“TOKYO (majirox news) – Japan plans to extend its evacuation zone beyond 30 km (about 19 miles) around Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant because of high radiation levels. This zone includes the towns of Katsurao, Kawamata, Namie, part of Minami Soma and part of Iitate.
Japan has staunchly refused to extend its 20 km (12.5 miles) evacuation zone, despite mounting international pressure to extend it due to concerns of radiation spreading from the six damaged nuclear reactors at Fukushima plant, which engineers are still struggling to bring under control.
Yukio Edano, Japan’s top government spokesman, said the evacuation process would take about a month, at a press conference this afternoon in Tokyo.
Edano said the government has adopted the rules of the International System of Radiological Protection( ISRP) and The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which states that people living in areas with levels over 20 millisieverts should be evacuated.
Edano added that there will be another zone. “This new area will be called Emergency Preparation Evacuation Zone and will include the towns of Hirano, Naraha,Kawauchi and Minami Soma.” In other words, this area is not going to be evacuated unless there an emergency in the future.
Engineers said Sunday that they were no closer to restoring the plant’s cooling system, which is critical if overheated fuel rods are to be cooled and the six reactors brought under control.
IAEA has said the people at the existing zones were at risk. “The agency finds that unsafe radiation levels have spread as far as places such as the city of Iitate, about 25 miles away from the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant.”
Greenpeace, an international environmental organization, said in a statement tonight, “Greenpeace welcomed the Japanese government’s announcement that it will extend the mandatory evacuation zone around the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant to 30 km and evacuate the contaminated towns of Namie, Iidate and parts of Minamisoma within one month, but called on the authorities to also focus on long term contamination in other populated areas.”
Greenpeace had said earlier in the day (before Edan’s announcement) at a press conference,” following extended monitoring of the area outside the exclusion zone that surrounds the Fukushima plant by two specialist radiation monitoring teams, Greenpeace is calling for the greater Fukushima area to be given official protective status and for the evacuation of pregnant women and children from high risk areas in Fukushima City and Koriyama.”
Greenpeace also called on the Japanese government to evacuate several other areas, including those towns such as Iitate and Namie, after analysis of data collected by the monitoring teams suggested widespread caesium contamination.
“People in the greater Fukushima area could potentially receive radiation exposure of more than 5 millisieverts per year, which was the threshold for evacuation at Chernobyl, following the 1986 disaster,” said Greenpeace radiation expert Rianne Teule.
Tokyo Electric Power Company has issued a temporary evacuation of Fukushima nuclear plant workers following an earthquake that struck northeastern Japan and leading to a tsunami alert, Kyodo news agency reported.
The 7.1-magnitude earthquake’s epicenter was in the Fukushima prefecture, where the Fukushima nuclear plant is located.
The tsunami alert has been lifted.
The water pumps at reactors No.1, 2 and 3, which were shutdown for 55 minutes due to the evacuation and power failure, are operating again. There was not any change in radiation levels.
Nuclear safety agency regrets its response to Fukushima
Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said that it has sometimes failed to manage the accidents at the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant today. Senior agency official Hidehiko Nishiyama said the agency failed to clearly address the problems at the plant, as one emergency followed another.
He said the agency will thoroughly review what it has done so far, so that it can restore the cooling functions of the reactors while preserving the safety of the Japanese people.
The agency has been criticized for failing to coordinate media briefings with the power company. They have also been under fire for not providing enough information to the Nuclear Safety Commission, which offers technical advice to the government.