Demand for personal Geiger counters soars in Japan

Wed May 25, 2011 6:20am EDT
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By Chiaki Kawase

TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - With a nuclear plant just 240 km (150 miles) north of Tokyo still leaking radiation, demand for personal Geiger counters has skyrocketed in the Japanese capital and manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the demand.

Engineers are battling to plug radiation leaks and bring the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant under control more than two months after the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and deadly tsunami that devastated a swathe of Japan's coastline.

With many people unsure of who to trust for their information, some buy Geiger counters to check for themselves.

In Akihabara, Tokyo's electronics mecca, many stores have sold out and are unable to keep up with demand for the devices.

"Nobody even looked at or even knew the name (of the Geiger counter), but ever since the earthquake struck people have become very interested," said Makoto Ogasawara, sales manager at electronics store Akibaoo.

"We are selling 100 times more."

While progress is slowly being made to bring the disaster under control, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) confirmed on Tuesday that the fuel rods at three reactors at the plant had melted down. Radioactive traces exceeding national safety standards have been found in various foods grown in areas around the plant as well as in tap water in places as far away as Tokyo, keeping residents on edge.

"I don't think that the information you got are the real information in Japan. That's the problem," said restaurant chef Bruno Menard, noting that a French company he had checked with that morning for radiation levels had said levels were very high around Fukushima.   Continued...

<p>A radiation monitor indicates 0.41 microsieverts per hour at Mutsuo Mito's dairy farm in Shinchimachi, Fukushima Prefecture, northern Japan, April 13, 2011. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon</p>