A soccer ball recently found washed up on a remote Alaskan beach apparently belongs to a teenager from a city devastated by the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan more than a year ago.
And it may soon be returned to its owner more than three thousand miles away on the other side of the Pacific Ocean.
David Baxter, a technician at the radar station on Middleton Island in the Gulf of Alaska, came across the ball as he was beach combing.
The ball had Japanese characters written on it, from which Baxter's wife was able to translate the name of a school that was in the area hit by the tsunami, according to a blog post by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
An enormous amount of debris was swept into the Pacific by the tsunami that hit northeast Japan on March 11, 2011, killing thousands of people.
A number of objects, both large and small, have so far made their way as far as the coast of North America, including a rusty fishing trawler that the U.S. Coast Guard sank earlier this month. But the ball "may be the first identifiable item that could be returned," according to the NOAA.
The U.S. Coast Guard has deployed a ship to sink a fishing trawler that was swept away more than a year ago by the tsunami off the coast of Japan and is now adrift near Alaska.
The crew of the coast guard's 110-foot CG Cutter Anacapa plans to assess the deserted trawler's condition Thursday morning, said Chief Petty Officer Kip Wadlow.
If its assessments are satisfactory, the crew will attempt to sink the vessel, named the Ryou-Un Maru, with the 25-millimeter cannon on board the cutter, Wadlow said.
The rust-stained trawler is part of a giant debris field in the Pacific Ocean that was generated by the devastating wall of water that struck northeastern Japan following a magnitude 9 earthquake on March 11, 2011.
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Ten months after a tsunami devastated parts of Japan, some of the island nation’s debris has washed up on North American shores, according to news reports.
On Vancouver Island, B.C., The Sun newspaper reported that wreckage from Japan began appearing this month. "In or around Dec. 5th the first item or two of some consequence was found," Tofino Mayor Perry Schmunk told the newspaper. "Some lumber came ashore that had Japanese export stamps on it."
Two weeks ago, CNN affiliate KIRO in Seattle showed video footage of what it said was debris from the March 11 tsunami - at least 10 Japanese buoys - on the Washington coast. “That’s about as good as the evidence gets for first arrivals,” retired oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer told KIRO.
More reports of mundane Japanese items - such as bottles and toothbrushes - popping up along North American shores are beginning to emerge.
But that’s just the beginning, experts say.
Physicist Michio Kaku said Thursday that it is vital to understand the sheer size of the Japanese debris field in the Pacific Ocean.
“First, you have to understand the size and scope of this problem. The debris field from this Japanese tragedy is the size of the state of California,” he said.
Researchers in Hawaii who predicted that a wave of debris from Japan’s March 11 tsunami may hit Hawaiian shores by 2013 are preparing studies that may allow more precise forecasts.
The preparations come a month after a Russian ship found “unmistakable tsunami debris” – including a refrigerator, a TV and a damaged 20-foot fishing vessel – in the Pacific Ocean between Japan and the Midway Atoll, according to the International Pacific Research Center of the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
The fishing boat had markings that indicated it came from Japan’s Fukushima Prefecture, the university said.
“The most important thing the (Russian ship did in September) did was provide solid proof of the existence of the tsunami debris,” researcher Nikolai Maximenko said Wednesday. “Soon we hope to have better information and to make exact forecasts for the landfall of debris for Midway (Atoll).”
Maximenko and fellow researcher Jan Hafner predicted in April – using computer models developed from observations of how buoys drift in the ocean – that some of the debris that the tsunami carried away would reach the Hawaiian islands by 2013. Some debris would then hit the western U.S. and Canadian coasts by 2014 before bouncing back toward Hawaii for a second impact.
They also predict that some of the smaller, lighter debris such as plastic bottles could reach the Midway Atoll, more than 1,200 miles northwest of Hawaii, by this winter.
Officials in Yokohama, Japan’s second largest city, are investigating soil samples after a radioactive substance was found in sediment atop an apartment building about 155 miles (250 kilometers) from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, according to news reports.
The discovery has raised concerns that leaked radiation from three Fukushima reactors that suffered meltdowns after the March earthquake and tsunami may be more widespread than thought, The Japan Times reported Wednesday.
The findings come after a travel alert issued by the U.S. government last week, warning Americans in Japan to avoid areas near the stricken reactors.
The alert recommends that U.S. citizens stay away from areas within 20 kilometers (12 miles) of the nuclear facility. The State Department also admonished Americans to stay away from territory northwest of the plant in a zone that Japan calls the "Deliberate Evacuation Area." The zone includes Iitate-mura, the Yamagiya district of Kawamata-machi, Katsurao-mura, Namie-machi and parts of Minamisoma.
The radioactive isotope strontium-90 was detected on a rooftop by a private agency responding to a resident's request, The Japan Times reported.
Strontium-90 has been found in Japan at concentrations up to 20 becquerels before the nuclear crisis, The Japan Times said. The latest discovery found the strontium-90 level at 195 becquerels, according to the paper.
Since strontium-90, which has a half-life of 29 years, is widely dispersed in the environment and the food chain in trace amounts, external exposure is minimal, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. With internal exposure at high concentrations, strontium-90 can accumulate in the bones and is “one of the more hazardous constituents of nuclear wastes,” according to the EPA.
Meanwhile Wednesday, Tokyo Electric Power Co., the embattled utility whose territory includes the nuclear crisis zone, held a disaster drill at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power, according to news reports.
After the March 11 earthquake and tsunami off Japan damaged the Fukushima Daichi nuclear reactor, the Japanese government was presented with a scenario which would have required the evacuation of half of Tokyo and the entire width of the main island of Honshu, former Prime Minister Naota Kan says in an interview with Kyodo News.
