Fukushima radiation measured in Ireland


RADIOACTIVITY FROM the Fukushima nuclear reactor accident in Japan reached Ireland in the weeks after the event.

It arrived at such low levels, however, that it had no significance for either public health or food safety, according to a report on the incident from the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland.

“The levels that we have detected were very low,” Dr Ciara McMahon, the institute’s director of environmental surveillance and assessment, said yesterday.

“There was no health hazard, but the incident provided a useful test of our equipment.”

She said the institute maintained 14 permanent radioactivity monitoring stations across the country. These sample the air continually and alert an on-duty staff member if radiation is detected.

The institute also receives sampling data from other monitoring done by the Department of Agriculture and Food or Met Éireann.

The equipment is sensitive enough to record radioactivity even at the very low levels that reached Ireland.

Dr McMahon said the Fukushima incident delivered a radiation dose of 0.26 microsieverts, a tiny addition to the average annual dose we receive from natural radiation sources of 3,950 microsieverts.

“Fukushima couldn’t be much further away from Ireland, but we still must be able to monitor for accidents. We have to be ready to respond.”

The incident, triggered by the impact of an earthquake and tsunami, showed the need for nuclear authorities worldwide to re-evaluate their safety procedures, said the institute’s chief executive, Dr Ann McGarry.

There was “no room for complacency within the international nuclear industry”.

“A nuclear accident anywhere has potential to be a nuclear accident everywhere.”

The radioactive particles that reached Ireland were similar to those arriving as nuclear fallout here after the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster in 1986, according to data from the institute. The monitoring stations detected radioactive Iodine-131 and two forms of radioactive Caesium, Cs-137 and Cs-134.