Fukushima Nuclear Accident: Information Sheet

16 March 2011

We understand that after the Fukushima nuclear accident, you and thousands of others are concerned about the safety of the people in Japan, as well as the safety of your family and yourself. With this information sheet, we hope to provide useful resources to address the thousands of queries we receive.

Latest Updates on Nuclear Safety

Please refer to the IAEA Facebook page, or the IAEA website to find authenticated information on the status of nuclear safety in Japan.

What are the IAEA's experts doing now?

A team of experts from around the world conducted an International Fact-Finding Mission in Japan. They visited the Tokyo Electric Power Company's Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Station and other locations relevant to the accident and nuclear safety in general.

The Mission, organized by the International Atomic Energy Agency, comprises nearly 20 international and IAEA experts from a dozen countries, and undertook fact-finding activities from 24 May to 2 June 2011. In the course of the IAEA mission, the experts became acquainted with the Japanese lessons learned from the accident and shared their experience and expertise in their fields of competence with the Japanese authorities.

The mission's report will be presented at the June 2011 Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety in Vienna. In the interim a preliminary report was issued.

Previously, on 15 March, the Japanese government requested assistance from the IAEA in the areas of environmental monitoring and the effects of radiation on human health, asking for IAEA teams of experts to be sent to Japan to assist local experts. A food safety assessment team was sent, as well as experts in boiling water reactor technology, and a marine expert.

The Joint FAO/IAEA Food Safety Assessment Team completed its mission on 1 April 2011 and presented its report to the Japanese Cabinet Office, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry on 31 March.

On 6 April the marine expert from the IAEA Environment Laboratories Monaco completed his mission in Japan. From 2 to 4 April he embarked on the research vessel MIRAI to observe the sampling conducted 30 km offshore. He visited the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) laboratory in Tokai where the gamma spectrometric analyses are performed. He briefed representatives of the Japanese Government.

The Agency, in agreement with the Japanese government, dispatched three reactor experts to Japan. They concluded their mission on 11 April 2011, conducting meetings with the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and the Nuclear Safety Commission (NSC). The objective of the visit was to exchange views with Japanese technical experts and to get first-hand information about the current status of reactors at Fukushima Daiichi, measures being taken and future plans to mitigate the accident.

This assistance follows the IAEA's offer to Japan of its "Good Offices" - i.e. making available the Agency's direct support and coordination of international assistance.

Impact on Seafood Safety of the Nuclear Accident in Japan

Based on currently available information, some seafood in the direct vicinity of Tokyo Electric Power Company's Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Station has been found to be contaminated at levels above the regulatory limits set by the Japanese Government, and control measures are in place to prevent its distribution.

Radionuclide contamination, if any in seafood outside these areas, will be significantly below any public health concern, even in Pacific islands with high seafood consumption. Any additional radiation levels will contribute only a small amount to natural background radiation exposure. Further developments will be closely monitored and updates provided as appropriate.

Please refer to the WHO's fact sheet on seafood safety.

IAEA's Information Sources

All of the information contained in the updates posted on the website and on Facebook has been "authenticated" by designated sources in the Japanese government, which means that Japanese government officials check that the information reported is accurate. The IAEA's Incident and Emergency Centre (IEC) operates a global emergency response system that is reliable and secure. Under this arrangement, each State's competent authorities receive, convey and provide authoritative information on incidents and emergencies. These competent authorities are directly engaged in managing the emergency response and nuclear safety.

Radiation and Health Information

For information on radiation and health, please visit the World Health Organization (WHO) website resources which answer frequently asked questions about nuclear concerns in Japan.

You may also wish to visit this IAEA website explaining Radiation in Everyday Life.

Current Radiation Levels in Japan and Travel Advice

As of 1 April 2011, radioactive material from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi plant is gradually spreading outside Japan into the global atmosphere but at extremely low concentrations that do not present health or transportation safety hazards, according to the United Nations organizations closely monitoring the situation.

Japanese authorities confirm that all airports in the country, with the exception of Sendai which was affected by the tsunami of 11 March, continue to operate normally for both international and domestic operations. Continuous monitoring around these airports confirms that radiation levels are well within safe limits from a health perspective.

For updates, travellers visiting Japan by air are advised to consult a dedicated website established by the Japanese Civil Aviation Bureau.

Japanese authorities also confirm that all international seaports not damaged by the earthquake and tsunami are operating normally and that no health risk has been detected around the ports, based on the results of measurements of radiation levels by local governments.

See further information covering all aspects of the response of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism of Japan, as well as information regarding the radiation dose in Tokyo Bay.

Screening for radiation of passengers arriving from Japan is currently considered unnecessary at airports or seaports around the world.

The UN agencies involved in the monitoring process are the World Health Organization, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the World Meteorological Organization, the International Maritime Organization, the International Civil Aviation Organization and the World Tourism Organization.

What is the current risk of radiation-related health problems in Japan for those residing near the reactor in comparison to those in other parts of Japan?

Radiation-related health consequences will depend on exposure, which is dependent on several things, including: the amount and type of radiation released from the reactor; weather conditions, such as wind and rain; a person’s proximity to the plant; and the amount of time spent in irradiated areas.

The Government of Japan’s recent actions in response to events at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant are in line with the existing recommendations for radiation exposure. The Government has evacuated individuals who were living within a 20-kilometre radius around the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Those living between 20 km and 30 km from the plant are being asked to evacuate voluntarily. In general, people living farther away are at lower risk than those who live nearby.

