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Broadband users in rural areas are being left behind in major network upgrade

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broadband users in rural areas are being left behind in major network upgrade

Rural communities are at risk of being left behind again in a major upgrade of the broadband network, the government spending watchdog has warned.

In a report published today, the National Audit Office (NAO) says a target to reach nationwide coverage of fibre broadband by 2025 is ‘challenging’ and could mean countryside areas are left until last.

The NAO said 20 per cent of premises in rural areas lacked access to basic broadband speeds, compared to 3 per cent in urban areas, despite a previous £1.9 billion programme to improve connectivity. 

Rural communities are at risk of being left behind again in a major upgrade of the broadband network, the National Audit Office warned today

Rural communities are at risk of being left behind again in a major upgrade of the broadband network, the National Audit Office warned today

And it said the rural-urban divide could become worse if rural areas are not prioritised.

The NAO said: ‘The UK has a broadband network that does not reach everyone and is not fully future-proof.’

A Government spokesman said: ‘We are not only helping industry speed up its work by removing the barriers to quicker deployment, but also investing £5 billion so the hardest-to-reach areas are not left behind.’

The NAO said that companies such as BT would have to increase their fibre building rates from 1.5 million premises per year to 6 million ‘immediately’ in order to meet the 2025 target – a task that industry experts say is almost impossible.

On top of this, the speed increase would also have to be achieved in rural areas where work is oftem hampered by difficult terrain.

The NAO said this posed the risk that the Government may instead put other areas first, seeking to ‘deliver to as many premises as possible in the timeframe, rather than starting with those in greatest need’.

The NAO said the rural-urban divide could become worse if rural areas are not prioritised

The NAO said the rural-urban divide could become worse if rural areas are not prioritised

The NAO said 20 per cent of premises in rural areas lacked access to basic broadband speeds, compared to 3 per cent in urban areas

The NAO said 20 per cent of premises in rural areas lacked access to basic broadband speeds, compared to 3 per cent in urban areas

Gareth Davies, the watchdog’s head, added: ‘Less than a decade after launching the superfast programme the Government has identified the need to upgrade the broadband network again.

‘To deliver the vision, [it] must manage the tension between meeting a challenging timeline and serving those in greatest need.

‘Failure to do so risks leaving the hardest to reach areas even further behind and widening the urban-rural divide.’

Following a national rollout of ‘superfast’ broadband connections, defined as delivering speeds of at least 30 megabits per second, about 95 per cent of the UK now has access to decent broadband.

But internet usage is surging by 40 per cent every year, as households increasingly use high-definition video streaming services, meaning another upgrade will soon be needed.

That has prompted ministers to promise connections of 100 megabits per second or more in future, by replacing the Victorian-era copper wires that still run into most households with cutting-edge fibre optic cables.

Companies such as BT would have to increase their fibre building rates from 1.5 million premises per year to 6 million 'immediately' in order to meet the 2025 target

Companies such as BT would have to increase their fibre building rates from 1.5 million premises per year to 6 million ‘immediately’ in order to meet the 2025 target

Boris Johnson last year suggested speeding up this work so that the entire UK would have gigabit coverage by 2025.

He said a previous official target of 2033 was ‘laughably unambitious’, adding: ‘If we want to unite our country and our society, we should commit now to delivering full fibre to every home in the land not in the mid-2030s – but in five years at the outside.

‘Of course they will say it can’t be done… but it can.’

But following criticism of the how the last broadband upgrade was carried out, ministers promised to take an ‘outside-in’ approach to make sure rural areas received coverage first.

However, the NAO said this could prove ‘challenging’ because of the huge increase in building activity that will be needed.

It called on the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to set out a ‘detailed plan and schedule’ for how this would be done and to be ‘transparent’ about its progress.

The NAO also called for assurance that ministers ‘will prioritise the hardest to reach premises first’.

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Maiden Voyages review: A watery in-between world where the usual rules didn’t quite apply

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Maiden Voyages

Siân Evans                                                                                                 Two Roads £25

Rating: rating showbiz 4

During the 25 years between the sinking of the Titanic and the outbreak of the Second World War, thousands of women criss-crossed the Atlantic on the great ocean liners of the day. 

