Russian Far East 'radiation levels stable'

17th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

Russia's Far East on Thursday employed coast guard vessels and even molluscs to monitor radiation from the quake-damaged Japanese nuclear plant but officials said levels remained stable.

Local residents have in the past few days stocked up on iodine and dosimeters -- instruments that measure radiation -- prompting officials to warn residents against panic buying and excessive consumption of iodine drugs.

Radiation levels on Sakhalin, a large Pacific island close to Japan, were between six and 15 microroentgen per hour compared with a maximum accepted norm of 30 per hour, the regional emergencies ministry said.

As of 0700 GMT, radiation levels in the nearby Primorye region -- whose main city is Vladivostok -- did not change from the day before, averaging at 13 microroentgen, the regional emergencies ministry said on its website.

"There is no threat to life and health of people," it said.

Coast guard vessels off Sakhalin Island helped monitor the radiation, transmitting data to a special monitoring taskforce every two hours.

And in Vladivostok, located no more than 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) west of the Fukushima nuclear plant, molluscs were being used to assess the situation.

"Molluscs... react to heavy metal ions which means they will sound an alarm if background radiation increases," local water company Primvodokanal said, adding it has been using this type of biomonitoring since last year.

With iodine and dosimeters supplies in the region running out, the head of the Moscow-based State Audit Chamber told the regional government to punish those who were fanning panic in a bid to cash in on sales.

"I have a request, please pass it on to the governor, figure out who is inciting the situation. You have to tear off heads for this, these are criminals, that's the only name I have for them," the Interfax news agency quoted Sergei Stepashin as saying at a meeting.

"We have these so-called bloggers, journalists-blackmailers who are fanning speculation about the threat of radiation for Primorye coming from Japan."

"In your region they have inflated prices for dosimeters, Geiger counters, the price goes up to 2,000-3,000 rubles ($69-104) already," he said, indicating that media were also responsible for exaggerating the threat.

Svetlana Tanina, a representative of PrimTekhnopolis, a Vladivostok-based firm that sells dosimeters, said on Wednesday that her company had sold 30 measuring instruments over the past three days, each costing 3,500-4,500 rubles.

Before the Japanese nuclear accidents, the company used to sell no more than two or three individual dosimeters a month.

© 2011 AFP

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