30 October 2013, 12:37

Japan gov’t fails Fukushima children

Japan gov’t fails Fukushima children

Damage inflicted by the Fukushima disaster could be far more severe than the Japanese authorities would like people to believe. In April 2011, the government raised radiation limits for exposure at schools near the Fukushima plant to 20 millisieverts. A senior nuclear adviser to the government at the time promptly resigned in protest, saying the level was 20 times too high, especially for children who, he said, are more vulnerable to radiation than adults.

Akira Sugenoya, mayor of the city of Matsumoto on the Japanese island of Honshu, has been calling for children’s relocation from the areas. Speaking in an interview with the Voice of Russia, Mr. Sugenoya stressed that the Japanese authorities are not doing enough to protect children from the negative effects of radiation.

"Immediately following the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, I started saying that children should not be allowed to live on the contaminated land. I would have liked to see the government address the issue, but it never happened. Living in an area contaminated by radiation weakens children's immune systems and severely harms their health, so they should be relocated. Children are a lot more vulnerable to radiation than adults. As of now we have an exclusion zone established but that’s not enough in my opinion. That's why I want to repeat once again that children should be relocated to clean, radiation-free areas at least temporarily.

The government though has a different plan, namely to decontaminate the affected area and bring the residents back but is it feasible to quickly and effectively do away with radioactive pollution? I am absolutely certain that it is unfeasible. Let’s recall the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, when the authorities acted differently and moved people from the affected areas to safe ones. On failing to get a government reaction, we have decided to act on a municipal level, to do the little things we can do to help. We’ve launched a programme on checking school meals for radiation. People across Japan are now following our example. We have also measured radiation levels in the air and in the soil of schoolyards. We invited children to children’s camps for rest and recreation during summer and winter seasons, and we borrowed this from what they did after the Chernobyl accident in the USSR. We have since spread the practice all over Japan. I hope that the example that our small city of Matsumoto sets in terms of conducting an evacuation on a large scale will also be followed far and wide. Radiation leaks create two problems, namely they are detrimental to people’s health and they pollute terrain. Compared to Chernobyl, the situation in Japan is further aggravated by radioactive water leakage. The world has never ever come across this kind of situation. Radioactive water flows into the sea but Prime Minister Abe says in an interview with Japanese newspapers that everything is under control. Opinion polls however show that between 70% and 80% of the Japanese are mistrustful of the Prime Minister’s claims. We should admit that radioactive water is a grave problem. The threat that children may have been contaminated with radioactive materials still looms large. We shouldn’t remain indifferent to the challenges we are facing."

Japan's now defunct Nuclear Industrial Safety Agency originally hid important radiation data from the general public, to avoid causing panic. Radioactive materials continue leaking into the groundwater from the plant even though Fukushima’s operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Company is conducting work to contain the damage.

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