In first class on board the Aquitania or the Queen Mary, there were glamorous actresses such as Tallulah Bankhead and Hedy Lamarr, and married socialites such as Thelma Furness and Wallis Simpson, both love interests of the dashing Prince of Wales.

In second class was a new generation of female business travellers, working as go-betweens for the department stores of New York and Chicago and the fashion houses of London and Paris. 

In first class on board the Aquitania or the Queen Mary, there were glamorous actresses such as Tallulah Bankhead and Hedy Lamarr, and married socialites such as Thelma Furness

In first class on board the Aquitania or the Queen Mary, there were glamorous actresses such as Tallulah Bankhead and Hedy Lamarr, and married socialites such as Thelma Furness

In third class, tucked away in the bowels of the ship, were hundreds of women with a one-way ticket fleeing poverty and racism in the hope of a better life in the New World. 

One was Mary Macleod, a Scottish crofter’s daughter who went to New York in 1930 as a domestic servant, married a small-time property developer called Frank Trump and gave birth 16 years later to the 45th President of the United States.

In this riveting slice of social history, Siân Evans does a brilliant job of describing the unexpected textures of life at sea. She explains that many stylish women in first class never dreamed of going on deck for fear of frizzing their elegantly arranged hair. 

The damp, salty air also gave expensive woollens a green tinge and made the most expensive mink coat smell like a wet dog. Instead, the ladies in first class preferred to think of the ship as a giant, luxurious hotel-cum-catwalk, as they drifted from a late breakfast in bed, to an appointment with the manicurist, to dinner at the captain’s table. 

If unsettling thoughts about the Titanic occasionally intruded, they could reassure themselves that safety standards had vastly improved since 1912.

However, there was still plenty of scope for onboard drama. In the cheaper first-class cabins you might find a species known as the ‘sea vamp’. The sea vamp set out to get a bit too friendly with a married man. 

Once she’d danced with him a few times, perhaps while his wife was being horribly seasick, she would suggest a drink in her room. At that point, the trap was sprung, a camera appeared, and the poor sap was ripe for a spot of blackmail. 

The vamp’s male counterpart was the gigolo, a handsome young man who was looking for a lady with a fortune – whether that was a rich widow of 50 or an heiress of 21.

Some of Evans’s most original material, though, concerns the women who made their (respectable) livings on these ships. A life at sea as a stewardess offered wages and tips far better than could be had at home, and there was a certain glamour attached. 

If you had a social conscience, you could become a welfare officer, chaperoning the terrified women and children in third class. By deep diving into the archives, Siân Evans has discovered a watery in-between world where the usual rules didn’t quite apply and a spirited woman could get further than she ever would on dry land. 

 

Politically Homeless

Matt Forde                                                                                               Quercus £16.99

Rating: rating showbiz 4

Whatever happened to the 13.5 million people who voted for Tony Blair’s Labour Party in 1997? What about the tens of thousands of volunteers and party apparatchiks – did they vanish into thin air? 

Matt Forde’s gently amusing memoir is a reminder that no, they’re still kicking around – they’ve just been made politically homeless by Jeremy Corbyn and Brexit. They’re quite cross about it, too.

Forde is a stand-up comedian and one of the writers on the new Spitting Image. There are some laugh-out-loud lines, alongside a few centrist dad jokes, as Twitter might call them – most of which are unprintable here. 

Matt Forde (above) is a stand-up comedian and one of the writers on the new Spitting Image. There are some laugh-out-loud lines, alongside a few centrist dad jokes

Matt Forde (above) is a stand-up comedian and one of the writers on the new Spitting Image. There are some laugh-out-loud lines, alongside a few centrist dad jokes

But he’s certainly perceptive. What strikes you early on, as he describes his solidly Labour upbringing in Nottingham, are the myriad signs that Blair and Brown were only just keeping a lid on the hard-Left of their party, which loathed them as much as it did the Tories and didn’t hide it. 

He notices as a young volunteer that if you want to guess who the most aggressive person in the room is at a Labour meeting, ignore the young guy in the Fred Perry shirt, or the serious-looking, middle-aged woman. 

‘It’s Beardy Old Guy every time. He’ll even smile at you on the way in. Then, once the meeting starts, BANG! He’s off.’

Of course, a Beardy Old Guy eventually became leader of the party, thanks to Ed Miliband – ‘the gateway drug’, as Forde describes him, ‘the cannabis to Corbyn’s crack cocaine’. 

