Situation at Fukushima nuclear power plant remains extremely serious

Date released: Mar 24 2011

No health implications for Ireland.

The situation at the Fukushima nuclea power plant in Japan remains extremely serious but has stabilised somewhat this week, according to radiation experts at the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII). In Japan the distribution of contaminated foodstuffs has been banned while internationally, the focus is on monitoring the dispersion of radioactivity released. 

Dr Ann McGarry, Chief Executive of the RPII, said: “Operators secured the restoration of off-site electrical power to some parts of the plant on the site this week, but the injection and spraying of seawater is still the primary means of cooling the reactors and spent fuel ponds. While this is progress, the fact remains that the constantly evolving situation is challenging for the authorities and is likely to persist.” 

In Japan, contamination of foodstuffs is of concern and the Japanese authorities have imposed a ban on the distribution of leafy vegetables and milk from areas close to the Fukushima nuclear power plant. 

Internationally, the focus is on the monitoring of deposition of radioactivity released from the accident. It is confirmed by the US Environmental Protection Agency and the Icelandic Radiation Safety Authority that extremely low levels of radioactivity from the accident have been detected in the western USA and in Iceland. 

The RPII has increased the frequency with which it samples rainwater and air through its National Monitoring Network to identify any radioactivity that might reach Ireland. However, Dr McGarry said: “The radioactivity released from Japan will not have any health implications for Ireland. We are continuing to assess data from our own monitoring systems which are designed to detect radioactivity at levels far below those that could have health impacts. The levels could be so low as to be indistinguishable above background radiation levels.”

The RPII is continuing to monitor the situation and is in regular contact with the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Met Éireann, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, the European Commission, and radiation protection authorities in other countries.

Ends 

For further information: 

Murray Consultants 01 498 0346 

Aoibheann O’Sullivan 087 629 14 53 

Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland 

Marie Kelly 269 7766

David Dawson 206 6913 

Notes to editors:   

Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) 

The Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) is the national organisation with regulatory, monitoring and advisory responsibilities in matters relating to ionising radiation. In particular, the RPII concerns itself with hazards to health associated with ionising radiation and with radioactive contamination in the environment. 

The RPII is an independent public body under the aegis of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government and was established in 1992 under the Radiological Protection Act, 1991. The RPII’s role is to ensure that Irish people and the environment are adequately protected from the harmful effects of ionising radiation. We do this by providing advice to the public and the Government, by monitoring people’s exposure to radiation, by regulating and licensing those who use radiation, by providing technical support to Ireland’s plan to deal with radiation emergencies (NEPNA) and by cooperating with similar bodies internationally.

Iodine tablets

As of the 17th March, the World Health Organisation (WHO) is cautioning people concerned about the radiation issues in Japan against self-medicating with potassium iodide or taking products containing iodine. More information available here: http://www.who.int/en/  

RPII’s National Monitoring Network 

The RPII with support from Met Éireann, local authorities and the Defence Forces operates a national network of permanent radiation-monitoring stations which are operational around the clock. These stations include air samplers and gamma dose rate monitors. Data from the gamma monitors is continuously fed back to a central computer at RPII and displayed here. 

This network would provide the first measurements in the event of a radioactive 'cloud' reaching Ireland. If elevated radiation levels are detected, an alarm system is automatically triggered. 

IAEA 

The International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna keeps national authorities informed of nuclear incidents and emergencies under the Emergency Notification Convention. For further information visit http://www.iaea.org/

Department of Foreign Affairs 

The Department of Foreign Affairs is providing up to date advice for citizens in Japan. This can be accessed at www.dfa.ie.  

NEPNA 

Although Ireland has neither nuclear weapons, nor a nuclear power industry we have a detailed National Emergency Plan for Nuclear Accidents, known as NEPNA. The central goal of the plan is to substantially reduce public exposure to any radioactive contamination which might reach Ireland from a nuclear accident abroad. This in turn would minimise the potential long term health risks to the population. 

The national emergency plan is coordinated by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and involves a number of other government departments and agencies working together.

More information on NEPNA is available on: http://www.environ.ie/en/Environment/EnvironmentalRadiation/NationalEmergencyPlan/ 

National Emergency Plan for Nuclear Accidents (NEP)