Tuesday 12 December 2017

Radiation from Japan nuclear disaster found in Irish air samples

Treacy Hogan and Edel O'Connell

TRACES of radiation from the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan were discovered in the air over Ireland yesterday.

The radioactive iodine was found during a check on air samples in Dublin, the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) disclosed in a statement yesterday.

However, the nuclear watchdog agency insisted the amount of radiation was extremely low, and had "no public health implications".

RPII chief executive Dr Ann McGarry said: "The levels which have been identified are extremely low, are not a matter for concern, and do not require any special actions to be taken."

It was also announced yesterday that food imported into Ireland from Japan will now be randomly tested for traces of radiation.

According to an EU-wide legislation, which came into effect this week, foods that are imported from Japan will now be subject to random testing by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI).

FSAI chief executive officer Prof Alan Reilly said Ireland does not import a large amount of foodstuffs from Japan.

But speciality products, which are generally sold in Asian supermarkets here will be subject to random laboratory testing for radioactive iodine.

"A range of measures will apply to all feed and food originating in or consigned from 12 localities of Japan, including the four most affected by the accident," said Prof Reilly.

"All products from these localities will have to be tested before leaving Japan and will also now be subject to random testing in the EU -- including here in Ireland."

Dr Ciara McMahon, the RPII's director of environmental surveillance and assessment, said that even in a worst-case scenario of the radiation staying in the air in Ireland for a year, this would add just 0.005 microsieverts to a person's annual exposure to radiation.

Someone flying return to New York from Ireland is subject to 106 microsieverts of radiation.

The average annual dose is 3,950 microsieverts, mainly from radon in the home and cosmic radiation.


"Even at the highest level (from Japan) there is nothing to worry about," Dr McMahon told the Irish Independent.

The RPII is continuing to monitor radiation levels in the environment. These will be available on the website rpii.ie.

The amount of radiation detected in the Dublin was consistent with levels found in other European countries.

The RPII's monitoring network countrywide is used to provide an early warning of elevated radiation levels.

The monitoring stations continuously measure gamma radiation and if elevated radiation levels are detected an alarm system is automatically triggered.

Meanwhile, Environment Minister Phil Hogan has reiterated the concerns of the Irish Government over the risks posed to Ireland from the Sellafield nuclear plant.

He said these concerns relate to radioactive discharges into the Irish Sea and the risks associated with an accident at the plant.

Irish Independent

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