The problem with both, he says, is that they preferred sticking to their guns than to winning, ‘one of the most indulgent instincts in Labour politics’, as it lets down those who need the party most.

I was expecting a paean of praise to Sir Keir Starmer towards the end – someone who does not share that instinct, by all accounts. But Forde seems too despondent for that. 

‘It’s not Starmer I worry about,’ he says, admitting that he is serious and reasonable. But ‘the party is still in a mess’. Bad news for Blairites, good news for Boris.

Will Heaven 

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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More than 700,000 sign petition to end subsidised meals for MPs

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more than 700000 sign petition to end subsidised meals for mps

More than 740,000 people have already signed a petition to end subsidised meals for MPs after they voted against extending free school meals.  

Earlier this week, a motion to offer food aid to vulnerable families over school holidays until Easter 2021 was defeated in the House of Commons by 322 votes to 261. 

But the defeat sparked fierce backlash with Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford, 22, who championed the campaign, calling on people to ‘unite’ to protect the most vulnerable children.

The latest petition, which was launched on 38 Degrees, said: ‘MPs have voted against extending free school meals into the holidays for the poorest children in the UK, in the middle of a pandemic. 

‘They should under no circumstances benefit from free or subsidised meals out of public funds themselves.’    

More than 740,000 people have already signed a petition to end subsidised meals for MPs after they voted against extending free school meals (parliamentary canteen pictured)

More than 740,000 people have already signed a petition to end subsidised meals for MPs after they voted against extending free school meals (parliamentary canteen pictured)

The petition has nearly reached its target of 800,000 signatures (figures earlier today)

The petition has nearly reached its target of 800,000 signatures (figures earlier today)

MPs are currently allowed to eat and drink alcohol in parliamentary restaurants and bars which, while not directly subsidised, run at a loss. Pictured: Members¿ Dining Room menu in September 2019

MPs are currently allowed to eat and drink alcohol in parliamentary restaurants and bars which, while not directly subsidised, run at a loss. Pictured: Members’ Dining Room menu in September 2019

MPs are currently allowed to eat and drink alcohol in parliamentary restaurants and bars which, while not directly subsidised, run at a loss.

This means that public money is effectively spent subsidising the overall catering operation.   

The petition has so far received more than 740,000 signatures out of its 800,000 target.

Portia Lawrie, who started the petition, said:’I only started this petition because I was so angry that some MPs had rejected the chance in parliament, and Marcus Rashford’s campaign, to extend free school meals into the school holiday. 

‘I wanted to point out the clear hypocrisy between that and the food and drink the public subsidise for MP’s whilst denying support to those most in need of it.’

‘I couldn’t quite believe what I was watching unfold as hundreds of thousands of people threw their support behind it in less than 24 hours. 

‘It’s simply unfair that the government is refusing to use OUR money for one of the most basic responsibilities of a compassionate society – feeding hungry children. And the level of support this petition is getting shows clearly the level of hurt caused by those who voted against it.’ 

The link to the petition has since been shared by a range of famous faces including actors Angela Griffin and Tamzin Outhwaite.

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The link to the petition has since been shared by a range of famous faces including actors Angela Griffin and Tamzin Outhwaite

The link to the petition has since been shared by a range of famous faces including actors Angela Griffin and Tamzin Outhwaite

It comes after Rashford tonight tweeted to ask people to ‘rise above’ disappointment, describing abuse of MPs and their families in recent days as ‘unacceptable’ and unnecessary’.

He wrote: ‘I want to take a quick second to acknowledge that a number of MP’s, and their families, have received unacceptable abuse over the last couple of days, especially on Twitter.

‘Believe me, as a Premier League player, I know all too well what that feels like, and it’s unnecessary. We are all bigger than that.’

He said he cannot and does not condone personal attacks on females in particular.

Calling for ‘collaboration’ and ‘togetherness’, he added: ‘Disappointment is a natural reaction, but we must rise above it.’

Earlier this week the athlete told BBC Newsnight that he ‘couldn’t be more proud to call myself British’ after his campaign to provide free meals to children this Christmas sparked an outpouring of support on social media. 

Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford, 22, who championed the campaign, called on people to 'unite' to protect the most vulnerable children

Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford, 22, who championed the campaign, called on people to ‘unite’ to protect the most vulnerable children

The Manchester United footballer thanked hundreds of cafes, pubs and restaurants which came forward to offer half-term food for vulnerable children following the vote.

In a statement released to the flagship programme, the ace also responded to criticism of his decision to start the campaign, saying those who wanted to talk about ‘celebrities’ and ‘superstars’ would find them in his Twitter feed.  

Dozens of hospitality businesses have shown they ‘stand with Rashford, not the 322’ MPs who rejected the motion, by supporting families during the school holidays.

Speaking to BBC Newsnight, the England star said: ‘Growing up we didn’t have a lot, but we always had the safety net of the community. That community was my family. 

‘When we stumbled, we were caught with open arms. Even at their lowest point, having felt the devastating effects of the pandemic, local businesses have wrapped arms around their communities today, catching vulnerable children as they fell.

Hospitality giants, councils and small firms rally to help vulnerable children

Local businesses and organisations:

  • The Greystones – Sheffield
  • Kingfisher Fish and Chips – Hull
  • The Courtyard – Birmingham
  • Farm Fresh – Nottingham
  • Rayrayz – Liverpool
  • Birchwood Autumn – West Lancashire
  • EJF Buffets and Banquets – Solihull
  • St James Church – Rawstenall
  • The Loft Cafe Bar – Bingley
  • The Gilt Rooms – Essex
  • Oliver’s – Surrey
  • Delphine Fish and Chips – Sheffield
  • Pearson’s Bar – Hull
  • Toast 2 roast – St Helens
  • The Panda Club – Liverpool
  • Manjaros – Middlesbrough
  • Mumtaz – Leeds
  • Barry’s Tearoom – Cumbria
  • The Rhubarb Shed Cafe – Sheffield
  • The Vale Cafe – Rothbury
  • Warrens Fruit and Veg – Watford
  • Jenny’s Brackley – Brackley
  • The Fun House – Whitehaven
  • Jo’s Place – Wilmslow
  • Bowring Park Cafe – Shropshire
  • Greenfields Farm – Telford
  • Minikin Art Cafe – Manchester
  • Babuls – Teesdale
  • The Sandwich Shop – Rotherham
  • Khandoker – Didsbury
  • The Hawthorne – Warrington
  • The Watering Can – Liverpool
  • The Pudding Pantry – Nottingham
  • Patna – Leek
  • Astoria Bar – Urmston
  • Belluno – Devon
  • Aubergine Cafe – Wirral
  • The Crown Inn – Bristol
  • The Courtyard – Wigan
  • The Handsworth – Sheffield
  • Bakers – Bolton
  • Lucid Games/Tranmere Rovers – Wirral
  • Royal and Derngate – Northampton
  • The VIllage Fish Bar – Bamber Bridge
  • Bik Smoke Brew Co – Surbiton, Kingston, Hammersmith, Weybridge, Chichester, Wokingham
  • Pavilion Street Kitchen – Cornwall
  • Count House Cafe – Cornwall
  • The Art House – Eastbourne
  • Market Hill Fisheries – Winterton
  • Kingfisher Fish and Chips – Hull
  • The Poachers – County Durham
  • Cafe Baraka – Cleethorpes
  • Jordan’s Cafe – Worthing
  • Duke’s Head – Great Yarmouth
  • Weoley Castle – Birmingham
  • Portofino Ristorante – Harrogate
  • Lillies Coffee Shop – Rotherham
  • Kimble’s – Billingham
  • No Bones – Hastings
  • Tintinhull Village Hall and Coffee Shop – Yeovil

Councils and regional authorities:

  • Greater Manchester City Region
  • Telford and Wrekin
  • Redbridge
  • Oldham
  • Greenwich
  • Liverpool
  • Kensington and Chelsea
  • Cheltenham Borough Council
  • Doncaster
  • Southwark
  • Hammersmith and Fulham
  • Wandsworth
  • Portsmouth City Council
  • Lewisham
  • North Tyneside
  • St Helens Borough
  • Lambeth
  • Manchester City Council
  • Birmingham City Council
  • Sheffield City Council
  • Knowsley Council
  • Birmingham City Council
  • North Tyneside Council
  • St Helens Borough Council
  • Hackney Council
  • Portsmouth Council
  • Shropshire Council
  • City of Wolverhampton Council 
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‘I couldn’t be more proud to call myself British tonight. I am truly overwhelmed by the outpouring of support. 

