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Nuclear Adviser to Japan’s Kan Quits Over ‘Misunderstanding’

Japans Terrifying Day Saw Unprecedented Exposed Fuel Rods
An aerial handout photograph taken on Thursday, March 24, 2011, from an unmanned airplane, shows Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima prefecture, Japan. Source: Air Photo Service via Bloomberg

A nuclear adviser to Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan resigned because of a misunderstanding with the government over setting radiation limits in schools.

The government accepted the resignation of Toshiso Kosako, a professor at the University of Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said at a press conference in the capital today. The adviser disagreed with the maximum annual radiation exposure allowed in elementary schools, Edano said, adding there was a “misunderstanding.”

Japan is struggling to contain the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986. Four reactors at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant were damaged by hydrogen blasts after a 9-magnitude earthquake and ensuing tsunami March 11 knocked out backup power and cooling systems, and radiation leaks have forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of people. At least one worker at the plant has been exposed to radiation levels near the maximum allowed by the government, Tokyo Electric said today.

Kosako resigned in protest against the government’s “impromptu” handling of the crisis and delays in bringing the situation under control, Kyodo News reported, citing comments made by the adviser at a press conference yesterday. Kosako disagreed with the maximum annual radiation exposure of 20 millisieverts allowed by the government in elementary schools, according to Edano.

“We’re not saying it’s OK for children to get exposed up to 20 millisieverts,” he said. “We’re trying to reduce children’s radiation exposure as much as possible. Our plan would be much lower than 20 millisieverts a year.”

Kosako did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment. A spokesman at the prime minister’s office was not available for comment when contacted by telephone.

Worker Exposed

One Tokyo Electric worker, hospitalized for radiation burns last month, has been exposed to 240.8 millisieverts of radiation, company spokesman Takashi Kurita said at a press conference in Tokyo today. The cumulative maximum level for nuclear workers, set by the government, is 250 millisieverts. Radiation amounted to 226.6 millisieverts for another man who was hospitalized last month, Kurita said.

Radiation levels of 1,120 millisieverts per hour were found in the No. 1 reactor building of the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant, Tokyo Electric April 27.

A total of 21 workers were exposed to radiation exceeding 100 millisieverts in the period from March 11 to March 31, Kurita said. On April 23, the company said 30 workers had been exposed to that level. Exposure totaling 100 millisieverts over a year is the lowest at which any increase in cancer is evident, according to the World Nuclear Association in London.

Water Transfer

Tokyo Electric said it will resume the transfer of radioactive water from trenches near the No. 2 reactor today, after it halted the operation yesterday to check for leaks at the waste treatment building.

Japan’s trade minister Banri Kaieda has told Tokyo Electric to carry out safety assessments, including tests of the earthquake resistance of the reactor building and containment vessels, before starting to fill up the No. 1 reactor vessel with water, the ministry said today.

The government is considering setting up a fund to help pay for damages caused by the crippled plant, the Yomiuri newspaper reported, citing an interview with Kaieda.

It may ask power utilities that own nuclear plants to sell their assets to help Tokyo Electric pay compensation, the report said. Kaieda wants other utilities to contribute to the fund with restructuring and not by just raising electricity fees, according to the report.

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