As and if the situation changes, the Government of Japan may change their advice to the public; Additional information can be found on the World Health Organization (WHO) website.

The Japanese Civil Aviation Bureau’s website provides aggregated up-to-date information on Japanese air transportation operations as well as radiation measurement at each airport.

What are the precautions recommended by the WHO when travelling in Japan?

Travellers should also be aware of the risk of further earthquakes across Japan. Moreover, there may be areas of power, fuel, food and water shortages.

Travellers in Japan should monitor local media, follow the advice and instructions issued by local authorities and register their travel and location details with their respective embassy or consulate. Additional information can be found on the World Health Organization (WHO) web site.

Are there health risks to people living outside of Japan from radiation emitted into the atmosphere from damaged Japanese nuclear power plants?

Thus far, there are no health risks to people living in other countries from radioactive material released into the atmosphere from the Japanese nuclear power plants. Radiation levels measured to date in other countries are far below the level of background radiation that most people are exposed to in every day circumstances. Please see the WHO website’s FAQs.

Radiation levels are being monitored by the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), which operates 63 surveillance stations around the world.

Concerns About Radioactivity in Food from Japan

The Food and Agricultural Organization of United Nations (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO) have prepared questions and answers in response to growing international concerns over food becoming contaminated with radioactivity. Please see the FAO and WHO websites.

Data on the Detection of Radioactive Materials in Food and Drinking Water

Please visit the website of the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare to find up-to-date information on radioactive materials detected in foods and drinking water.

Is there a risk of radioactive exposure from food contamination?

Yes, according to the WHO there is a risk of exposure as a result of contamination in food. However, contaminated food would have to be consumed over prolonged periods to represent a risk to human health.

The presence of radioactivity in some vegetables and milk has been confirmed and some of the initial food monitoring results show radioactive iodine detected in concentrations above Japanese regulatory limits. Radioactive caesium has also been detected.

Local government authorities have advised residents to avoid these foods and have implemented measures to prevent their sale and distribution.

Please see the FAO and WHOwebsites.

Guidelines Applicable to Food Traded Internationally following a Nuclear Emergency

The international guideline levels for radionuclides applicable to foods traded internationally following a nuclear emergency set by the Codex Alimentarius Commission and are available here.

Concerns About Radioactively Contaminated Products or Commodities

The IAEA does not provide formalized guidance on testing to verify if a product or commodity is radioactively contaminated. The IAEA's basic guidance is that it is important to have materials tested in a radiochemical laboratory to determine possible radioactive contamination. The IAEA recommends that testing be conducted by a qualified radiological professional to assess levels at the source in question.

Information for Shipping

Navigational warnings, danger zones and meteorological warnings are disseminated via the existing Worldwide Navigational Warning Service via automated alerts (NAVTEX and SafetyNet systems), in the relevant NAVAREAS and METAREAS, which are the geographic areas in which Governments have designated responsibility for issuing navigation and weather warnings. There are 21 such areas covering the world's oceans. The relevant NAVAREA XI coordinator is Japan. Navigational warnings can also be downloaded here.

Vessels were advised from 15 March to keep a 30 km distance from the Fukushima plant. METAREA XI warnings are issued by China and Japan and can also be downloaded here.

Weather Information

To receive updates on the weather prognosis, please refer to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) website, as well as the Japanese Meteorological Agency (JMA) website, for the weather and forecast information for the region affected by the disaster.

Impact of Nuclear and Radiological Accidents

To better understand the safety impact of a nuclear accident, please visit International Nuclear Event Scale (INES), which is a numerical rating to explain the significance of nuclear or radiological events. Please note that confirmed INES scale announcements are made available via IAEA press release, the IAEA website and the IAEA Facebook account. More information can be found here.

Background on Radiation

A person's radiation exposure due to all natural sources amounts on average to about 2.4 millisievert (mSv) per year. A sievert (Sv) is a unit of effective dose of radiation. Depending on geographical location, this figure can vary by several hundred percent. Since one sievert is a large quantity, radiation doses are typically expressed in millisievert (mSv) or microsievert (µSv), which is one-thousandth or one millionth of a sievert. For example, one chest X-ray will give about 0.2 mSv of radiation dose.

Information About Boiling Water Reactors

An introduction to boiling water reactor technology can be accessed here [pdf].

Donations

The IAEA cannot accept donations from the public, so please address your offer to your government, or a non-profit organization, which are coordinating donations from your nation to the Japanese people.

In Austria, please visit the website of the Japanese Embassy in Vienna to find out more on how to donate.

If You Wish to Help or Provide Advice

We also appreciate your advice, and where relevant, will forward these suggestions to our experts. They will contact you directly, if they decide to take advantage of your kind offer. Since we are receiving a large number of offers of help from all over the world, it might not be possible for us to respond individually.

Website Access

Please note that due to the large number visitors seeking information from the website, response times may be slow or access may be intermittent. The IAEA Facebook page provides the same updates and may be a timelier source.

Official Contacts and Updated Official Information from Japan

Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications
Japanese Fire and Disaster Management Agency
Prime Minister's Office of JapanFacebook Page

More resources can be accessed here.

Austrian Citizens Concerned About Current Situation in Japan

Austrian citizens that are concerned about the nuclear accident in Japan or have questions concerning the current situation please call the Austrian number: 059133 9500.

Your Support

The IAEA is committed to helping the Japanese people and asks you to lend your support to the Japanese people in this difficult period.

Last update: 14 October 2014