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Ionising radiation is a fact of life for us all, but for some cities it’s a daily source of worry – and not just the ones near Chernobyl
A difficult decision faced Futaba, Japan this January. The vacant town, located within the Prohibited Zone created after the Fukushima nuclear leak in 2011 (which continues to spill toxic effluent into the Pacific Ocean), was asked to host a radioactive materials storage facility, for the bags of radioactive topsoil and debris that have been sitting in fields around the area for years. The exiled municipal authorities agreed – perhaps sealing the fate of the city even should it be cleared one day for repopulation.
Despite the promise that the stuff will be taken away within 30 years, temporary has a way of blending into permanence. Meanwhile, 120,000 residents of Fukushima Prefecture remain evacuated – a reminder that while ionised radiation is a fact of life for us all, for residents of some cities it’s a daily source of worry.
It’s not always easy to know how radioactive your city is, though – or at least how dangerous the radiation makes it. The amount of radioactive material in the environment is not the only factor: many of the bioactive effects don’t stem from direct radiation but rather from that radioactive material’s access to your body, in the air you breathe or the plants you eat. […]