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Ontario university students touring nuclear disaster site in Japan via National Post

A handful of Ontario university students are touring parts of Japan to better understand the devastating effects of the country’s 2011 nuclear disaster and the problems that persist.

Five graduate students from McMaster University’s radiation sciences program landed in Japan on Wednesday for a 10-day tour of the Fukushima region where they’ll spend time in a restricted zone, stay with families devastated by the disaster and tour the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi power plant, the site of the nuclear meltdown.

They are part of the Fukushima Ambassador Program, which is funded by the Japanese government and the nuclear plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co. The initiative is designed to teach students from around the world about the physical, economic and social consequences of the disaster.

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For the budding Ontario scientists visiting the region, the trip is an opportunity to learn about life outside the laboratory.

“It’s good to keep in mind that the decisions you make as a scientist can have incredible repercussions,” McMaster student Monique Stuive, 24, said in an interview from Japan.

“It makes you realize the importance of doing a good job and seeing how it affects people, especially since a lot of us are thinking of doing a career in the nuclear industry.”

There will be a market for the skills that Stuive and her colleagues are learning as nuclear reactors in Canada get refurbished and decommissioned, said Stuive’s professor, Fiona McNeill, who runs the radiation sciences program at McMaster.

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On Thursday, the students visited the Fukushima Agricultural Technology Centre to see how it monitors and tests food that goes out to market.

“They look at every single bag of rice,” Stuive said.

The students also learned about a mushroom farmer who had to give up growing the fungi because they soak up more radioactive elements from the soil compared to other crops, Stuive said.

“The two things I’m most looking forward to is going to the nuclear power station itself and seeing how it looks, and talking to someone who worked there, and we get to stay with a local family for a certain amount of time,” she said.

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