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Straw Fed To Japanese Found To Be Radioactive

July 12, 2011


MINAMISOMA, JAPAN (BNO NEWS) — Japan’s nuclear crisis has spread to its cattle as high levels of radioactive cesium were detected at a farm in Fukushima, officials said Monday.

The radioactive cesium was found in straw fed to cattle at a farm in Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture with an average of 75,000 becquerels of the radioactive isotope per kilogramme (2.25 pounds), which is about 56 times the allowable limit, Kyodo news agency reported.

According to officials, the contaminated straw was stored in an exposed area of the farm without roofs during the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that caused a series of explosions that crippled the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Furthermore, the farm is located in one of the high-risk areas of the region, and officials suspect the straw could be the radioactive source of contaminated beef that had been detected in meat shipped from that area.

The contaminated meat of eleven cows was detected in Tokyo, where the meat was shipped for processing. However, at the time of the shipment, the cow carcasses showed no radioactive substances. On Sunday, officials visited the farm, took samples from its facilities to carry out analysis, and spoke with personnel to determine how the cows are managed in order to establish the possible source of their contamination.

Since April, the farm had been feeding its cows each day about 1.5 kilogrammes (3.3 pounds) of straw, which had been kept outdoors since its paddy was cut last fall. They were also drinking from water located in an exposed well.

Last week, the government of Japan announced that nationwide stress tests would be conducted on all of its nuclear reactors to assess the country’s nuclear safety, as many of Japan’s operation of reactors are currently suspended until regular checkups are completed.

Japan has been facing an ongoing nuclear crisis since the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was severely damaged on March 11 when a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and a subsequent tsunami devastated the country. The disaster disabled the cooling systems of the plant, and radioactive elements leaked into the sea and were later found in water, air and food products in some parts of Japan. Subsequent power shortages throughout the country have further complicated recovery efforts.

At least 23,482 people were killed, while 8,069 people remain missing. There are still more than 88,000 people who are staying in shelters in 21 prefectures around Japan.

According to the Japan Research Institute, the country’s reconstruction efforts will cost between 14 trillion yen ($174.58 billion) and 18 trillion yen ($224.46 billion) in the upcoming 10 years, including 9.1 trillion yen ($113.47 billion) this year alone. Japan has already allocated a 4 trillion yen ($48.89 billion) emergency budget to finance the early phase of reconstruction efforts following the disaster.

On June 23, the government also announced a budget of 2 trillion yen ($24.8 billion) to be distributed to cover the massive compensation claims since the beginning of the disaster being faced by the Tokyo Electric Power Co., which operates the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

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