Shaun Burnie: Scotland is over 9,000 km from Japan, but there’s something the two countries have in common. Along the Scottish coastline, buried in riverbeds, and mixed into the Irish Sea, you can find significant radioactive contamination coming from the other side of the world. Yes, radioactive contamination. All the way from Japan. Since the 1970s, Sellafield, a nuclear-reprocessing plant in northwest England has been contracted to process high level nuclear waste spent fuel from Japanese reactors. More than 4000 tonnes of spent nuclear fuel was shipped from Japan to Sellafield, including waste from Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the owner of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. As result of reprocessing at Sellafield, more than 8 million litres of low level nuclear waste is discharged into the ocean every day. It’s been labelled the “most hazardous place in Europe” – with levels of contamination in the fields, soils and estuaries at a level that can only be described as a nuclear disaster zone. In fact, the Irish Sea is arguably the most radioactively contaminated sea in the world. Greenpeace Japan sent a team to the Fukushima evacuation zone to conduct independent radiation testing; and researchers on the Rainbow Warrior, kitted up in full body chemical suits, pulled floating seaweed from the surrounding area to use as samples. Our results were unfortunately as you would expect – high levels of contamination. Subsequently, we’ve also found radiation is still so widespread that it’s unsafe for people to return across large parts of Fukushima. Nearly five years later and I’m in Japan on-board the Rainbow Warrior – this time with the famously anti-nuclear former Prime Minister of Japan, Mr. Naoto Kan. It’s truly an honour and privilege to hear him describe the first hours and days of the accident in March 2011, as well as show him the research that we are carrying out. As we sailed within 2km of the nuclear plant the feelings are both profound and surreal. From the deck we’ve seen steel tanks holding hundreds of thousands of tons of contaminated water; the four reactors now shielded behind temporary structures in an effort to contain some of the radioactive material from being released into the atmosphere; and inside the reactors themselves lie hundreds of tons of molten reactor fuel for which there are no credible plans to deal with.
Greenpeace International 24th Feb 2016 read more »