FUKUSHIMA – A farmer remaining in the evacuation zone in Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture, amid the nuclear crisis has asked Tokyo Electric Power Co. to help care for abandoned livestock and pets.
Naoto Matsumura, 52, visited Tepco’s head office Monday to make the request. He has gained international coverage of his activities to feed cows, dogs and cats left behind in the evacuation zone around Tepco’s Fukushima No. 1 power plant.
“The world is watching the development since the nuclear crisis was triggered by last March’s earthquake and tsunami, and the situation inside the evacuation zone,” he said.
Matsumura evacuated from his home in Tomioka to elsewhere in Fukushima Prefecture after the crisis began but returned to his home before the evacuation zone was set up on April 22.
He lives alone without electricity and water, and occasionally makes his way out of the evacuation zone to procure daily necessities.
Matsumura’s feeding activities have been supported by groups opposed to cruelty to animals, and by volunteers.
After his activities were posted on a blog by an acquaintance who evacuated to Yokohama and the information was translated into English, he has received encouraging letters from the United States and Europe.
The government said Tuesday it will allow rice planting this year in areas where cesium exceeding 100 becquerels per kilogram was detected in crops harvested last year, on condition that all bags of rice undergo radiation tests.
The agriculture ministry said planting will be restricted in areas in Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures where radioactive cesium above 500 becquerels was detected in 2011, but farmers can plant the crop under this condition in fields where radiation levels remained in the range of 100 to 500 becquerels.
From April, the upper limit for radioactive cesium found in food items will be lowered from 500 becquerels to 100 becquerels.
Some rice harvested last fall in in Fukushima Prefecture and Shiroishi, Miyagi Prefecture, was affected by radiation from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry will continue to ban rice planting in the no-go zone within 20 km of the plant and an evacuation zone outside the no-go zone where exposure is expected to top 20 millisieverts a year.
However, rice planting in areas between 20 and 30 km from the power station, which were formerly subject to the government’s evacuation advisory, will be allowed on condition that products undergo blanket screening.
Farmers will be banned from shipping rice with radiation levels exceeding 100 becquerels per kilogram.
The government has said it will buy up rice from farmers whose products exceed the 100- becquerel level.