The government is considering designating areas near the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant as off-limits for residents for an extensive period, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said Wednesday.
Concern is growing that a large amount of water contaminated by radioactive materials being stored at the crippled plant could threaten the safety of people living in the vicinity, government officials said.
The central government also believes it will be necessary to secure the area around the plant so workers can safely carry out their assignments while they remove melted fuel from the facility’s reactors.
The government currently plans to classify the current no-go zones into three types based on local radiation levels. Apart from this plan, areas to which residents cannot return could be designated even though their radiation levels are low.
At Wednesday’s news conference, Fujimura, the top government spokesman, quoted reconstruction minister Tatsuo Hirano as saying at a government meeting late last month that some areas should be off-limits near the crippled power station for an extended period, regardless of radiation levels.
During a meeting Tuesday with Fukushima Gov. Yuhei Sato and some mayors in the prefecture, Hirano said people won’t be able to return soon to areas in the vicinity of the No. 1 nuclear plant.
To set the areas where residents can’t return, it will be necessary for the government or Tokyo Electric Power Co. to use the power of eminent domain to purchase the land, observers said.
Cesium found in smelt
Smelt caught in Akagi Onuma Lake in the city of Maebashi were found to have 426 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram, exceeding the new government limit of 100 becquerels, the Gunma Prefectural Government said.
The new limit took effect Sunday. The previous limit for food, set tentatively after the March 2011 Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant accident, was 500 becquerels.
The smelt were caught March 28, the prefectural government said Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the Shizuoka Prefectural Government said green tea leaves produced as test samples were found to contain cesium below the new government limit for tea of 10 becquerels per kilogram.
The tea was grown in a greenhouse at a prefectural laboratory in the city of Kikugawa to test the concentration of cesium before the first harvest of leaves this year in late April, Shizuoka officials said.