Japan’s Embassy in South Korea has begun publishing daily measurements of radiation levels in Fukushima Prefecture and Seoul after new questions were raised about the lingering effects of the 2011 nuclear disaster.
The embassy website said the information reflects the fact that “interest in radiation levels in Japan has recently been increasing, particularly in South Korea.”
The move comes amid worsening ties between Japan and South Korea over a long-running dispute about Japan’s use of forced labor in South Korea during World War II.
The two countries have taken retaliatory trade measures against one another, and South Korea has tightened its radiation checks on food imports from Japan.
According to the embassy, the readings show that radiation levels in three Japanese cities are almost the same as in major cities outside of Japan, including Seoul.
“The Japanese government hopes the South Korean people’s understanding about Japan’s radiation levels will deepen as we continue to provide accurate information based on scientific evidence and explain it fully with clarity,” the website states in Japanese and Korean.
The embassy began posting details about the radiation levels last week, showing figures for two cities in Fukushima Prefecture along with levels in Tokyo and Seoul.
The most recent post shows the radiation level in the city of Fukushima was 0.135 microsieverts per hour on Friday, similar to the 0.120 reading seen in Seoul.
The level in the city of Iwaki in Fukushima, 30 kilometers away from the plant, was 0.060, while Tokyo, more than 200 km away, was 0.036.
The posts use data taken by radiation monitoring authorities in both countries as well as by local offices in Fukushima.
One microsievert is a thousandth of a millisievert, and the observed levels translate into a yearly dose of 1.182 millisieverts in the city of Fukushima and 1.051 millisieverts in Seoul.
The International Commission on Radiological Protection recommends a yearly limit of 1 millisievert for the general public.
The worldwide average annual dose from natural background radiation is about 2.4 millisieverts, according to a U.N. report.
Questions have also been raised about the safety of the Olympics being held in Tokyo next year, with some South Korean lawmakers pushing for a boycott and travel ban over what they portray as radiation risks from Fukushima.
The city of Fukushima, some 70 km away from the stricken nuclear power plant, is set to host baseball and softball games during the Olympics.
And food from the Fukushima region is expected to be served to Olympic athletes as part of government efforts to tout the safety of produce from the area and its strict safety controls.
A magnitude 9.0 earthquake in March 2011 triggered a massive tsunami that knocked out cooling systems at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, located on the Pacific coast in the nation’s northeast.
The plant spewed radioactive materials into the air, soil and water in the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986.