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VIENNA (Kyodo) Experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency said Friday that levels of radioactive iodine-131 measured in the village of Iitate, about 40 km from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, have dropped below levels requiring an evacuation order.

In a briefing, the experts explained that based on analyses of several dosimeters, iodine-131 levels in Iitate fell to an average of 7 mega-becquerels per sq. meter in 15 soil samples taken between March 19 and 29.

“This value is lower than what was reported Wednesday,” said Gerhard Proehl, an IAEA radiation expert, adding that iodine-131 decays by 8 to 9 percent a day.

On Wednesday, the IAEA said levels of iodine-131 measured in Iitate indicated one of its operational criteria for evacuation was exceeded. At the time, measurements showed a level of 20 mega-becquerels per sq. meter of iodine-131 in soil samples collected from March 18 to 26 in the village, twice the level of one of the agency’s criteria for evacuation.

While noting the need for the government to assess the situation carefully, “It is their role to take action based on their assessment,” Flory said Friday.

A senior IAEA official meanwhile said the nuclear watchdog will send two reactor experts to Japan to gather firsthand data about the situation at the crippled nuclear plant.

Starting Monday, they will hold meetings with the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. and others, Denis Flory, IAEA deputy director general and head of the department of nuclear safety and security, said at a separate news conference.

“The objective of this mission is to exchange views with Japanese technical experts and to get firsthand information what the current status of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant is, measures to be taken and also future plans to mitigate the accident,” he said.

“It is not an assessment team,” he said, adding that this will also “pave the way for future missions which will be expert peer review missions.”

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