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Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012
Fallout projection irks rice region, new targets
By AYAKO MIE
Municipalities in the vicinity of six atomic plants voiced criticism Tuesday over apparent erroneous projections made by the new nuclear regulatory commission on the potential spread of radioactive fallout if any of the complexes experience a meltdown disaster on par with what befell the Fukushima No. 1 plant last year.
The Nuclear Regulation Authority said Monday data were erroneously compiled in the areas near the six nuclear plants, including Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s massive Kashiwazaki-Kariwa complex in Niigata Prefecture, one of the nation's top rice-growing regions.
The other complexes subject to the revised map are the Tsuruga plant in Fukui Prefecture, the Genkai plant in Saga Prefecture, the Shika plant in Ishikawa Prefecture, the Sendai plant in Kagoshima Prefecture, and the Tokai No. 2 plant in Ibaraki Prefecture.
According to the revised projections, the Niigata city of Nagaoka, not Uonuma, would be the most distant point from the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant to experience fallout of up to 100 millisieverts a week into a meltdown disaster.
The NRA projection map released last week, to wide media coverage, placed Uonuma, whose rice is some of the most prized in the nation, in the 100-millisievert zone, much to the chagrin of local farmers. Uonuma is outside the zone in the new map.
"Even though we are excluded from the 100-millisievert areas, we are not fully relieved because the nuclear facility is still (too) close," said an employee of the Japan Agriculture Cooperative's Kita Uonuma branch.
Uonuma rice accounts for only 1 percent of the nation's total yield but is priced much higher than other Niigata strains due to its high quality.
The NRA said it revised the projection data only after Hokuriku Electric Power Co. noted the figures may have been based on erroneous information about the presumed fallout dispersal patterns.
Exposure to 100 millisieverts would raise the lifetime risk of dying of cancer by 0.5 percent, according to the International Commission on Radiological Protection, an international group of radiation experts.
The city of Nagaoka, included now in the revised 100-millisievert zone, is meanwhile also perturbed.
At a news conference Tuesday, Nagaoka Mayor Tamio Mori criticized the NRA for what he called a lax analysis.
The city said it had been calling for the central government to give a more detailed explanation about the projection even before the revision, which the NRA admits is only a rough estimate that doesn't take into account geographical conditions.
"The central government should disclose more information. At the same time, we do not want to make too much of a fuss about it as we fear harmful rumors could impact the agricultural sector," said Yoichi Kojima of Nagaoka's nuclear safety response department.
The NRA at a Monday night news conference apologized for its errors, including misidentifying communities that might be effected by potential fallout.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura criticized the Nuclear Regulation Authority on Tuesday for its erroneous projections of radiation patterns in the event of severe nuclear disasters at six nuclear power complexes.
"It's quite regrettable, as local governments have a vital interest in the projections," Fujimura told a news conference. "I hope the authority will explain the revised projections sincerely to local governments so it will not cause further turmoil."
His comments came after the NRA on Monday corrected its projections for the spread of radiation from the six plants.
Hiroyuki Nagahama, state minister in charge of handling the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 complex, shared Fujimura's view, saying he hopes the authority will brief local governments carefully about its errors, including the reasons for them.