Greenpeace candlelight vigil calls for an end to nuclear age

Feature story - April 12, 2011
Around one hundred Greenpeace activists and supporters called for an end to nuclear power during a candlelight vigil at the Bantayog Ng Mga Bayani shrine in Quezon City. Volunteers hoisted a thousand paper cranes to express solidarity with victims of the earthquake, tsunami and the unfolding nuclear disaster at the Fukushima/Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan. The activity was held a month after the Japan’s worst nuclear disaster.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Japan.  The Filipino people are no strangers to disasters and understand deeply what the Japanese are going through.  They have already a lot to contend with the combined impacts of the earthquake and tsunami, it is unfortunate that they still have to focus attention and resources to a nuclear fallout instead of immediately concentrating on rebuilding,” said Amalie Obusan, Climate & Energy Campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

Environmentalists, artists and writers joined the solemn activities, which included an update on the situation in Fukushima prefecture where the Dai-ichi plant experiencing containment problems as a result of the earthquake and tsunami, is situated.

Following extended monitoring of the area outside the exclusion zone that surrounds the stricken Fukushima nuclear complex by two specialist radiation monitoring teams, Greenpeace called for the greater Fukushima area to be given official protective status (1), and for the evacuation of pregnant women and children from high risk areas in Fukushima City and Koriyama.

The organization also called on the Japanese government to fully evacuate several radiation hotspots (2), including those engulfing towns such as Iitate and Namie, after analysis of data collected by the monitoring teams suggested widespread caesium contamination (3).

“With over one million people living in the greater Fukushima City and Koriyama area, it is not acceptable for the authorities to continue ignoring the seriousness of the situation,” said Greenpeace Japan Executive Director Junichi Sato, in Tokyo. “The government needs to not only provide people with clear advice (4) on how to protect themselves from the contamination threats, they need to start taking real and meaningful action by declaring the official protective status.  People in the greater Fukushima area could potentially receive radiation exposure of more than 5 milliSieverts per year, which was the threshold for evacuation at Chernobyl, following the 1986 disaster.”

Greenpeace radiation monitoring teams (5) recorded radiation levels of 4 microSieverts per hour in a playground in Fukushima City, and 2.8 microSieverts per hour at a shrine in Koriyama (6). These levels are high enough to expose people to the maximum yearly dose of radiation allowable in a matter of weeks (7). Soil analysis by Kyoto University (8) indicates that more than 80 percent of the radiation in these hotspots is from caesium isotopes, which will persist in the local environment for several years.

The Greenpeace teams also found radiation levels above official limits in vegetables collected from gardens near Fukushima City, Koriyama, and Minamisoma, and from a supermarket in Fukushima City. At least one of the vegetable samples taken from the region could be categorized as radioactive waste (9).

“If a nation such as Japan has to struggle in handling the effects of a fallout, then what more a country that is more ill-prepared for disasters such as the Philippines?  This nuclear crisis is a man-made disaster, the impacts of which will be felt for decades.  The smartest move for our country and governments around the world is to redouble their efforts to harness safe and secure renewable energy sources and invest in energy efficiency technologies,” said Obusan.


Greenpeace is promoting an Energy [R]evolution, that is the massive uptake of Renewable Energy (RE), coupled with comprehensive Energy Efficiency (EE) measures, and is proposing a target of 50% RE and 20% EE by 2020 in the Philippines.


(1) With the declaration of an official protective status for the greater Fukushima area, the government should act as a matter of urgency by:
- cleaning up or evacuating certain radioactive hot spots
- undertaking a comprehensive assessment of the spread of contamination and all different exposure routes to the population
- releasing a long-term plan for protective measures to safeguard the population from further exposures
- compensating the public for loss of livelihoods

(2) Radioactive hotspots are places where radiation levels are significantly higher (higher than 4 microSievert per hour) and should be evacuated and/or cleaned up as a matter of priority. Please refer to our raw data for specifics:

(3) Long-term caesium effects: after 30 days, most of the radioactivity from short-lived isotopes such as iodine-131 has decayed, and from this point around 85% of the dose rate comes from cesium-134 (around 60%) and cesium-137 (around 25%). Cesium-134 has a half-life of two years and cesium-137 30 years. Therefore it will take several decades before radiation doses drop significantly. Every microSievert per hour measured today, will give a dose of around 7.5 milliSieverts, or 7.5 times the maximum allowed dose for a year for the remaining 11 months following the accident.

(4) Greenpeace had two mobile field teams carrying out radiation measurements outside the 20km mandatory evacuation zone around the Fukushima nuclear plant. One team focused on a survey to map surface contamination and the other on food & milk testing. During March 27 and 28, radiation monitoring was conducted in Iitate village and Namie region. Between April 4 and 8 the teams conducted detailed measurements as well as food and soil analysis in Fukushima City, Koriyama City, Minamisoma, Namie, Iitate, and many places in between.

As part of the monitoring work, the team used a selection of standard radiation monitoring equipment:
- Gamma spectrometer: Exploranium GR-135
- LB 200 Becquerel monitor
- Geiger counters: Radex RD 1503, RadAlert
- Contamination monitors: RADOS MicroCont, Berthold UMO

A detailed and annotated Google map of locations and radiation readings compiled by the Greenpeace team can be found here

The Greenpeace radiation monitoring team was lead by Rianne Teule, Greenpeace International Energy Campaigner and radiation expert, the teams include Greenpeace Germany Climate and Energy Unit Head Thomas Breuer, Greenpeace Belgium radiation safety expert Jan van de Putte and Greenpeace International Logistics Manager and qualified radiation safety advisor, Nikki Westwood.

More detailed biographies including other members can be found here:

(5) GPS data for Fukushima playground with 4uSv/h: N37°45.087 E140°28.005 and Koriyama Shrine with 2.8uSv/h: N37 23.798  E140 22.933. Fukushima City is 60km from the stricken Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear plant, while Koriyama is 50km from it.

(6) As the maximum allowable accumulated annual dose for members of the public is 1000 microSieverts, a dose of 4 microSieverts per hour is high enough to expose someone to the maximum allowable dose in just over 10 days.

(7) Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute Iitate report:

(8) Leaf vegetables show radiation levels of 16,000 – 150,000 Bq/kg. According to EU legislation, levels of Iodine-131 above 100,000 Bq/kg or Caesium-137 above 10,000 Bq/kg would be considered radioactive waste. Soil contamination is also high, with strong indications of the presence of caesium-137, indicating that large areas outside of the 30km zone are now unsuitable for agriculture.

(9) A Greenpeace survey with evacuees conducted at an evacuation centre in Yonezawa found that 83.3% of people surveyed by Greenpeace said that there is not enough information from the government or local authorities regarding radiation contamination. Find more on the survey here:

The current official evacuation zone is 20km around Fukushima, while between 20km and 30km is an area where people are advised to stay indoors or evacuate voluntarily.

Pregnant woman and children are more vulnerable to the damaging effects of radiation than the average adult person.

Population map for Fukushima prefecture: