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National Radiation Laboratory

National Radiation Laboratory
Te Whare Rangahau Pūhihi o Aotearoa

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Advice on exposure to radiation arising from the nuclear accident in Japan provided by the National Radiation Laboratory

The Ministry of Health’s National Radiation Laboratory (NRL) is closely monitoring the situation at the Fukushima nuclear power facilities and is providing advice on radiation issues to the government.

Based on advice from the Japanese Government and the International Atomic Energy Agency, the NRL reports that the nuclear accident at the Fukushima nuclear power facilities has led to a major release of radioactive material. Japanese authorities have classified the accident to be at level 7 (the highest level) on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES).  The INES scale is designed for communicating to the public and others in consistent terms the safety significance of events at nuclear facilities.  An accident rated at level 7 is a major accident involving a major release of radioactive material.

New Zealanders in Japan are recommended to strictly follow the instructions of the Japanese authorities.

We recommend that New Zealanders stay out of the area within a 30 km radius from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power facilities and any other areas that are designated by the Japanese Authorities as Planned Evacuation Zones.  Government of Japan maps and information on evacuation areas can be found at
http://www.kantei.go.jp/foreign/incident/health_and_safety.html

The situation is improving at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power facilities. However, New Zealanders should exercise caution when within an 80 km radius of the facilities and ensure that their safety from radiation exposure has been confirmed by the Japanese authorities.

With respect to foodstuffs and water, New Zealanders are advised to follow the advice and instructions issued by the Japanese authorities who are closely monitoring the situation of contamination in food and water.

For further general information on food and water please refer to:

http://www.wpro.who.int/media_centre/jpn_earthquake/FAQs/faqs_foodcontamination.htm

Protective measures may be revised by the Japanese Government as the situation develops. NRL will update its advice accordingly.

Advice for people in New Zealand, or returning to New Zealand

New Zealanders returning home from Japan are highly unlikely to be contaminated or exposed to significant radiation and will not require checks for radioactivity. However, if people wish to seek health advice they should contact Healthline on 0800 611 116.

There is no health risk to people living in New Zealand from any radioactive material released from the Fukushima nuclear power facilities.

At this point in time the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) has no information to suggest that any food exported from Japan to New Zealand has been contaminated.

New Zealand imports very little food from Japan. These imports are generally limited to a small range of specialty products, such as small volumes of seaweed and sake as well as other Japanese specialty food products including mirin, soy sauce, dried noodles, pickled ginger, and wasabi.

The area affected by the earthquake is not a major food production area, and certainly not a major food exporting region. Additionally, Japanese officials have said that food production in the affected area has been halted and therefore food from this area would not be available for export.  Food imports from Japan are being subject to assessment and testing, where necessary.

MAF will continue to work with International counterparts in monitoring the situation, and update their websites: www.maf.govt.nz and www.foodsafety.govt.nz.

Mail and general cargo originating from Japan and being imported in to New Zealand does not present any significant radiation health hazards to persons handling it, for example at mail centres, airports and sea ports. This includes machinery and permeable materials such as textiles.

Japanese authorities have issued guidelines for Japanese ports for the monitoring of export containers and ships in order to provide data for foreign port authorities. The guidelines include criteria for decontamination action and for reporting.

More information

Further information about the situation and health and safety issues can be found on WHO webpages at:

http://www.who.int/hac/crises/jpn/en/

http://www.who.int/hac/crises/jpn/faqs/en/

http://www.wpro.who.int/media_centre/jpn_earthquake/

Information on the status of the nuclear facilities in Fukushima can be found on the website of Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA). In addition to the official information above we advise people to consult the assessments of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).