‘You want to talk about ‘celebrities’ and ‘superstars’, look no further than my Twitter feed and that’s exactly what you’ll find.’ 

Some business giants are involved in the campaign, with McDonald’s set to deliver a million meals for children in the next few weeks. 

Celebrity chef Nigella Lawson backed a campaign to provide free meals to vulnerable children, seeing it pass £35,000. 

Ms Lawson tweeted: ‘It shouldn’t have to be this way, but it is more important to feed a hungry child than argue about how it’s done.

‘Or rather, donate if you can and then do what’s necessary to stop those who make children going hungry policy.’

Councils including Redbridge Borough Council, Southwark Council, Hammersmith and Fulham Council and Liverpool City Council also said they would help out.

And smaller firms such as Aubergine Cafe in the Wirral, which is managed by Andrew Mahon and his wife May, have launched their own rescue missions for children. 

Announcing plans for food vouchers via the Co-op, Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham tweeted: ‘Was good to tell @MarcusRashford that we, his home city-region, aim to be the first in the country to achieve his vision.’

After unveiling a similar scheme in his city, Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson tweeted: ‘Families are struggling more than ever to make ends meet. No child should have to go hungry and in Liverpool we won’t let them. Thanks for your hard work and campaigning @MarcusRashford.’ 

A host of celebrities also offered their support to the England star, with journalist Caitlin Moran tweeting: ‘Marcus Rashford’s timeline swells your heart – people across the country doing something about feeding kids at Christmas.’

Musician Tim Burgess, a fellow Mancunian, tweeted: ‘Wow, @MarcusRashford is a true hero of our times. So many MPs should feel shame over the fact that a footballer is helping the needy, more than they are.’

Support also came from across the football world, with ex-England striker and Match of the Day host Gary Lineker posting: ‘Well played @MarcusRashford. Check his timeline. Extraordinary from a remarkable young man.’

A top regional Conservative politician has since waded in to the furore, blasting the Government’s ‘last-minute’ decision-making.

West Midlands mayor Andy Street said the Government should make ‘a clear decision’ on whether it would or would not fund free school meals over holidays ‘well in advance’.

Asked if the Government should have to fund half-term meals, he said: ‘I think – at the last minute – you probably do have to fund it, is the answer to that.’     

He added: ‘It should not be a last-minute thing, this should be planned for, there should be a national approach on this.’

He said the lack of planning meant there was now an ‘indiscriminate arrangement’ across the country as to whether free school meals would be provided over the break.

McDonald’s funding will enable charity FareShare to redistribute food to families who need it most in the coming weeks.

UK and Ireland CEO Paul Pomroy said: ‘As a business we are committed to supporting and serving the communities in which we operate.

‘In these challenging times, we know it’s more important than ever to support those most in need.

‘When we temporarily closed our restaurants in March, our people, franchisees and suppliers rallied to provide surplus food and support to food banks and charities.

‘We were pleased that we were able to donate surplus food through FareShare and other organisations earlier this year, and we admire the fantastic work that FareShare continues to do to support families facing very tough situations.

‘I am pleased to support the distribution of one million meals to the families most in need this Autumn, and I wish to thank and congratulate FareShare for everything they’re doing.’

FareShare CEO Lindsay Boswell added: ‘McDonalds is showing real leadership in supporting the most vulnerable in society to get access to healthy food at this critical time.

‘The funding will enable the equivalent of 1 million meals to be redistributed to our charity network very swiftly, and we are very grateful for their urgent support.’ 

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Contaminated water that ‘could damage human DNA’ could be released into sea, Greenpeace claims

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Contaminated water with the potential to damage human DNA could soon be released into the Pacific Ocean, Greenpeace claims.

The utility company operating the tsunami-devastated nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan, said last year it will run out of space to store massive quantities of it by 2022.

This has added immense pressure on the government and the public to reach a consensus on what to do with it.

