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FAQs - 2011 Japan nuclear power plant accident

A series of questions and answers about radiation levels in Japan and Australia are provided, including travel advice.

1. What are the risks to people living in Australia from radiation emitted from the 2011 Japanese nuclear accident?
The health consequences from the Fukushima Dai-ichi accident are negligible for people living in Australia. This has been confirmed by environmental modelling and radiation monitoring in Australia. Therefore it is not necessary to take any specific health precautions. In October 2012 ARPANSA published these findings in the technical report Assessment of the impact on Australia from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant accident.
2. Has radiation from the Japanese nuclear accident reached Australia?
Small amounts of radioactive Xenon-133 (Xe-133) were detected at the Darwin air monitoring station from early April to early May 2011. These radiation levels were millions of times lower than safe levels and will have no health impact for any person in Darwin or elsewhere in Australia. There have been no detections of radioactive material from Japan at any other monitoring station in Australia. For more information on air monitoring stations in Australia please see the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). ARPANSA has also measured the levels of radioactivity in sea water and seafood caught off the northern coast of Australia. The measured radioactivity was consistent within the normal range of background radiation. For the results of seafood monitoring, see ARPANSA's Technical Report No. 172.
3. Is it safe to eat food that has been imported from Japan?
Yes. The Japanese government has implemented a food monitoring program that restricts the sale and distribution of contaminated food. The food screening program run by the Australian Department of Agriculture (DoA) following the accident found that all imported foods tested were well below Australian and international guideline levels for radiation contamination.
4. Are imported goods from Japan contaminated?
It is highly unlikely that any Japanese goods arriving in Australia will be contaminated. The Japanese Government and industry have established processes for monitoring goods exported from Japan that is consistent with Australian and international guidance. ARPANSA will continue to coordinate with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service and other Government Agencies on the transport of goods into Australia to ensure the Australian public is protected.
5. I have just purchased a Japanese car. Should I get it tested for radiation contamination?
No. The risk of cars being contaminated due to the Japanese nuclear accident is negligible and it is extremely unlikely that any cars from Japan will show significantly elevated radiation levels. The Japanese Government and industries have established a process for monitoring exports, including cars, that is consistent with Australian and international standards. In addition, ARPANSA tested over 100 cars exported from Japan in June 2011. No radiation contamination from the Japanese nuclear accident was detected on any of these cars.
6. What is ARPANSA's advice for travelling to Japan?
The radiation levels in most parts of Japan, including Tokyo, are now within the normal range of variation of background radiation and are of minimal health consequence. ARPANSA recommends that you follow the advice of the Japanese Government. More detailed travel advice for Japan, including restricted areas, can be found on the smartraveller website, which is updated as required.
7. Is the food and water in Japan contaminated?
Due to the release of radioactive material into the environment, some sale and distribution restrictions remain in place for locally grown food. There are ongoing food and water testing programs in Japan which are in line with internationally accepted standards. Details on food restrictions and testing results can be found on the Japanese Ministry of Health Labour and Welfare website. Contaminated food would need to be consumed over long periods of time to be of concern to health.
8. What are 'normal' levels of radiation exposure?
Background radiation has a typical range of 1 to 13 millisieverts per year (mSv/y). The world average natural background radiation level is 2.4 mSv/y. Variations around the world are due to a number of factors, including rock type, altitude, dwelling type and diet. For more information see ARPANSA’s fact sheet on background radiation.
9. Where can I go to get something tested for radiation?
ARPANSA advises that no import items or foodstuffs require routine testing for radiation contamination due to the Japanese nuclear accident. However, if you would like to access radiation testing, a list of possible service providers can be found on the Australasian Radiation Protection Society website. Please note that ARPANSA does not endorse any specific company that may carry out radiation testing under any circumstances.
10. What is being done in Australia and internationally to improve knowledge of the accident?
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and other international organisations are reviewing nuclear safety following the Japanese nuclear accident. In May 2012, the World Health Organization (WHO) completed a preliminary report on the estimation of radiation doses to the public resulting from the nuclear accident. In February 2013 WHO completed a report on health risk assessment. In October 2014 the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) published its detailed findings on the levels and effects of radiation exposure to workers, the public and the environment due to the Japan nuclear accident. In 2015 the IAEA published its comprehensive report on the Fukushima Dai-ichi Accident. ARPANSA actively participaties in these international projects. In addition, scientific research is continuously being published in international journals. ARPANSA will continue to monitor the situation at the Fukushima Dai-ichi site and will provide further advice if there is a significant change to the situation in Japan.