This file is mirrored from its source at: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/top-stories/2011/03/20/food-and-water-poisoned-by-japanese-nuclear-leak-as-expert-warns-more-could-die-than-in-chernobyl-115875-23001856/
Food and water poisoned by Japanese nuclear leak
as expert warns more could die than in Chernobyl
by Susie Boniface
The Sunday (UK) Mirror
20 March 20111
The crisis in Japan deepened yesterday as food and water were found to be poisoned with lethal radiation, raising the threat of mass food shortages.
Crops up to 75 miles from the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant were found to be unsafe to eat, and tap water in greater Tokyo -- home to 30 million people -- has also been contaminated by fall-out.
The scale of the disaster continued to grow, with 452,000 homeless, 11,000 missing and 7,300 dead from the March 11 tsunami. Firefighters were still battling to bring leaking nuclear reactors under control.
Yesterday an earthquake measuring 6.2 struck near the crippled power plant, causing further damage and hampering efforts to restore electricity in the hope of restarting the cooling systems which could avert nuclear disaster.
One expert predicted that the death toll in the years ahead could top the 500,000 attributed to the Chernobyl accident of 1986 and warned that panicked repair attempts could lead to an even greater disaster. John Large, a British nuclear engineer, said: "The Japanese don’t know how to deal with it. They’re ad-libbing.
"Just throwing water on to the reactors, when they cannot get inside to see what the situation is, could mean the fuel goes critical again.
"And while the radiation leak so far is only a tenth of that at Chernobyl, that was in a rural area with a low population. In Japan it’s an urban, densely packed area so the potential numbers of deaths and cancers are much higher."
By last night an area of just 18 miles around the plant had been evacuated, although the elderly and those in hospitals remain inside the zone and are struggling without power or supplies. Yesterday the International Atomic Energy Authority said spinach 75 miles away had seven times the safe limit of radiation, and milk from cows 20 miles away contained lethal iodine-131 and caesium-137, which cause cancer. The area surrounding the plant is used to grow rice, melons and peaches, and the government is considering a ban on sales of food from the area.
But Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary, Yukio Edano, said the plant workers, including the "Fukushima 50", were safe and that the contaminated food posed "no immediate health risk". He also claimed three of the damaged reactors were stabilising after sea water was pumped on to them for several hours.
Meanwhile, two undamaged reactors had holes punched in their roofs to prevent a build-up of hydrogen, which had caused the earlier explosions.
It was hoped the cooling systems could be restarted today, although there was no indication whether the plant’s pumps would work. However officials admitted they had been slow to react and that back-up systems had not been adequately protected from the tsunami.
The president of the Tokyo Electric Power Co, which runs the 40-year-old plant, issued a public apology. It also emerged that even the Japanese government was relying on the media for news about the nuclear dangers.
The British embassy is handing out supplies of stable iodine which can protect against radiation and arranging flights out of Japan for UK citizens.
Yesterday British nationals in Tokyo were advised for the first time to keep doors and windows locked and, if they have to go outside, to shower and wash their clothes afterwards.
Copyright © 2011 The Sunday Mirror