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Fukushima contamination 'chronic and lasting': French agency

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Published : Feb. 29, 2012 - 16:50

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Radioactive contamination levels from Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear plant have fallen sharply since the accident but will be "chronic and lasting" for many years, a French watchdog said Tuesday.

"The initial contamination linked to the accident has greatly declined,"

Didier Champion, crisis manager at the Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN), told reporters almost a year after the disaster.

"That doesn't mean that there won't be any more, far from it. Today, and for many years to come, we will have a situation of chronic and lasting contamination of the environment."

It was essential for Japan to maintain vigilant monitoring of fruit, milk, mushrooms, game and fish, Champion said.

"There are risks of chronic exposure at low dosage, and without care this can build up over time," he warned.

The March 11 catastrophe saw the plant swamped by a quake-generated tsunami that knocked out coolant pumps, triggered hydrogen explosions and caused three of its six reactors to suffer meltdowns of nuclear fuel.

Radioactive elements were spewed into the air by the blast and into the sea by cooling water that was pumped in in a desperate attempt to keep the overheated reactors under control.

The IRSN said the main radioactivity leaks occurred between March 12-25 in about 15 incidents, "of which the biggest probably took place before March 15".

It gave a provisional estimate that 408 peta-becquerels, or 408 million billion becquerels, of radioactive iodine had been emitted into the air.

This was 10 times lower than in the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine, the world's worst nuclear accident.

The iodine releases posed a sharp but temporary hazard as the element quickly decays. A bigger problem, the IRSN said, was caesium-137, a long-lasting element which takes around 30 years to decay to half its level of radioactivity.

Caesium of all kinds released at Fukushima was estimated by the agency at

58 peta-becquerels, or three times less than Chernobyl. Caesium 137 accounted for 21 peta-becquerels.

Of around 24,000 square kilometers (9,200 square miles) of land contaminated by caesium 137, only 600 sq. kms (230 sq. miles) breached a safety threshold of 600,000 becquerels per square metre, the IRSN said.

This, again, was only a fraction of the territory contaminated by caesium after Chernobyl.

However, there remained "hot spots" of contamination, up to 250 kilometers
(156 miles) away, where radioactive particles had been deposited by the weather.

So far, no death or cases of sickness have been directly linked to the disaster, IRSN said, stressing however that the impact on the civilian population over the long term, and on emergency workers and plant employees, remained unclear. (AFP)

 

<한글 기사>

"후쿠시마 방사능 오염, 고질적.영속적"

일본 후쿠시마(福島) 원자력발전소 사고로 인한 방사능 오 염 수위가 크게 낮아지긴 했지만 앞으로 오랜 기간 "고질적으로 영속될 것"이라고 프랑스의 '방사능 방어 및 핵안전 연구소(IRSN)'가 28일 경고했다.

IRSN의 위기담당관인 디디에 샹피옹은 후쿠시마 원전 사고 1년에 즈음해 이날 기자들과 만나 "사고로 인한 오염수위는 초기에 비해 크게 낮아졌다"면서도 "그러나 이는 더 이상 오염은 없을 것임을 의미하는 것은 결코 아니다"고 말했다.

그는 그러면서 "우리는 현재는 물론 앞으로 아주 오랜기간 환경오염 상황을  맞 게될 것"이라고 경고했다.

샹피온은 이어 "저준위 방사능에 만성적으로 노출될 위험이 있으며 주의하지 않 으면 이는 세월이 흐르면서 더 강해질 수 있다"면서 일본은 과일, 우유, 버섯, 어류 와 사냥감 등을 지속적으로 면밀히 관찰해야 한다고 조언했다.

지난해 3월 후쿠시마 원전에 지질해일이 덮쳐 냉각펌프가 정지되고 수소폭발이 발생했으며  6개 원자로 중 3개 원자로의 핵 연료가 녹아내렸다.

방사능 물질이 이 폭발로 인해 공기중에 퍼져나갔고 과열된 원자로를 식히기 위 해 주입된 냉각수를 통해 바다까지 오염시켰다.