Late report on radiation irks Tamura

Dose estimates released by government exceed what nuclear returnees expected

Kyodo

Belated government estimates released Friday of radiation doses that residents would face if they returned to their homes near the meltdown-hit Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant have raised concern that an evacuation order was lifted too early.

For one area in the village of Kawauchi, Fukushima Prefecture, where the government wants to lift the order, the study said an individual engaged in farming could receive a dose of 3 to 3.5 millisieverts per year — at least triple the long-term decontamination goal of 1 millisievert set by the government and what residents had expected before coming back.

“I think the estimate is high. I feel lonely because people we evacuated with are against returning,” said Kiyoshi Yoshioka, 71, whose home is in a 3.5-millisievert area. “Looking at this figure, I also cannot take my grandchildren home.”

According to the Nuclear Regulation Authority, radiation dosages must be brought down to at least 20 millisieverts to let residents return, but many evacuees hope the haphazard decontamination effort will achieve the 1 millisievert goal before they go back to resume what’s left of their shattered lives.

The study, which the Cabinet Office did not disclose for six months, is expected to help evacuees learn how much radiation they might receive once they return. But the government only released the report nearly three weeks after Tamura’s Miyakoji district became the first area in the 20-km radius exclusion zone around the Fukushima plant to see its evacuation order lifted.

The district’s evacuation order was lifted on April 1.

After the Cabinet Office explained the report on dose estimates to local governments in the hot zone earlier this month, it was posted on the website of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry on Monday.

The study was carried out last August and September and covered 44 locations in the Miyakoji district of the city of Tamura and the villages of Kawauchi and Iitate.

Using the data collected, research institutes calculated that the radiation exposure for an average adult — as measured by dosimeters carried by individuals — tends to be 70 percent of the airborne radiation level. They also estimated personal doses by taking lifestyle diversity into account, including different jobs and ages.

The estimates said people in the forestry industry would be exposed to higher doses than people in other professions. The levels ranged from 2.3 millisieverts per year in the Miyakoji district and 17 millisieverts per year in part of Iitate, which remains a habitation-restricted zone.

The Cabinet Office team tasked with aiding people affected by the crisis in Fukushima Prefecture received an “interim report” on the study from the research institutes — the National Institute of Radiological Sciences and the Japan Atomic Energy Agency — in October 2013.

But because it waited six months to disclose the report, the team drew fire from Miyakoji residents who returned before learning about its existence.

Industry minister Toshimitsu Motegi, who is in charge of the issue, has denied the government hid the outcome of the radiation study for six months but apologized for giving “the impression” the announcement was delayed until the evacuation order was lifted.

“Some media have reported as if the government hid information or manipulated data, but that is not a fact,” Motegi told reporters Friday. “I feel sorry for stirring concerns among people who got the impression that our information provision was delayed.”

53% oppose restarts: poll

JIJI — A new opinion poll shows that 53 percent of respondents are against the government’s plan to restart nuclear reactors that clear the industry watchdog’s safety examinations.

Meanwhile, 39.6 percent expressed support for the plan by the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to bring nuclear power plants back online.

Before answering, those polled were told that the Nuclear Regulation Authority is focusing on safety screenings for the two reactors at Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai nuclear plant in Kagoshima Prefecture, and that they may become the first reactors to restart operations.

All reactors nationwide are currently offline. The NRA examinations are being conducted under new safety standards that were introduced in July last year following the meltdowns disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 plant in March 2011.

Among those who opposed the government plan, 62.6 percent, the largest single group, said Japan should aim to reduce its nuclear power dependence to zero.

This was followed by 21.2 percent who said the Abe government is moving too fast to fire up reactors and 11.6 percent who said they do not trust the NRA’s safety checks.

The survey was conducted on 2,000 adults nationwide over four days through Monday. Valid responses were given by 65.8 percent.