Government radiation monitoring in areas near Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant is unreliable, Greenpeace charged on Tuesday, with heavily populated areas exposed to 13 times the legal limit.
The environmental group said authorities were wasting time cleaning up evacuated areas and should prioritise decontamination efforts in places where people live, work and play.
Greenpeace found that in some parks and school facilities in Fukushima city, home to 285,000 people, radiation levels were above three microsieverts per hour. Japan’s recommended radiation limit is 0.23 microsieverts per hour.
“We also found that official monitoring posts placed by the government systematically underestimate the radiation levels,” said Rianne Teule, Greenpeace’s radiation expert, adding that some machines are shielded from radiation by surrounding metal and concrete structures.
A subcontractor at Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant told workers to lie about possible high radiation exposure in an apparent effort to keep its contract, reports said Saturday.
An executive at construction firm Build-Up in December told about 10 of its workers to cover their dosimeters, used to measure cumulative radiation exposure, with lead casings when working in areas with high radiation, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper and other media said.
The action was apparently designed to under-report their exposure to allow the company to continue working at the site of the worst nuclear disaster in a generation, media reports said.
The cooling system of the spent-fuel pool in reactor 4 at the Fukushima No. 1 plant automatically suspended operations Saturday and the water temperature is starting to rise, Tokyo Electric Power Co. said. The utility has been unable to activate a backup cooling system for the pool since operations halted at around 6.25 a.m., and is looking into the causes, Tepco officials said later in the day.The pools water temperature stood at around 31 degrees Celsius when the cooling system ceased functioning and was increasing by 0.26 degree per hour late Saturday afternoon, according to the officials
Japans atomic energy authority and the countrys space agency Tuesday announced a joint project to develop a drone to measure radioactivity in the environment after last years nuclear disaster.
Remote-controlled helicopters have been used but are not suitable for remote and mountainous territory as they have to fly low and the operator has to be able to see the aircraft, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency JAXA said.
But unmanned aircraft could fly at higher altitudes over potentially contaminated areas, resolving the issue.
Radiation levels in most of Japan are below cancer-causing levels a year after the Fukushima plant accident, a World Health Organisation WHO report published on Wednesday says.
Two areas near the plant have relatively higher levels of radiation, but radiation levels in surrounding countries are close to normal.The preliminary report is part of a wider ongoing health assessment by WHO.
Fukushima nuclear plant was badly damaged in the 2011 Japan earthquake.
Kelp along the California coast was found to be contaminated with radioactive material from a nuclear plant damaged in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan, according to a recent study.
Researchers at California State University, Long Beach found that the kelp contained radioactive iodine, cesium, xenon and other particles at levels unlikely to be detrimental to human health but much higher than the amounts measured before the disaster.
The levels were also about the same as those measured in British Columbia and Washington state after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant explosion.
About 100 women from Fukushima, Japan, have started a week-long sit-in at a government office in Tokyo to demand greater protection for children affected by radiation. “Many children and their families are trapped in Fukushima because they can’t afford to move,” explains Ayako Oga, 38, a housewife living in the prefecture and one of the sit-in organizers. “The government has set the accepted radiation exposure rate too high." Japan’s standard rate for exposure to radiation is 1 millisievert per year. For Fukushima residents alone the accepted exposure rate is up to 20 millisieverts per year. The International Commission on Radiological Protection considers this rate the top level and says it should not be exceeded over the long term.
National and prefectural governments have determined that until the 20 millisieverts level they are not obligated to offer financial support to residents, certain businesses or schools wanting to relocate outside the irradiated areas. At the heart of the debate is the question of who has a ‘right to evacuate.’
The government will be responsible for removing radioactive materials from all areas with levels exceeding 1 millisievert per year — stricter than the 5 millisieverts initially considered — according to an Environment Ministry preliminary report that stops short of saying where the waste will be temporarily, or permanently, stored.
The changed threshold came after many local governments lashed out, prompting Environment Minister Goshi Hosono to repeatedly say the central government will expand the areas it takes responsibility for.
Under the plan, the government will aim to halve radiation levels by August 2013 from August 2011 in areas whose contamination runs between 1 and 20 millisieverts per year.
Tokyo’s Setagaya ward in the western part of the capital plans to run radiation tests in 258 locations following the discovery of radiation above safety levels that required partially blocking off a sidewalk.
Setagaya ward, which has a population of more than 840,000 people, plans to decontaminate the area after radiation levels as high as 2.707 microsieverts per hour were detected at the site in the Tsurumaki 5-chome area, according to a statement by the ward.
The 2.7 microsieverts an hour equates to a dose of 14.2 millisieverts per year, or more than 14 times the internationally recommended level for the general public, according to a Science Ministry formula.
Japan will allocate 220 billion yen ($2.87 billion) to clean up in areas contaminated by radiation spewed from Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s crippled Fukushima Dai- Ichi nuclear plant, Kyodo News reported.
The government aims to reduce the level of radiation exposure to less than 1 millisievert per year soon, Kyodo News reported yesterday, citing Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano. Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who said yesterday he’s stepping down from office, will visit Fukushima today to explain the government’s decontamination plans for the region, according to a separate Kyodo report.
The meltdown of the nuclear plant following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami forced thousands of Fukushima prefecture residents to evacuate. Prolonged exposure to radiation in the air, ground and food may cause leukemia and other cancers, according to the London-based World Nuclear Association.