The evacuation zone would have covered all areas within 200 to 250 kilometers (125 to 155 miles) of the nuclear reactor, meaning about 30 million people in Tokyo and its surrounding areas would have needed to be moved, according to the Kyodo report in The Japan Times.
Kan said he feared such an evacuation would have resulted in chaos, according to the report.
"I wasn't sure whether Japan could continue to function as a state," he is quoted as saying.
Kan also said Japan was not prepared for the disaster resulting from the 9.0-magnitude quake.
"We had never foreseen a situation in which a quake, tsunami and a nuclear plant accident would all happen at the same time," he is quoted as saying.
Kan resigned in August after widespread criticism of how his government handled the aftermath of the quake. His approval rating plummeted.
As of early September, more than 75,000 residents who live within 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) of the crippled nuclear plant were still unable to return to their homes because of high radiation levels.
Toshio Nishizawa, president of Tokyo Electric Power Co., which operates the Fukushima plant, has said he hopes to achieve the second phase of a cold shutdown of the plant before a January deadline.
An environmental group on Monday urged the incoming Japanese prime minister to delay the start of school near a nuclear plant crippled by a massive earthquake and tsunami six months ago.
Fukushima city schools are scheduled to reopen Thursday.
The March 11 disaster triggered the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl, as cores overheated and spewed radioactive material into surrounding areas.
Greenpeace said the government's decontamination plan is lacking, adding that its team found average radiation doses remained high in areas decontaminated by the government.
The tsunami spawned from the March 11 earthquake off eastern Japan broke up parts of an Antarctic ice shelf that hadn't moved in 46 years, scientists say.
Though the tsunami waves were only about a foot high when they reached Antarctica, their consistency was enough to crack the 260-foot-thick ice and split off icebergs with combined surface areas more than twice the size of Manhattan from the Sulzberger Ice Shelf, the scientists report in a NASA statement.
It was the first time scientists have been able to tie icebergs directly to a tsunami, according to NASA.
The tsunami waves traveled 8,000 miles and took 18 hours to reach the ice shelf, the scientists said, giving them time to validate theories on how an earthquake can affect geography a hemisphere away.
"In the past we've had calving events where we've looked for the source. It's a reverse scenario – we see a calving and we go looking for a source," Kelly Brunt, a cryosphere specialist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, said in the NASA statement. "We knew right away this was one of the biggest events in recent history – we knew there would be enough swell. And this time we had a source."
At perhaps the most tense time in Sunday’s FIFA Women's World Cup final - preparations for the penalty kick shootout - TV cameras showed Japanese coach Norio Sasaki smiling and laughing with his players. Cameras focused on the U.S. women showed a different mood, with expressions of grit, focus and determination.
The contrast was stark, and that wasn’t a surprise to Sasaki.
"It seemed to me there was more pressure on the Americans," he said.
It was a remarkable moment for Japan, a country that has had little to smile about this year, and a keen insight from the coach of a team that had not beaten the Americans in 25 games.
But Sasaki’s assessment was spot-on.
Three things you need to know today.
Hatch closed – At 9:19 a.m. ET on Monday, the hatch between the space shuttle Atlantis and the International Space Station will be closed for the final time and the shuttle will prepare for a return to Earth.
Tomorrow, the shuttle will undock from the station and fly around it so visual inspections of both the space station and the shuttle's thermal protection system can be performed.
Atlantis is scheduled to land at Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 7:06 a.m. on Wednesday, bringing an end to three decades of space shuttle flight.
Hot temperatures – A heat wave will continue to roast the country's midsection even as it spreads to the east, according to the National Weather Service.
The hottest spots from Oklahoma through South Dakota should see highs of more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and top temperatures are forecast in the 90s for most of the rest of the country - with the exception of some mountain and coastal regions, according to the weather service.
On Sunday, daily temperature records were broken from Alpena, Michigan, south to Miami, Florida.
"Heat index values" - how hot it feels outside - have been running over 125 degrees Fahrenheit in the worst-hit areas, the National Weather Service said. The scale designed to describe how intense heat feels also includes factors such as humidity.
Japan typhoon – Workers in Japan scrambled Monday to build a protective covering over a damaged nuclear reactor ahead of an approaching powerful typhoon, an energy company spokesman said.
Typhoon Ma-on should strike Japan well south of the damaged No. 3 reactor at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
But the Tokyo Power Company, which is responsible for the plant wracked by the March 11 tsunami that struck northeast Japan, is constructing a "roof-like structure to prevent rain from entering holes on the turbine building," spokesman Satoshi Watanabe said.
The energy company says it aims to complete construction late Monday.
Japan's energy plan needs to be completely revised and must eliminate the nation's dependence on nuclear power, Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Wednesday, according to The Daily Yomiuri.
"I have realized that nuclear accidents cannot be prevented completely with the conventional safety measures we have at present," he said.
It's a sharp about-face for Kan. His government approved a plan just last year that called for 14 new nuclear reactors by 2030 and an increase in nuclear energy production from 26% to 53% of total electricity generated, The Daily Yomiuri reported.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. planned Thursday to inject nitrogen into the last of the damaged reactors at the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, Kyodo News Agency reported.
The inert gas will help stabilize the reactors as the utility aims for a cold shutdown by January at the latest, Kyodo reported.
TEPCO already has new water circulation systems working at all three reactors to keep their temperatures under control.
Meanwhile, the Fukushima municipal government says it plans to cleanse the entire city of radioactive contamination, Yomiuri Shimbun reported. The city is about 30 miles from the damaged plant.
The effort, which could take nearly 20 years to complete, would involve pressure-washing buildings and scraping off the top layer of soil.
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