AEC finds radiation on plants in Taiwan

The China Post news staff

For the first time since Japan’s nuclear crisis, the Atomic Energy Council (AEC) has found a small amount of radioactive isotopes, including Iodine-131, on trees and weeds in northern Taiwan, initial evidence that the nuclear fallout from the stricken nuclear power plant in Japan’s Fukushima Prefecture has reached Taiwan.

But no radioactivity has been found in Taiwan’s fresh water, and vegetables grown in other parts of the country have found to be safe. The AEC, however, has suggested that the small amount of radioactivity found on vegetables can be rinsed off with water.

Announcing the results of a sample check yesterday, the AEC said small amounts of Iodine-131, Cesium-134, Cesium-137 and Potassium-40, varying between 2.3 and 4.88 bq/kg, had been found the previous day on several acacia trees and their surrounding weeds, possibly the result of rain in northern Taiwan on April 3 and 4. A follow-up sample check were immediately conducted yesterday morning, focusing on such plants as Gynura (velvet plant), crown daisy, and radish sprouts. Half of the samples had been rinsed, while the other half had not. Results of this sample check are still not known. According to the AEC, the isotopes can be rinsed off with water, and even the harm done by the unrinsed vegetables is insignificant.

The radioactivity dosage from a year’s intake of unrinsed crown daisy would be about two millisievert, and 10 years’ intake would be about the same as the amount of exposure to radioactivity in a single X-ray examination. The Water Resources Agency (WRA) under the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) yesterday announced all Taiwan’s fresh water resources have found to be free from radioactive contamination. WRA deputy director Wu Yueh-hsi said even contaminated water can be turned into clean, filtered water using reverse osmosis membranes. The WRA even has a “Plan B,” which calls for alternating underground water and desalinized sea water with reservoir water, in the event other sources of drinking water are contaminated, according to Wu.

The said the first sample check of fresh water quality was conducted from March 26 through 31 with the help of Taipower’s radioactivity laboratories. Water samples collected in northern Taiwan were examined by the radioactivity laboratories in Kungliao, while those collected south of Changhua County were sent to the nuclear laboratories at the Third Nuclear Power Plant in Hengchun. All Taiwan’s important water sources were covered.

The results of a second fresh water sample check conducted in early April will be announced later. A new wave of leaked radioactivity is not expected for the next few days, said AEC and the Central Weather Bureau (CWB). Concerned that radioactivity may be carried over from Japan by ocean currents, the WRA is working with various agencies and private companies to secure deep sea water samples to be examined by National Tsing Hua Univesity’s laboratories.

A third fresh water sample check will be conducted on the offshore islands today at the latest.