The government should consider evacuating children and pregnant women from a wider area around the Fukushima No. 1 power plant because radiation levels remain high even outside the 20-km no-go zone, Kumi Naidoo, executive director of Greenpeace International, said Thursday in Tokyo.
Naidoo’s team of radiology experts found hot spots that had a maximum hourly reading of 45 microsieverts of radiation alongside a school zone.
While the area likely had high levels of radiation as a result of the landscape or other natural conditions, Naidoo insisted the central government should conduct thorough checks and provide accurate and fast information to local residents.
“Enough lives have been lost already” due to the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, and it is not justifiable for the government to neglect the health risks of high radiation in Fukushima, he told reporters at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan.
Naidoo, who arrived in Japan on Sunday, visited Fukushima to meet with heads of local governments and people affected by the March 11 crisis.
During the news conference, Jan Beranek, an expert on radiology from Greenpeace International who joined Naidoo’s trip to Fukushima, recommended that the government widen the evacuation zone to at least 60 or 70 km from the power plant.
He said there were parks and public spaces where the level of radiation activity hit 9 microsieverts per hour.
Even some nursery schools that have already undergone a decontamination process had a relatively high reading of 0.5 microsievert per hour, he said. That would translate into an annual exposure of 5 millisieverts, which was the evacuation threshold for Chernobyl, Beranek said.
The government recommends a maximum intake of 1 millisievert a year during normal times, but raises that to 20 millisieverts in times of a nuclear accident.
Beranek recommended that people in Fukushima residing in areas with high levels of radiation wear masks and remain inside their homes.
Radiation from some kinds of particles “is not something that goes away in weeks or months,” he said, explaining that some chemical elements can be absorbed into organs and bones.
While expressing concern that the level of decontamination “hasn’t been adequate” in Fukushima, Naidoo also said he fears that people there haven’t received sufficient information from the central government.
Pointing out that many children living near areas with high levels of radiation are playing outdoors without proper masks, he criticized the government for being “too slow” in explaining the risks of exposure.
Naidoo, a native of South Africa, was named head of the global NGO in November 2009. He is scheduled to take part in a rally in Tokyo against nuclear power on Saturday.
New science policy
The new five-year basic science and technology plan will focus on rebuilding parts of the Tohoku region destroyed on March 11 and on developing energy technology, according to a draft released Thursday by a key government panel.
The Council for Science and Technology Policy’s draft program, to be formalized in August, calls for promoting research and development to treat radioactive soil and water and dispose of waste from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.