A mere formality probably at this point, but it is upsetting some people in Japan right now.
From Yomiuri Shinbun (10/6/2011):
The Radiation Council at the Ministry of Education and Science submitted its opinion on the domestic standard on radiation exposure on October 6. Considering the current situation of radioactive materials widely spread after the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident, the Council's opinion is to set the lowest possible standard in stages between 1 to 20 millisieverts per year for the residents in Japan [who are not engaged in occupations that deal with radiation].
It is the recommendation of the ICRP in 2007, and the Council has adopted that recommendation for the domestic standard.
The peacetime radiation exposure limit for the residents in Japan is 1 millisievert per year. However, the Council determined the current situation in Japan of ever spreading radioactive contamination to be that of "existing radiation exposure" [I do not know the formal ICRP's term] where the source of radiation is not systematically controlled. It had been discussing whether to loosen the existing standard and introduce the ICRP's recommendation of "between 1 and 20 millisieverts per year" as the new domestic standard.
It is very interesting that this government council considers the current situation as "not systematically controlled" and that the radiation contamination continues to spread after nearly 7 months, no matter what the talking heads on TV and the DPJ politicians say (that the plant is stable) and do (abolish "evacuation-ready zone" and make the residents return).
When an adjunct council like this submits its opinion, it is a mere formality in Japan and will be quickly adopted by the government and made it into a law.
Just to remind you, in pre-Fukushima Japan, the radiation exposure from natural sources, counting both internal radiation (radon inhalation, food ingestion) and external radiation (cosmic rays, ground), was 1.5 millisievert per year average. In Kanto and Tohoku, the number was lower than the average, whereas in the western part of Japan it was generally higher.
The 1 millisievert per year limit set by law is for the artificial radiation exposure which is deemed necessary and/or whose benefit outweighs the adverse effect (medical treatment, travel by airplane). Now, this limit may be set at maximum 20 millisieverts (they may pick a lower number not to upset many people) only to be lowered in stages if the situation improves. And the new limit will have nothing to do with medical necessity or convenience; it will be because there will be no choice for people but to live with the high level of radiation for indeterminable amount of time, which the government is ever eager to raise even higher.
Fukushima JA, no matter what they said the other day about radiation contaminated produce, has been pushing Fukushima-made produce all over Japan. The Ministry of the Environment is strongly urging the rest of Japan to accept radioactive debris. New crop of rice with radioactive cesium (and they do not test even for strontium, not to mention plutonium) is being shipped because they are below the provisional safety limit.
The new limit may be set so that the radiation exposure in the current high radiation hot spots in Kanto and Tokyo Metropolitan area will be all under the new "safe limit". Saves money for the government and TEPCO.
Let's see if the response from people in Japan is (A) "Oh OK, whatever, it's too late anyway and no big deal" or (B) " " (is there a B?)