JAPAN today recommended 113 households should evacuate from four districts considered radiation “hot spots” near the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, officials said.
The voluntary guidance, for areas where higher levels of radiation have been detected sporadically, will affect households in Fukushima prefecture’s Date city, officials said, adding that they would be given financial assistance.
The districts are Ryozenmachi, Kamioguni, Shimooguni and Tsukidatemachi in Date, some 60 kilometres northwest of the troubled plant, far beyond the 20-kilometre exclusion zone immediately around it.
Higher levels of radiation have been detected in the newly designated locations, raising fears that residents’ accumulated exposure may exceed 20 millisieverts per year – the government’s limit for evacuation.
Since the March 11 disaster, Japan has raised the legal exposure limit for people, including children, from one to 20 millisieverts per year – matching the safety standard for nuclear industry workers in many countries.
Environmental groups and critics have slammed the government for the rule change and say the current evacuation zone around the plant is not wide enough and does not account for the irregular pattern of radiation exposure.
More than 85,000 people have moved to shelters from areas around the plant, including from a wider 30km zone where people were first told to stay indoors and later urged to leave.
Separately, trace amounts of radioactive substances were found in urine samples from 10 children from the city of Fukushima, 62km from the plant, as a result of the accident, a citizens’ group and French non-governmental organisation ACRO said today.
Samples taken in May from children aged six to 16 contained caesium-134 and caesium-137 at concentrations ranging from 0.4 to 1.3 becquerels per litre, ACRO said in a statement.
The organisation called on Japanese authorities to “systematically” measure the internal exposure of people living in contaminated areas.
“It also reinforces our belief that the limit of 20 millisieverts set by the Japanese authorities to determine evacuation areas is too high,” it said.
Radiation experts agree that children are at highest risk because they are still growing and so will have more time to develop cancers and other health defects.