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Thursday, March 31, 2011

NGO finds high levels in safe area


Staff writer

Radiology experts from Greenpeace urged the government Wednesday to expand the evacuation zone around the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant after they found high levels of radiation outside the 20-km mandatory no-go zone.

Jan van de Putte, the radioactivity safety adviser of the NGO, said the survey, taken on a road between the villages of Iitate and Tsushima in Fukushima Prefecture, saw a radiation level of 100 microsieverts per hour, despite being outside of the evacuation area.

This contrasts with the 7.86 microsieverts per hour measured in Iitate by the Fukushima Prefectural Government on Wednesday afternoon.

One would reach the annual limit of 1,000 microsieverts — or 1 millisievert — of radiation as set by international radiation authorities in about 10 hours in such an environment, van de Putte said, adding it is likely residents of Iitate, about 9 km outside the no-go zone, "have surpassed that level" already.

The team of experts at Greenpeace said they conducted their monitoring Saturday and Sunday, and found proof radioactivity hasn't spread evenly from the reactors.

Some locations farther away from the damaged nuclear plant showed higher levels of radiation than closer areas "due to geographical characteristics," van de Putte said.

"There was still a lot of activity in Iitate" when they visited the area, he recalled. The current evacuation zone "does not match the reality of the risk" and the ways it has spread, he added.

An official of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said high radioactivity levels detected by the NGO around Iitate "could not be considered reliable." Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said separately he will ask Greenpeace to provide more details.

Van de Putte, who took part in surveying other nuclear disasters, including Chernobyl, recommended the current evacuation zone be expanded to at least a 30-km radius, while children and pregnant women beyond that zone should also consider moving farther away.

From a personal perspective, areas that could surpass 1 millisievert should be considered risky, he said, adding, "the main concern (in such areas) is increased risk of cancer."

Although some in the government have called Greenpeace's surveys erroneous, the group stressed its numbers in other areas matched official figures.

Greenpeace said its readings also will support those who may sue Tepco.



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The Japan Times

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