Contaminated Tokyo tap water is ‘unfit for babies’

Daily Mail – March 23, 2011

Tokyo’s tap water has been deemed ‘unfit for babies’ after radiation from the stricken Japanese nuclear power plant contaminated the Japanese water supply, officials have warned.

The warning comes after it emerged last night that radioactive particles have reached Europe and are heading towards Britain in the wake the catastrophe that officials say could cost up to £190billion.

Tokyo Water Bureau officials said levels of radioactive iodine in some city tap water contained 210 becquerels per litre of iodine 131 – two times the recommended limit for infants.

They warned parents not to give babies tap water, although they said it is not an immediate health risk for adults.

Nearly two weeks after the twin March 11 disasters, nuclear officials were still struggling to stabilise the damaged and overheated Fukushima, which has been leaking radiation since the disasters knocked out the plant’s cooling systems.

Radiation has seeped into vegetables, raw milk, the water supply and even seawater in the areas surrounding the plant.

Meanwhile, officials in Iceland have detected ‘minuscule amounts’ of radioactive particles believed to have come from Fukushima, the site of the worst nuclear accident in 25 years.

Last night the Government said radiation from Japan had not been detected by Britain’s network of monitoring stations set up after the 1986 Chernobyl explosion. A spokesman said any signs of radiation were not expected in the next few days.

However, France’s nuclear agency said tiny amounts were likely to arrive in the country by today.

The traces of radioactive iodine are being measured by a network of 63 monitoring stations as they spread east across the Pacific, over North America and into the North Atlantic.

Radiation from nuclear accidents and explosions is monitored by the UN’s Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organisation, based in Vienna.

A source said several stations had detected particles believed to have been released from Fukushima in the days after it was hit by the earthquake and tsunami. ‘Reykjavik is the first in Europe,’ the source added. The levels are about one millionth of the natural background radiation, and pose no threat to the public, experts said.

‘We are not expecting it to be detected in Britain in the next few days,’ a spokesman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said.

Japanese officials said the health risk was low outside the plant, but were yesterday chastised by the International Atomic Energy Agency watchdog over a lack of information about how much radiation had been emitted.

Levels in Tokyo rose ten-fold in the days after the 9.0-magnitude earthquake earlier this month, and tiny traces have been detected in California and Washington DC.

The IAEA lacks data on the temperatures of the spent fuel pools of reactors 1, 3 and 4 at Fukushima.

It has been claimed the plant was storing more uranium than it was designed to hold, and had repeatedly missed mandatory safety checks.

The official death toll in Japan has exceeded 9,400. At least 13,200 people are still missing and 350,000 are in shelters.

Yesterday firemen connected electric cables to the plant in the hope of restarting cooling systems. Although hundreds of tons of water have been blasted into two of the damaged reactors, smoke and steam continue to pour out.

Of particular concern to the fish-eating nation is the news that radioactive iodine – nearly 128 times the allowed limit – was found in the sea 20 miles from the plant.

Japan’s government today said the economic costs of the earthquake and tsunami could reach £190billion.

The damage to housing, infrastructure and businesses in northeast Japan could cost between 16 trillion yen and 25 trillion yen (£190billion), according to the Cabinet Office.

Utilities have imposed power rationing, many factories remain closed and key rail lines are impassable.

■ A thief in the town of Kesennuma stole £300,000 – 40million yen – from a bank vault whose doors were smashed open in the tsunami. Police have been told to watch for anyone spending large amounts of money – although there is nowhere left in the area where the thief could spend the cash.