The utility company operating the tsunami-devastated nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan, said last year it will run out of space to store massive quantities of it by 2022

The utility company operating the tsunami-devastated nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan, said last year it will run out of space to store massive quantities of it by 2022

Radioactive water has leaked from the damaged reactors and mixed with groundwater and rainwater at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant

Radioactive water has leaked from the damaged reactors and mixed with groundwater and rainwater at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant

Three reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant suffered meltdowns in a massive 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated the north east of the country.

Radioactive water has leaked from the damaged reactors and mixed with groundwater and rainwater at the plant. 

The water is treated but remains slightly radioactive and is stored in large tanks.

The plant has accumulated more than 1 million tons of water in nearly 1,000 tanks. Its operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), says it plans to build more tanks but can accommodate only up to 1.37 million tons, which it will reach in less than two years.

Greenpeace has now claimed in a new report that a decision has been made to discharge the water into the sea.

It was reported on Wednesday that Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said he is aiming to make a ‘speedy decision’ on the disposal, with local fishermen said to be concerned that such a move would destroy their livelihoods. 

Most radioactive isotopes have been removed by an extensive filtration process. But one remains, called tritium, which cannot be removed with existing technology. 

Tritium is only harmful to humans in very large doses, experts say. The International Atomic Energy Agency argues that properly filtered water could be diluted with seawater and then safely released into the ocean. 

The environment rights group says in the report, Stemming the Tide 2020: The reality of the Fukushima radioactive water crisis, that doing so will have ‘serious long-term consequences for communities and the environment’.  

Greenpeace adds that the radioactive isotope carbon-14, which persists in the environment over thousands of years and concentrates in fish at a level thousands of times higher than tritium, ‘is especially important as a major contributor to collective human radiation dose and has the potential to damage human DNA’.

The plant has accumulated more than 1 million tons of water in nearly 1,000 tanks. Its operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), says it plans to build more tanks but can accommodate only up to 1.37 million tons, which it will reach in less than two years

The plant has accumulated more than 1 million tons of water in nearly 1,000 tanks. Its operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), says it plans to build more tanks but can accommodate only up to 1.37 million tons, which it will reach in less than two years

Shaun Burnie, author of the report and senior nuclear specialist with Greenpeace Germany, said: ‘Nearly ten years after the start of the disaster, TEPCO and the Japanese government are still covering up the scale of the crisis at Fukushima Daiichi. 

‘They have deliberately held back for years detailed information on the radioactive material in the contaminated water. 

‘They have failed to explain to the citizens of Fukushima, wider Japan and to neighboring countries such as South Korea and China that the contaminated water to be dumped into the Pacific Ocean contains dangerous levels of carbon-14. 

‘These, together with other radionuclides in the water will remain hazardous for thousands of years with the potential to cause genetic damage. It’s one more reason why these plans have to be abandoned.’  

However, a spokesperson for TEPCO told CNN that the concentration of carbon-14 contained in the treated water is low, adding: ‘Even if the water is continuously drunk by 2 liters every day, the annual exposure is about 0.001 to 0.11 millisieverts, which is not a level that affects health.’

He added that a secondary treatment will be carried out under regulatory standards to check that no radioactive materials other than tritium are discharged. 

TEPCO has been approached for further comment. 

WHAT WAS JAPAN’S 2011 FUKUSHIMA NUCLEAR DISASTER?

In 2011, a 33ft (10m)-high tsunami that killed nearly 19,000 people crashed into Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant. 

This led to several meltdowns, allowing harmful radioactive fuel rods and debris to escape from contained areas.

Approaching a decade after the disaster, researchers are still struggling to clean up fuel in the waters of the wasting reactors.

Pictured is an aerial view of the reactors of the tsunami-stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant stand in Okuma, Fukushima

Pictured is an aerial view of the reactors of the tsunami-stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant stand in Okuma, Fukushima

It’s estimated that plant officials have only located 10 per cent of the waste fuel left behind after the nuclear meltdowns.

And the damaged plant is believed to be leaking small amounts of the radioactive waste into the Pacific Ocean, which could be travelling as far as the west coast of the United States. 

Researchers are now pinning their hopes on remote-controlled swimming robots to locate the lost fuel in order to work out the safest way to remove it. 

The government has lifted evacuation orders for much of the region affected by the meltdown, except for some no-go zones with high radiation levels.

Authorities are encouraging evacuees to return, but the population in the Fukushima prefecture has more than halved from some two million in the pre-disaster period.  

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