New Internationalist

Radiation can reach the Philippines

Radiation from Japan may reach the Philippines and the threat is serious, a Filipino scientist told Philippine media on Friday.

The devastation in Japan brought about by the earthquake that struck on 11 March and the possibility that radiation waves would ripple to other countries shed new light to the age-old debate on the use of nuclear energy and weapons.

Japan Nuclear Explosions. Artwork by Surian Soosay under a CC licence.

A Filipino scientist from the University of the Philippines, the state-owned university, said the threat is serious.

Dr Romeo Quijano, a professor at UP-Manila’s Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, said there is probability that radiation pollution in Japan will worsen and will reach the Philippines.

‘There is already a significant breach in the reactor core containment facilities, both immediate and secondary. There is no doubt that significant amounts of radioactivity had already been released into the open environment, exposing thousands of people within several kilometers radius. It is highly probable that this radiation pollution will worsen in the next few days and will most likely reach the Philippines,’ says Quijano in a statement sent to the press.

He said authorities must deal with the situation with proper precaution and by educating the public properly.

Quijano, president of the Pesticide Action Network Philippines, voiced his expert opinion as Philippine government officials and scientists claim that radiation from Japan will not reach Manila.

The Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI), the state-owned agency tasked to undertake research and development activities in the ‘peaceful uses of nuclear energy’, said in a briefing on 18 March that the Philippines is still safe from radiation from Japan because the direction of the winds is away from the country.

‘The public is advised not to be unduly alarmed of being exposed to radiation,’ PNRI Director Alumanda dela Rosa said.

However, Quijano said that the direction of the winds may change and may actually reach the Philippines. He added that the nuclear crisis in Japan should serve as a lesson to government officials on the utilization of nuclear plants in the country.

Lawmakers have proposed the revival of a mothballed nuclear plant in Bataan, which was put up in the 1970s.

‘The probability of a similar catastrophe occurring if the Bataan plant is revived should not be taken for granted. The reopening of the plant would not benefit the Filipino people but instead would expose us to unnecessary risks and potentially horrendous consequences,’ Quijano said. The government should also have a disaster-preparedness plan for disasters such as the one in Japan.

‘There is a real risk that over time, additional cases of cancer, birth defects, immune disorders, and other illnesses would occur among the population exposed to this low level radiation, especially the more susceptible population groups such as women and children,’ Quijano said.

Whether or not governments see the serious dangers that nuclear weapons pose to their citizens is still anybody’s guess, but Quijano hopes that the government will learn its lessons from the crisis that Japan is currently facing.

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