Japan lawmaker's radioactive puddle drink

Yasuhiro Sonoda, drinking a glass of decontaminated water from outside the Fukushima nuclear plant. Photo / AP
Yasuhiro Sonoda, drinking a glass of decontaminated water from outside the Fukushima nuclear plant. Photo / AP

A Japanese lawmaker has drunk a glass of water taken from a radioactive puddle inside a reactor building at the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant in a bid to prove decontamination efforts are working.

Television footage showed a visibly nervous Yasuhiro Sonoda gulping down water that he said had been decontaminated after being scooped up from inside the plant.

"Just drinking (decontaminated water) doesn't mean safety has been confirmed, I know that," Sonoda told reporters.

"Presenting data to the public is the best way."

Sonoda, parliamentary secretary for the cabinet office, said Monday that he drank the water after journalists repeatedly asked him to "prove" the area around the plant was safe.

The water came from puddles that had collected in the plant following clean-up efforts, a source not normally intended for human consumption.

Radioactive contaminants spewed into the environment from the Fukushima facility following reactor meltdowns and explosions triggered by the massive earthquake and tsunami of March 11.

More than seven months after the disaster, tens of thousands of people remain evacuated from their homes and businesses in a 20-kilometre no-go zone around the plant and in pockets beyond that.

Fully decontaminating those areas is expected to take decades.

Meanwhile Japanese authorities believe radium was to blame for a radiation hotspot at a Tokyo supermarket, a local city office said yesterday, in another scare for a nation still on edge over Fukushima.

Workers wearing protective suits and goggles drilled into the asphalt at one of the two hotspots where inspectors last week detected alarming levels of radiation - up to 10 microsieverts per hour - one metre above the surface of the ground.

Despite public worries about how far contamination has spread from the crippled Fukushima atomic power plant, authorities believe radium - a substance not released in the disaster - is likely the cause of the hotspots, the city office said.

"The science and technology ministry said it is highly possible that radium 226 is the source of radiation," the Setagaya ward office said in a statement.

"The ministry also said this case is not linked to the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant," it said, adding inspectors plan to continue investigating the hotspots over the next two weeks.

The radiation levels of the hotspots are much higher than the 20 millisieverts per year government threshold that would prompt evacuation, though no evacuation was required as the contamination was highly localised.

The statement gave no indication of the source of the radium.


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