Low levels of radiation were detected on five Indonesians returning from Japan, but officials insist the levels are well within safe limits.
Reno Alamsyah, the director for alerts at the Nuclear Energy Regulatory Agency (Bapeten), said three of the five had returned on Saturday, while the other two flew in on an unspecified previous date.
“The last three Indonesian citizens, who just returned from Japan, registered 50 becquerels of radiation,” he told the Jakarta Globe.
“That was higher than the previous two, who registered at 20 becquerels. Actually, 50 becquerels isn’t a dangerous level for human health. It was just external radiation on their clothes and shoes that could be gotten rid of very easily.”
Reno said the group of three, who returned through Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, had been living in Fukushima prefecture at the time the March 11 earthquake and tsunami triggered radiation leaks from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
He added that they were evacuated to the Indonesian Embassy in Tokyo soon after.
“The three of them were interns in Japan who were just a week into their internship in Fukushima,” Reno said.
“Soon after the tsunami hit, they were evacuated away from the nuclear power plant. Because they were in Fukushima, though, we were worried that they might have suffered some internal radiation that would have been undetectable at the airport,” he went on to say.
“Therefore, through the Health Ministry, we suggested they be brought to the Batan [National Nuclear Energy Agency] office for further tests.”
Susilo Widodo, head of safety technology and radiation metrology at Batan, said low levels of iodine-131 radiation had been detected on the three Indonesians.
“Iodine-131 isn’t a dangerous radioactive material,” he said.
“It has a half-life of eight days, which means it’ll lose its radioactivity in a short period of time. It would be a very different case if they had Cesium-137. That has a half-life of 30 years, which means it will stay active for a long time.”
The danger to humans depended on the half-life and the body organs affected, he added.
Reno said efforts to check passengers from Japan for radiation at Soekarno-Hatta and Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport would end shortly .
“With no more Indonesian citizens retuning from Japan, the radiation checks at both airports will cease by Friday,” he said.