Parliamentary secretary drinks water from Fukushima plant

November 01, 2011

Accepting a dare from a freelance writer, a government official drank purified water that had been contaminated with low levels of radiation at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

After drinking about half a cup on Oct. 31, Yasuhiro Sonoda, a parliamentary secretary at the Cabinet Office, said: "Just because I drank the water does not mean that its safety has been confirmed, so there is no significance to the act. I drank it because a request had been made."

The freelance writer had asked that the water be drunk to prove the radiation level was low.

Sonoda drank the water at a joint news conference held by government officials and Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the Fukushima plant. Such joint news conferences are held twice a week.

The water that Sonoda drank had accumulated in the buildings of the No. 5 and No. 6 reactors after the tsunami hit the facility on March 11. The water was purified and desalinated.

The radiation of the water was at a level that would normally mean it would be released into the ocean following confirmation that it was within government standards.

However, TEPCO has been forced to store the water within the Fukushima plant because of strong opposition from local governments and fishing cooperatives. Some of the stored water has been sprayed on the grounds of the nuclear plant.

At an Oct. 10 news conference hosted by TEPCO, a freelance writer said: "Because we are prohibited from entering the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant grounds, we have to trust the information provided by TEPCO. If the water is really safe enough to drink, can you provide the water in glasses and have everyone drink it?"

At an Oct. 13 news conference, another freelance writer said: "(Former Prime Minister) Naoto Kan set a precedent by eating radish sprouts. Since TEPCO officials said the water is safe enough to drink, why don't you drink a cup? Will you drink it?"

Sonoda responded: "I don't want to drink it if people think of it as only a publicity stunt. But if a request is made, I will drink it."

The freelance writer was referring to an incident in August 1996, when radish sprouts were thought to have been contaminated with the O-157 strain of E. coli. Kan, who was health minister at the time, ate radish sprouts to show they were safe.

TEPCO officials tested the water and found the radiation level to be below that for beaches, which is stricter than central government standards for drinking water.

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Yasuhiro Sonoda drinks purified water taken from Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. (Satoru Ogawa)

Yasuhiro Sonoda drinks purified water taken from Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. (Satoru Ogawa)

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  • Yasuhiro Sonoda drinks purified water taken from Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. (Satoru Ogawa)

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