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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

High radiation well past no-go zone: Greenpeace

Staff writer

Radiology experts from Greenpeace urged the government to revise their evacuation protocol Monday after they found high levels of radiation around the greater Fukushima area and in the region's fresh produce.

A team of radiologists and safety advisers of the nongovernmental organization said a survey conducted from April 4 through Sunday detected radiation levels of 4 microsieverts per hour at a playground in the city of Fukushima. That would translate into a potential annual exposure of 5 millisieverts, Greenpeace expert Rianne Teule said, explaining that the level was the threshold for evacuation at Chernobyl.

The group also said that all 11 samples of local vegetables from gardens and small farms within the prefecture contained radioactivity exceeding the legal limit of 2,000 becquerels per kilogram set by the farm ministry. For example, 152,340 becquerels were found in spinach from a small patch on the outskirts of the city of Fukushima, the group said.

"This is 75 times higher than the limit by the government," Teule told a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan in Tokyo.

Most leafy vegetables from Fukushima Prefecture have been banned from circulation since March 21, but some are being sold directly to consumers from local farmers. The government should provide more information to local residents, the NGO warned.

Radiologist Jan van de Putte told the same news conference that areas with high levels of radioactivity were concentrated in northwestern Fukushima Prefecture, especially in areas between the villages of Iitate and Tsushima, which registered 48 microsieverts per hour.

"This is really dangerous and a very high level," van de Putte said.

Considering the 4 microsieverts detected at a playground in the heart of the city of Fukushima — which has a population of 300,000 — van de Putte and Greenpeace urged the government postpone the start of the school year until decontamination is complete and safety is confirmed.

Greenpeace began surveying areas affected by the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant crisis and revealed late last month that a sample taken on a road between the villages of Iitate and Tsushima had a radiation level of 100 microsieverts per hour, despite being outside the evacuation area.

That survey, however, was downplayed last month by the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, which claimed the results "could not be considered reliable." Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said separately he will ask Greenpeace to provide more details.

"We've been very cooperative (with the government) and have been providing all the data that we gathered," Junichi Sato, executive director of Greenpeace Japan, said Monday.

"But although we have been handing everything to the prime minister's office, they are not giving us any response."

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