The French non-profit organization Commission de Recherche et d'Information Indépendantes sur la Radioactivité, or CRIIRAD, visited Japan from May 24 to June 3 to collect information on the Fukushima I Nuke Plant accident and radiation contamination as the result of the accident. The CRIIRAD issued a short, preliminary report on the findings.
Unlike the team from the IAEA who was in Japan approximately the same time meeting government officials and nuclear industry executives, the CRIIRAD seems to have come to a very different conclusion regarding the Japanese government's response to the crisis.
From the report in English (emphasis is mine):
The major preliminary findings of this research have been already presented at various public events organized in Fukushima city (Lecture on May 29th, press conference on May 30th ) and Tokyo (Press conferences on May 31st and June 1st, Audience at the Congress on June 1st, lecture and workshop on radiation monitoring on June 2nd). These findings and statements aresummarized below.
A more complete scientific report will be made available in the forthcoming weeks following analysis of soil and food samples returned to the CRIIRAD laboratory.
1 / Lack of appropriate information and protection against harmful effects of radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accidents
Since March 12th, the damaged Fukushima Daiichi reactors and pools containing spent fuel have released huge amounts of radioactive substances in both the atmosphere and the ocean. According to official data, the most important radioactive releases in the atmosphere occurred between March 12Th and March 30th .
The Japanese government requested the evacuation of the inhabitants within a 20-km radius and indoor confinement for people living within a 20 to 30-km radius. But these countermeasures have revealed to be largely insufficient :
1. The people living outside the 20-km radius should have been evacuated according to wind direction and meteorological conditions. Winds and radioactive particles do not abide by administrative policies.
2. Confinement is efficient only in case of minor doses when the contamination of the air lasts over a short period of time. In the case of Fukushima Daiichi, the radioactive releases in the atmosphere persisted over several days (and are still occurring, though on a much lower level). Under such circumstances, confinement is not efficient due to the exchange rate between outside and inside air. The air inside the buildings will be contaminated at a level comparable to the outside air quality.
3. Stable iodine tablets are useful to reduce the absorption of radioactive iodine and therefore limit the risks of thyroid cancer particularly among young children. This risk is well-known since the Chernobyl accident. In order to be fully effective, iodine tablets must be ingested several hours before contamination occurs. In Japan, iodine tablets were not distributed proficiently. Testimonies collated during the CRIIRAD’s mission in Japan indicate that several local authorities, at municipal levels, opted to distribute iodine pills, as in the case of the city of Miaru [Miharu-machi] where the Mayor decided to distribute pills to his inhabitants on March 15th requiring them to actually ingest them. This initiative has been criticized by the Fukushima prefecture authorities. In Iwaki, a civic administrator was ready to organize the distribution of iodine tablets since March 12th. While the municipality was able to distribute the iodine tablets to the citizens on March 18th, people have been told not to take the pills unless expressly ordered to do so by the authorities...the instruction to ingest the pills was not issued. Other highly exposed inhabitants (like those living in Iitate) have not been issued any iodine tablets.
4. In case of radioactive releases in the atmosphere, the fallout on the ground will rapidly contaminate the food chain, in particular leafy vegetables and milk. The Japanese authorities decided to launch a special monitoring program only as of March 18Th. The first results revealed a massive contamination on several food samples. As an example, spinach sampled in Ibaraki prefecture on March 18th confirmed a contamination of 54 000 Bq/kg with iodine 131. The CRIIRAD calculated that for a child aged between 2 to 7 years old, the consumption of 200 grams of spinach delivers a dose exceeding the annual dose limit of 1 milliSievert. Additional results published later showed that iodine 131 contamination found in grass collected in Iitate about 40 km north-west of Fukushima Daiichi reached 2.5 million Bq/kg. The contamination of vegetables in the area has certainly been very high. It should be noted that for a child aged 2 to 7 years old, the mere consumption of 5 grams of such foods will deliver a dose exceeding 1 milliSievert. The authorities should have advised people, without delay on March 12TH , not to consume foods most at risk in areas where the radioactive fallouts were detected by gamma air dose monitors (this includes locations such as Onagawa, 100 km north of Fukushima, and Tokyo about 230 km south of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant). Conversely, the Japanese authorities claimed that consuming such contaminated foods was the same as receiving a dose from a scanner.