Japanese authorities doing what they can to manage nuclear situation

Date released: Mar 15 2011

No immediate implications for Ireland.

Irish radiation experts, the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII), have said that the Japanese authorities are doing what they can to control the extremely difficult nuclear situation. 

The RPII also moved to reassure people in Ireland that any radioactive material released from the Japanese nuclear sites is extremely unlikely to reach Ireland. 

Speaking today on the current status of events, Dr Ann McGarry, Chief Executive at the RPII said: “The current information available is that, while doing everything they can, the Japanese authorities are still experiencing difficulties in cooling the core of three reactors at Fukushima-Daiichi. There is evidence that in one or more of those reactors there is a level of meltdown and work is ongoing to try to cool those reactor cores.” 

Early on Tuesday 15th March, a fire occurred at a spent fuel pond located close to reactor number four at Fukushima-Daiichi releasing radioactive material into the atmosphere. Dose rates at the time of the fire rose to 400 millisieverts (mSv) per hour prompting the evacuation of non-essential staff from the plant, in line with the Emergency Response Plan. The fire has been brought under control and radioactive material is no longer being released into the atmosphere. Radiation dose rates at the plant have since decreased to 0.6 mSv per hour.

“The ongoing concern centres on the three reactors where cooling of the core is a problem. However, the primary containment units of each of these reactors seem to be stable for the moment,” Dr McGarry concluded. 

The RPII is continuing to monitor the situation with international colleagues.   

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

Millisieverts 

In Ireland, a person's radiation exposure due to all sources of radiation amounts, on average, to about 4 millisievert (mSv) per year. A sievert (Sv) is a unit of effective dose of radiation. Since one sievert is a large quantity, radiation doses are typically expressed in millisievert (mSv) or microsievert (µSv), which is one-thousandth or one millionth of a sievert. For example, one chest X-ray will give about 0.1 mSv of radiation dose.

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. 

RPII’s 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 http://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)