In what almost looked like a playground dare, Japanese MP Yasuhiro Sonoda drank a glass of water taken from a radioactive puddle in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power, in front of a group of reporters.
At a press conference, Sonoda takes a sip, swishes the water from nuclear reactors 5 and 6 around in his mouth, then drinks some more. The drink was a symbolic gesture meant to assure the Japanese people that the government's clean-up effort was working.
“Just drinking (decontaminated water) doesn’t mean safety has been confirmed, I know that,” Sonoda told reporters. “Presenting data to the public is the best way.”
He seemed slightly nervous drinking the water that was taken from inside the plant, which failed after it was struck by a tsunami in March, but that could have been related to all the photographers in the room. Nonetheless, officials have said that the water was not normally intended for human consumption, according to The Telegraph.
Water from reactors 5 and 6 is being used to spray trees around Fukushima to reduce the chance of fire. The water that Sonoda drank was radioactive, but had been cleaned of dangerous cesium isotopes -134 and -137, as well as of iodine.
Ingesting caesium-137 can be lethal even in small doses.
The water was also boiled and desalinized before Sonoda drank it, according to The Mainichi Daily News. Sonoda was allegedly repeatedly goaded by journalists to drink the water to substantiate the government's claims about the safety of Fukushima.
Seven months after the nuclear disaster, tens of thousands of people still haven't been allowed to return to their homes in the 12 mile-secure perimeter around the plant.
In April, then chief cabinet secretary, Yukio Edano, ate a strawberry grown about 30 miles from the plant in Iwaki, Japan.
This is food that people who are going through great pain devoted all of their energy to produce, Edano said at a farmer's market. Only safe produce is being distributed. Please eat it.
Tokyo Electric Power, the company that owns the Fukushima plant, has been treating the radioactive water, after much of it drained into the environment, and has been running out of space to store the clean water. The company has not been given permission to distribute the water, according to The New York Times