Since the start of the Fukushima disaster I have been following the worrying developments from a safe distance in Amsterdam, but suddenly, I am on rocking ship getting closer to the disaster area every day.
I joined the Rainbow Warrior a week ago in Keelung, Taiwan. Normally I work for Greenpeace Netherlands as a nuclear campaigner, but my radiation expertise was needed on board to guarantee the safety of the crew.
Now we are getting closer to Fukushima, the Japanese government has begun obstructing our efforts to do independent research. The sparse data published by the government and TEPCO is not enough to understand the real risks of the continuous leakage of radioactive water in the sea.
The Japanese people are in great need of independent information on the radioactive contamination of their seafood supply. Therefore, we are planning to do research on the radioactive contamination of seaweed, fish and shellfish.
Despite this great need for information, the Japanese government today refused a permit to do research within the territorial waters of Japan. We are allowed to conduct research outside this 12 mile zone, but this is not the area where the Japanese catch their fish and collect their seaweed.
This is a critical situation, so we are not giving up. We will continue heading for Fukushima to begin our research at a distance while we pursue further permission to carry out the sampling within the 12 mile limit.
The Japanese government should welcome such independent monitoring, the fact is they can never have enough information about the extent of the contamination, and the public are entitled to the benefit from the scrutiny and pressure that independent monitoring brings.
Approaching Fukushima is not without risks. The reactors are still not fully under control, and there is a continuous risk of further escalation. Another explosion could happen, releasing huge amounts of radiation, or an aftershock could lead to the collapse of the reactor building.
Therefore we have decided to implement various safety measures on the Warrior. We spent most of last week at sea making her ‘radiation proof’ by installing radiation detection equipment on the bridge, ordering special air filters, and building a designated decontamination area.
We devoted much time to briefing the brave crew. It is important that they have some basic understanding of radiation, and can assess the risks before working in a potentially radioactive contamination environment. We practiced decontamination procedures, and gave instructions on special clothing requirements: white Tyvek suits taped to rubber boots and gloves. I’m personally very happy that the crew puts their trust in me and Jacob, the other radiation safety advisor, to be responsible for their safety.
After the first days of inevitable seasickness, I’m now pretty sea-proof and ready to challenge the radiation risks, and any obstruction of our scientific mission by the Japanese government.
Exactly 25 years after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, the Rainbow Warrior is on her way to another disaster that will keep reminding people of the dangers of nuclear power for at least the next 25 years.
Ike Teuling- Nuclear Campaigner and radiation expert for our field radiation team onboard the Rainbow Warrior.