Japan Says Radiation Clean-Up to Cut Children’s Exposure by 60%

Japan’s government said its stepped up efforts to remove radioactive fallout from Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s crippled nuclear power plant will reduce children’s radiation exposure by 60 percent within two years,

Japan aims to lower the annual radiation exposure among children to 1 millisieverts or less through a “thorough decontamination” of areas including schools and parks, a government task force said today in a statement. The central government will decontaminate areas where radiation exceeds 20 millisieverts a year while local governments will clear less toxic areas, it said.

The government has been criticized for a slow response after the March 11 earthquake and ensuing tsunami knocked out cooling systems at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear station, triggering three meltdowns and radiation leaks. Japan said earlier this week that it plans to expand airborne radiation monitoring to 22 prefectures.

“This kind of grand design should have been released one month after the disaster at the latest,” Yoshihisa Matsumoto, an associate professor of radiobiology at Tokyo Institute of Technology, said by phone. “The contamination was greater at the beginning of the crisis and they should’ve been able to estimate earlier the changes in radiation levels.”

Thyroid Tests

Medical tests on children living in three towns near the nuclear plant found 45 percent of those surveyed suffered low-level thyroid radiation exposure, the government said in a statement on Aug. 17. The tests between March 24 and 30 showed none of the children’s thyroid glands exceeded the safety threshold of 0.2 microsievert per hour set by the Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan, according to the statement.

Children are susceptible to poisoning from radioactive iodine, which can accumulate in the thyroid and cause cancer, according to the World Health Organization.

The central government will take responsibility for securing the final disposal site for contaminated materials, Goshi Hosono, Japan’s minister in charge of the response to the nuclear crisis, told reporters in Tokyo today.

“For now, it is realistic that cities, towns and village store it at temporary sites,” he said.

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