No increase in PH radiation level — DOST-PNRI

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/15 March) – There had been no significant increase in the country’s radiation level in the aftermath of the explosion of two nuclear power plants in Fukushima, Japan caused by last week’s 8.9-magnitude earthquake that triggered a tsunami, the Department of Science and Technology has assured the public.

“No increase in radiation level means that, as of the moment, there are no immediate effects of the March 11 Fukushima nuclear power plant explosion to the Philippines,” said DOST Secretary Mario Montejo, citing the daily monitoring conducted by the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI).

He said that DOST-PNRI has closely monitored the developments in Japan through its 24-hour link up with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Montejo said the daily radioactivity monitoring in the environment indicated that the level of radiation in the environment in the country “has remained stable since the Fukushima incident”.

Alumanda dela Rosa, director of the DOST-PNRI, cited a plume trajectory study provided by the Philippine Atmospheric and Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration that shows “that the plume from the site of the incident at Fukushima will not pass the Philippine territory as of March 14”.

“The direction of the smoke appears to go away from the direction of the country,” Dela Rosa said. “The smoke is carried away by the northeast monsoon (amihan).”

Quoting reports from the IAEA Montejo said that “containment remains intact at Fukushima Daiichi Units 1, 2 and 3”.

“The design of the Fukushima reactor is different from that of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant,” he said.  “In the event of a meltdown at Fukushima, the melted fuel is expected to stay within the stainless steel containment, preventing its release to the environment.”

The Chernobyl power plant did not have a reactor building concrete shield and steel containment, he added.

The DOST carried a report from the IAEA that said the explosion in Unit 1 reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi plant “occurred outside the primary containment vessel (PCV), not inside”

“The plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), has confirmed that the integrity of the primary containment vessel remains intact,” the DOST advisory posted on Monday said.

It added that “to limit damage to the reactor core, Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) approved the injection of sea water mixed with boric acid into the primary containment vessel. Boric acid absorbs neutrons to prevent reactor criticality”.

“NISA has likewise confirmed the presence of radioactive elements cesium-137 and iodine-131 in the vicinity of Fukushima Daiichi Unit 1. NISA reported an initial increase in levels of radioactivity around the plant earlier today, but these levels have been observed to lessen in recent hours,” the DOST advisory said.

Dela Rosa said that DOST-PNRI’s National Radiological Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan has already established “an organized emergency response facility for a timely, coordinated action of the Philippine authorities in the event of a radiological emergency”.

The DOST-PNRI is closely monitoring developments at Fukushima every six hours and maintains a 24-hour linkup with the IAEA.

On Sunday, Japanese authorities reported to the IAEA the explosion of two nuclear power plants in Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on March 11 following the earthquake. The quake affected three nuclear reactors — Units 1, 2, and 4.

Japan reported that four workers at Fukushima Daiichi were injured by the explosion. (MindaNews)