– They Will Grow Rice Again This Year in Fukushima (EX-SKF, Jan. 3, 2012):
I could almost hear the words: “This time, it will be different!”
Up to, say summer last year, the farmers could have been excused for the lack of information given to them (for those who relied on the government information to be handed to them). But now nearly 10 months after the accident and the radioactive contamination in Fukushima Prefecture cannot be hidden any more (except to most of the residents who have remained, apparently) and some rice farmers are suing TEPCO for the damage, if they grow rice again in Fukushima this year hoping theirs will be cesium-free but knowing full well that they may not be, what do you call it?
Then again, doing what the government tells you to do has been the mode of operation in Japan for such a long time, and the farmers may not see any need to change it now.
First, Yomiuri Shinbun (1/4/2012):
Regarding the rice harvested in part of Fukushima that was found with radioactive cesium exceeding the national provisional safety limit (500 becquerels/kg), the Fukushima prefectural government has decided to instruct farmers to give more potassium fertilizer when they plant rice for 2012.
According to the prefectural government, potassium fertilizer works to limit the uptake of radioactive cesium by the rice plant.
In Fukushima Prefecture, the rice grown in 31 farms in 9 districts in Fukushima City, Date City and Nihonmatsu City have been found with radioactive cesium exceeding the provisional limit. The prefecture and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries surveyed the rice paddies and found that the higher the level of radioactive cesium in rice, the lower the potassium level in the soil.
According to Yoichiro Omomo (environmental radiation biology), advisor to the Institute for Environmental Sciences (in Rokkasho-mura, Aomori Prefecture), potassium is one of the three major nutrients of the plants with the other two being nitrogen and phosphorus, and is more easily absorbed by the plants than cesium which is chemically similar. In the soil that is deficient of potassium, it is easy for the plants to absorb cesium.
Omomo is the former chairman of the Institute, and continues to serve as advisor.
Never mind that the problem is not the lack of potassium but the overabundance of radioactive cesium (and strontium most likely). Yomiuri is quiet on the density of radioactive cesium and other nuclides in the soil where radioactive rice was grown and harvested.
So the Fukushima prefectural government and the Fukushima rice farmers are eager to grow rice again this year, hoping that excess potassium will block cesium. If it doesn’t, oh well just do what they did last year – sell it to the government to get money.
Asahi Shinbun also reports that the Ministry of Agriculture is very much willing to let the Fukushima rice farmers continue to grow rice. Read between the lines.
From Asahi Shinbun (12/27/2011):
農 林水産省は２７日、東京電力福島第一原発の事故に伴う来年のコメの作付け制限の方針を公表した。今年産のコメの検査で１キロあたり５００ベクレルを超える 放射性セシウムが検出された地域で作付けを禁止。５００ベクレル以下でも、１００ベクレルを超えるコメが出た地域では同じように禁止することを検討する。
The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries published the policy on regulating the cultivation of rice next year  following the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident. The Ministry will ban the cultivation of rice in the areas where radioactive cesium exceeding 500 becquerels/kg was found in the rice harvested this year . The Ministry is also considering banning the cultivation in the areas where radioactive cesium exceeding 100 becquerels/kg was found in the rice.
It is because the new radiation standard for food starting April 2012 will be 100 becquerels/kg [of radioactive cesium] for rice, while the current provisional limit is 500 becquerels/kg.
So far, 8 districts including Onami District in Fukushima City had rice that exceeded 500 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium and the shipment of the rice was halted. The farmers in these districts will be banned from planting rice in 2012.
さらに、新基準値と同じ１００ベクレルを超すコメが出た地域については、県が 進めている２９市町村約２万５千戸の農家を対象にした緊急調査の結果などを踏まえて決める方針だ。同じ地域内でも高い値と低い値のコメが混在しており、１ 地点で１００ベクレルを超えてもその地域全体を一律に禁止にできるかは慎重な判断が求められる。具体的な禁止地域が決まるのは来年３月になる見込み。
In addition, as to the areas where radioactive cesium in rice exceeded 100 becquerels/kg, the Ministry will decide after reviewing the result of the emergency survey that was conducted by the Fukushima prefectural government on 25000 farms in 29 municipalities. Rice with high cesium and rice with low cesium coexist in the same district, and a careful consideration is needed to decide whether to ban the cultivation in the entire district when a test in one location exceeds 100 becquerels/kg. The decision is to be made in March 2012.
This year, the government considered the transfer rate of radioactive materials that fell on the rice paddies, and decided to ban the rice cultivation in the districts with rice paddies whose soil tested 5000 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium. Based on the soil tests, the rice cultivation was banned in the areas inside the 20-kilometer radius from Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant and the surrounding “planned evacuation zone” and “evacuation-ready zone”.
The transfer coefficient that the national government picked is 0.1, which had no scientific basis. From the past data, scientists were saying the coefficient was more like 0.01 or less. The government picked the number ten times that, to be on the safe side. That was a political decision, not scientific. Then, the Asahi article says that the soil tests, which were sporadic at best, found that the areas inside 20-kilometer radius were unsuitable, and “planned evacuation zone” like Iitate-mura, but nowhere else.
As to banning the cultivation in the areas that had rice with 100 becquerels/kg and above, it is pointless because there are so many farms that they didn’t test in the main survey they did in September and October, whose result was announced with great fanfare. At that time, 2 farms per old municipality were tested, one bag each. The areas that were supposed to be “clean” may not be, simply because they were not even tested.
Nowhere in the Asahi article does it say that the Ministry or the prefecture will conduct the soil sample tests throughout the prefecture. That would cost too much for them.
The Fukushima prefectural government is negotiating with the Ministry, saying the Ministry should buy up all the rice from the district if the rice from one farm exceeds 100 becquerels/kg.
In order to plant rice in spring, farmers turn over the soil in fall. It’s already been done, further mixing the radioactive materials in the rice paddies. They will do so again in spring.
I tweeted the Yomiuri article above to my Japanese readers. Someone commented, “Oh you must be careful when you talk about Fukushima and people in Fukushima, because their feeling is hurt.” How about the health of consumers who have been eating untested Fukushima rice?