Fukushima City in Fukushima Prefecture is 60 kilometers northwest from Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant. No part of the city is designated as "evacuation" zone of any kind (mandatory or planned). It is the 3rd largest city in Fukushima Prefecture with over 290,000 people.
Shukan Gendai, a Japanese weekly magazine, had a feature article in early June (for the June 24 Issue) that described the radiation survey in Fukushima City done by Greenpeace on June 7.
The article says Greenpeace detected cobalt-60 in a park in Fukushima City.
Cobalt-60?? From the RPV??
Very rough, partial translation of the Shukan Gendai (June 24 Issue) article follows:
Fukushima City is in danger
Extremely high radiation detected
Our urgent, special report reveals
More than 10 times the radiation limit. Even cobalt-60 was detected. Children should be evacuated immediately, but the government says nothing, pretending not to know anything
[body of the article]
What some have feared all along is coming true.
"This Fukushima City has become a place where children should not live. The only choice left would be a mass evacuation. But no politician understands that. Or rather, they don't want to know, probably."
Seiichi Nakate, 50-year-old man who lives in Fukushima City, could barely suppress his anger.
On April 19, the Japanese government suddenly raised the upper limit of the annual radiation exposure for children from 1 millisievert to 20 millisieverts. Mr. Nakate is the head of the organization called "Fukushima Network to Protect Children from Radiation", which was set up to protest against this barbaric act.
Located 60 kilometers away from Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, Fukushima City is not in the evacuation zone designated by the government. However, it is now a known fact that the heavy radiation contamination exists in the northwest direction from the plant, in places like Namie-machi and Iitate-mura. People started to wonder from early on that Fukushima City might be in danger also.
Nakate says, "Unlike Namie and Iitate where the radiation is high everywhere, Fukushima City has so-called "hot spots" hidden throughout the city where the radiation spikes up compared to areas surrounding them. But since the government insists "it's safe", the residents are complacent. That makes the situation even more dangerous."
The residents do not know that they are not safe - because they "cannot see" the radiation contamination. Because it can't be seen, the government is simply kicking the can, doing nothing.
Fukushima City is the capital of Fukushima Prefecture, with government offices and headquarters of major businesses. Its population is over 290,000. But the government doesn't do anything.
"If the national government doesn't do anything for us, then we'll have to think and act for ourselves."
And Mr. Nakate started the network.
On June 7, an urgent survey was done in Fukushima City.
The survey was conducted by Greenpeace, an international non-profit organization for environment. Seven Greenpeace staff came to Fukushima City, responding to Mr. Nakate and his organization.
The survey team started the measurement in a park located at 5-minute driving distance from the Fukushima City Hall.
There is a reason why they [Greenpeace] included the parks in the survey. On April 24, Fukushima Prefecture restricted the use of 5 parks in the prefecture to "1 hour per day" when the radiation exceeding 3.8 microsieverts/hour was detected, which was the national safety limit. Then, the prefectural government removed the restriction on June 6, one day before the Greenpeace survey, saying the later survey showed the radiation within the limit.
"To begin with, 3.8 microsieverts/hour was calculated, based on the high annual radiation exposure limit of 20 millisievert, and it's not appropriate. It isn't just the matter of restricting the use. Parks directly affects the health of children, and should be very carefully monitored", says Greenpeace Japan's Sato.
The survey team went to locations where the high radiation was expected - dirt pile in the corner of a park, water drain behind the public restroom. The radiation measuring equipment was made in Czech Republic, home country of one of the Greenpeace staff members. It costs about 1.2 million yen. It can not only measure the overall radiation level, but it can also identify the nuclides.
The dirt pile measured 6.3 microsieverts/hour, 1.7 times the national guideline. The staff were surprised at the high number. A pile of dead leaves in the corner measured 4.2 microsievert/hour.
Mr. Sato said, "Contaminated dead leaves should be collected in secure containers and managed for 20, 30 years. Burning them is out of the question, as it only spreads radioactive materials. If these leaves blow in the wind, they will spread contamination."
