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Monthly Archives: November 2017

Environmental Impacts

The effects of the dramatic event have been widespread. The accident directly affected the lives both of the workers at the power plant and of over 150,000 evacuees. Moreover it has had a massive impact on the atmospheric and natural environment, as well as human health. After the meltdown, the radioactive emissions from the plant caused a broad radioactive contamination of the region. It mostly affected the North Pacific, but high levels of radioactivity were also recorded in the Eastern Honshu Island as well as the Tokyo Metropolitan area. Increasing levels of radiations have also been recorded in the Northern Hemisphere and the North American Western’s coasts have been feeling its effects for years.

Radioactive emissions in the atmosphere

There were multiple sources of emissions, from the four explosions to the smoke and the evaporation of seawater used for cooling. Radioactive isotope spread into the atmosphere, doses reached up to 6000 times the normal around the plant. The main fission products released were Iodine-131, Caesium-137 50, Strontium-89/90, Plutonium-238/239/240/241 and Xenon-133 and the emissions appeared to be much higher than after the Chernobyl incident (figure 1). The radioactive particles were then carried away by prevailing wind currents in the form of radioactive clouds, similarly to the phenomenon after Chernobyl’s disaster (figure 2)

Fig. 5. Distribution of soil activity concentration due to 134Cs and 137Cs within 80 km of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Considering radioactive decay, the activity concentrations in the graph were corrected to July 2, 2011 (The National Diet, 2012).

Fig. 6. Soil activity concentration of 137Cs until 20 April 2011 in the northern hemisphere (Stohl et al., 2012a).


In a desperate attempt to cool down the reactors, massive amount of water were used and contaminated. The water was then discharged in the ocean or seeped into soil and ground water deposits. Another source of pollution came from atmospheric fallout onto the ocean. This contamination of the marine environment represents the most important radioactive release into the sea ever recorded, on par with fallout from atomic bomb testing. In five years, Fukushima contaminated the entire Pacific Ocean, and is still leaking 300 tons of radioactive waste into it every day. However, the waters northeast of the plants are amongst the busiest fishing zones, 50% of Japan’s seafood comes from this area.

Soil contamination and effect on terrestrial ecosystems

Initially discharged in the air, the particles were brought to the surface by wet and dry depositions. From there, they are absorbed in the topsoil layer, where they can stay for many years and contaminate crops as well as ground-water sources. Several animal species have been studied in order to assess the effect of the meltdown on the local fauna. Morphological abnormalities in butterflies’ specimen, low blood cell counts in wild monkeys and reduction in population size of several birds species have been reported as result of exposure to radiations.

Effect on food and drinking water

The main concern of soil contamination is the effect on stock farming and agriculture. Indeed, there is no safe level of radioactivity in food and water; even the slightest amount can cause genetic mutation and cancer. According to the German Society for Radiation Protection, it is estimated that a person is normally exposed to about 0.3 mSv per year through ingestion of food and drink. In order not to surpass this level, the amount of radioactive caesium-137 should not exceed 8 Bq/kg in milk and baby formula and 16 Bq/kg in all other food. In Japan however, the permissible level of radioactive caesium was set at 200 Bq/kg in milk and 500 Bq/kg for all other food. During the months following the meltdown, the contamination was found to be very high in certain products such as vegetables and fruits, milk, beef, seafood, rice and drinking water.

Effects on health

 Effects varied depending on the risk taken by the different groups of population. Rescue and clean-up workers were the most affected by high radiation. Inhabitants of the contaminated areas were the second group the most affected, 200 000 of them had to evacuate immediately, and 70 000 were still living in a contaminated area several month after the disaster. Finally, thousands of people were affected through the ingestion of contaminated food or water. Children are the ones suffering the most from radiations, as their immune system is not fully developed. There is no consensus on the long-term health effects of exposition to low level radiation; however, it is known that a certain dose of radiation can cause acute radiation sickness or lead to the development of malignant diseases in the long-term. Some studies have been made to quantify the worldwide health effects of the accident. Using a linear no-threshold (LNT) model of human exposure, Hoeve and Jacobson (2012) estimated that, mostly in Japan, radiation from the Fukushima accident may eventually cause a best estimate death tolls of about 130 (ranging from 15 to 1100) by cancer-related diseases.

Fig. 3. Excess lifetime morbidity (incidence) and mortality (death) risk of all solid cancers from the uptake of 134Cs, 136Cs, 137Cs 133Xe, 129mTe, 132Te, 95Nb, 90Sr, 110mAg, 99Mo, 241Am, 238Pu, 239–240Pu, 241Pu, 242Cm and 243–244Cm in Japan from all internal and external exposure pathways using the Linear Non Threshold models for a lifetime of 89 years. The calculations were performed using the LMDZORINCA model for a spatial resolution of 0.45°–0.51°.

Source: Evangeliou et al. (2014b).


The forest industry in Japan has been working since a long time to manage in an appropriate way this type of ecosystem. By implementing forestry practices and efficient methods for export of woods, forest owners and companies are trying to work in a sustainable way regarding this issue. Another measure to ensure a safe management of forests is the implementation of certain policies that help regulate the whole industry to avoid excess.

Japan Historical Forestry Preservation Measures

In the history of Japan forests have played a very important role for the development of this country. However, the excessive use of wood during the period of the industrial revolution without a certain degree of regulation devastated its forests. To deal with this challenge Japan established a first “Forest Act” in 1897, which goal was promote the conservation of national land and prevent the ruin of this ecosystem. Also, at the beginning of the twentieth century the demand for timber augmented considerably due to the war against Japan’s surrounding countries and so they had to create another Act. The 1907 Forest Act focused on the “use and control of the land and the establishment of forest owners’ cooperatives”. A third act was promulgated after World War II, therefore to restore all the land that was depleted after it. This Forest Act aimed to grow forests in a sustainable way and to increase their productivity.

Forestry Basic Act

At last and following the reconstruction of Japan after World War II and a new period of economic growth, there was an increase in the demand of wood. As a response, the Forestry Basic Act was promulgated in 1964 so the government can establish a plan “concerning the supply and demand of important forest products and publicize these”. This has evolved today and the name of the Act changed to the Basic Plan on Forests and Forestry, which include the following points:

  • Basic forest policy measures
  • Targets concerning the demonstration of the multifunctional roles of the forests and the supply and use of forest products
  • Measures to be addressed by the government comprehensively and systematically

Sumitomo Forestry and Sustainability

To have an idea of the measures that a company have to follow in the Forestry industry nowadays in Japan, the Sumitomo Forestry’s Company owns a very large amount of land dedicated to forests in the four largest islands in Japan, and serves as an example of this. This company separates into two categories the whole scenario:



Environmental Forests: here the main goal is preservation, not just of the forest but also of the surrounding ecosystems

Economic Forests: this category refers to the forests that focus in the production of timber or manufactured wood.

Techniques and Certification


This technique consists basically on the harvest of all the trees in a respective area at the same time. All trees no matter the size are cut at the same time, because regardless of their size, they all have the same age. By doing this, the trees that doesn’t tolerate the shade generated by the canopy can be utilized, ensuring the rejuvenation and regeneration of the area in the future. In addition, this technique is not the only and best one, however it works very well with certain type of trees like jack pines, aspens and oaks.

Sustainable Green Ecosystem Council (SGEC) Certification

At last, this type of certification is private and it ensures that Sumitomo Forestry’s Company uses the adequate techniques and procedures in a regulated way to maintain sustainable forests. In addition, a third party certifies that the forests are well-managed, and implements the use of a seal in the wood products harvested in a proper way.


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