The shipments of beef cows suspected of having been fed with radioactive rice straw to all the prefectures except Okinawa have underlined the radiation hazards caused by the disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plants.
Another phenomenon that brings home hazards from the nuclear crisis is the existence of radioactive hot spots both near and far away from the nuclear power plants.
After detecting hot spots in four areas in Date, Fukushima Prefecture, the central government on June 30 designated 113 households there as special evacuation spots and announced that it will help residents if they choose to evacuate.
It took a similar action for 59 households in four areas in Minami Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, on July 21. Hot spots are not limited to areas already given such a designation. They also exist in other areas of southern Tohoku as well as in the Kanto region.
It is imperative that detailed maps showing the locations of hot spots be made quickly to minimize radiation damage to local residents. Procedures for measuring radiation levels should be standardized.
The central, prefectural and municipal governments should cooperate in mobilizing experts for the radiation measuring work that forms the foundation of the hot-spot maps.
The maps detailing radiation levels that are released every day are mostly based on monitoring carried out on the roofs of buildings. However, it is more vital to measure radiation levels at heights of 50 centimeters to one-meter — the heights close to most human activity.
To protect children from radiation, especially rigorous monitoring should be carried out at such facilities as schools and parks.
Not surprisingly, the most radioactive hot spot is at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant itself. As of July 13, Tepco announced that 111 workers there had been exposed to 100 milisieverts or more of radiation. It should take utmost care to protect some 2,000 workers working inside the plant, and the central government should oversee its safety measures.
The central government also should make serious efforts to determine which methods are the best to decontaminate radioactive soil. Decontamination will be a particularly challenging task because it involves vast areas of ground.
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