More serious numbers were to come. The ground surface with weeds behind the restrooms measured 9.1 microsievert/hour, and the area near the water drain at the restroom entrance measured 12.5 microsieverts/hour.
A local parent who accompanied the Greenpeace staff was surprised.
"Small children are attracted to dirt piles and leaf piles. They also like to play in a water puddle. I was shocked to see the high numbers around leaf piles and water. I don't feel like letting my children play in the park, no matter how safe the national or municipal government say it is."
Another thing that the survey team paid attention to was the types of nuclides that were detected in the park. They detected cesium-134, cesium-137, and cobalt-60.
Professor Kazuhiko Kudo of Kyushu University (nuclear engineering) says, "Cobalt-60 does not exist in nature. It has a half-life of 5.3 years. That cobalt-60 was detected in Fukushima City, 60 kilometers from the plant, proves that a certain amount of cobalt-60 was released from the reactor meltdown."
The survey team stood out in the summer-like heat, with uniforms, long boots, protective masks and the radiation measurement equipment. Men and women from different parts of the world that made up the survey team looked very foreign indeed in the park in a quiet residential neighborhood.
So, while the team was in the park, the residents stayed away. As soon as the survey was done, a young child went to the swing with the mother. They didn't know that there was a "hot spot" right near by.
Next, we went to Watari Junior High School, located near the park.
That day, they were removing the surface soil from the schoolyard. According to the workers, the soil was being buried in the hole dug in the schoolyard. The perimeter of the schoolyard was covered with blue tarp, because the neighbors complained. Needless to say, tarp cannot completely prevent the radioactive materials from spreading. It looked as if they wanted to hide.
Just when the team was about to do the survey, an elderly man came and started to protest loudly.
"You, why don't you stop already. There are people here who don't want to know the numbers. I say, "Stop squawking". I am a doctor, and I think there's no problem living in this neighborhood. For children? There isn't any data that proves the danger, is there?"
Spitting out the words breathlessly, he left.
We cannot criticize the man. He is also being threatened by radiation.
However, it is a reality that the Japanese citizens are underestimating the negative effect on health, because the government has emphasized "baseless rumors" more than "negative effect on health". It is absolutely necessary to recognize the danger for children and pregnant women.
Mr. Nakate did his own measurement before the surface soil removal started at Watari Junior High. The soil around the warehouse near the parking lot measured 360 microsieverts/hour.
This time, the survey team measured the soil after the surface soil removal. It was till 45 microsieverts/hour, about 12 times the limit. It is equivalent to 240 millisieverts per year [?], almost the radiation exposure limit of 250 millisieverts for the workers at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant. The Greenpeace staff frowned, put on the protective suits and collected the soil sample.
Mr. Nakate said, as he looked on the work to remove the surface soil from the schoolyard,
"Look. The workers are removing the contaminated soil, and the regular class is being held as usual. What a contradiction, isn't it? This is how the government responds. Haphazard, with no long-term vision. What's most important right now is to evacuate children to safe places.
(The article continues.)
There is one more segment on a private nursery school 200 meters from the junior high school. The article describes how the Greenpeace survey team measured radiation along the road that small children walk on, on the way to the nursery school. 35 microsieverts/hour under the rain gutter. At the nursery school, the principal didn't know what to do with the radioactive soil that had been removed. "We want the national government to tell us how to deal with the contaminated soil, the playground equipment. We need guidance."
Toward the end, a mother whose daughter goes to this nursery school says,
"There are many mothers who want radiation measuring equipment. Whether to send children to places with lower radiation, or to continue to live here. I wonder everyday. But looking at the silly exchange between the politicians in the Diet [she is probably referring to the vote of no confidence in which PM Kan conned everyone and stayed on], we will have to leave on our own, if we leave."
Many readers have wondered why the mothers like her don't simply pick up and leave with their children to safer places. I can tell you one reason. Unless the evacuation is ordered by the government, they don't get compensated for their inconvenience. It's not about money but children's health, many would say. These parents, mostly, know that, but not all of them can afford to do so without assistance.
And this is the government who wants to tax the money that TEPCO has given to people for their suffering because of the plant accident as "income".