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Thursday 20th June 2019

Children to get radiation counters

14th June 2011

The authorities in Japan have announced plans to hand out radiation detectors to schoolchildren to help measure their exposure levels to radiation from the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant.


Fukushima's municipal government said it would give hand-held dosimeters, which measure the amount of radiation a person has been exposed to, to 34,000 children within a 40-mile radius of the plant.

All children between the ages of four and 15 will wear the devices 24 hours a day for three months, starting in September, education officials said.

While the city lies outside the 12-mile evacuation zone for the tsunami-hit plant, residents are still concerned about radiation levels.

The government is carrying out fixed-spot measurements already, but has had a number of queries about measuring individual exposure from worried parents and concerned citizens.

The dosimeters were likely to calm popular worries by providing reliable information to parents about the level of radiation their child is absorbing from day to day.

But he said that the measurements so far in Fukushima city had come in under the official threashold for risks to human health.

Officials would take read-outs from the dosimeters once a month to provide additional data about cumulative radiation exposure.

The plant was hit by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, which triggered three reactor meltdowns, explosions and radioactive material emitted into the air, the soil and the sea.

The government raised the legal exposure limit for people, including children, from one to 20 millisieverts per year in the wake of the accident, still a very low level which matches safety standards for workers in the nuclear industry in many parts of the world.

Environmentalists have said the moves are not enough, calling for the evacuation of children and pregnant women from the city.

It said the exposure levels of Fukushima residents were as high as 20 millisieverts per year through air, food and water, a level they say is unacceptable for high-risk groups.

Children, because they are still growing, are more at risk from cancers and genetic defects caused by radiation, especially thyroid cancers.

The dosimeter plan will also be taken up by Date city, which is slightly closer to the plant, and will hand out the devices to 8,000 schoolchildren.

Elevated levels of radioactive strontium have been detected in the sea and groundwater at the plant, as well as iodine and caesium isotopes already reported.

The plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) has said that six more nuclear emergency workers had received more than the permitted annual radiation dose, a limit that was raised from 100 to 250 millisieverts amid the current crisis.

The government has ordered the company to send employees home if their internal exposure reaches 100 millisieverts.

Health and labour minister Ritsuo Hosokawa has said TEPCO's delay in testing its workers was "extremely deplorable".

The crews spent the past three months pumping water into the facility to cool the reactor fuel, creating more than 100,000 tonnes of highly radioactive runoff, which TEPCO has installed a treatment system to process.

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