JAPAN | ‘We want information!’ / Kanto residents make own radiation measurements

Posted on June 19, 2011

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JAPAN | YOMIURI SHIMBUN | 19 June 2011

As the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant drags on, an increasing number of concerned citizens in Tokyo and the surrounding areas have started to measure radiation levels on their own.

One local government in Saitama Prefecture has been flooded with applications from residents wanting to use its radiation-measuring instrument.

People have become anxious about so-called hot spots, in which radiation levels in isolated places are much higher than the surrounding areas. Parents with small children have been especially uneasy about the situation.

The privately run Mikuni Kindergarten in Kashiwa, Chiba Prefecture, chose to remove the surface soil of its playground after measuring its radiation level. Readings that had reached up to 0.52 microsieverts per hour have decreased to 0.15 microsieverts.

According to measurements by the prefectural government, radiation levels in the city were lower than provisional limits. However, the kindergarten decided to make its own radiation measurements as radiation levels in Kashiwa have been reported to be higher than other areas.

“I’m not sure whether our reaction [removing the soil] was correct, but we did what we could to protect our children,” said Satoshi Sugiyama, manager of the kindergarten.

Yuka Sasaki’s 4-year-old son attends Mikuni. “I’m thankful the kindergarten took quick action. I wish other places would do similar things,” she said.

Yuko Midoro’s 3-year-old son will enter the kindergarten next spring. She has measured radiation levels in parks and other places together with other parents whose children go to Mikuni. Midoro bought a handheld radiation-measuring device after the prefectural government announced radiation levels in Kashiwa were higher than other areas. She said she worries radiation might be affecting her child.

The Yashio municipal government in Saitama Prefecture has been lending out a radiation-measuring device to its citizens free of charge since June 14. The city has measured radiation levels on the roof of its office building since May 9 and posted the results on its Web site.

After the city received several requests from citizens wanting to know the radiation levels in the areas around their houses, it purchased a measuring instrument for about 120,000 yen. As soon as the city made the device available, it was deluged with applications and the tool is now reserved until August. The city said it wants to buy another one soon.

In Koto Ward, Tokyo, a local parents group measured radiation levels at nine locations at the end of May, receiving assistance from experts. The locations included parks, day care centers and areas near a sewerage disposal plant. The group has also asked the metropolitan and ward governments to make detailed and open surveys on all educational facilities and parks.

The metropolitan government had previously measured radiation only at one location in Shinjuku Ward, but in accordance with requests from residents, it expanded its survey spots to about 100 locations from Wednesday.

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