Japan says no plan to expand nuclear evacuation zone
The Japanese government said Thursday that it had no immediate plans to expand a 20-kilometre evacuation zone around a damaged nuclear power station that is leaking radiation despite a recommendation to do so by the global nuclear watchdog, DPA reported.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said Tokyo would instead reinforce radiation monitoring of soil after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) suggested overnight that the country consider evacuating Iitate village, about 40 kilometres from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, after the agency found amounts of radioactive iodine in the soil there that exceeded its health limits.
The village is not only outside the evacuation zone around the plant, which was crippled by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, but it is also beyond the 30-kilometre zone in which people have been advised to stay indoors.
Further contamination of seawater was also reported. The Japanese government's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said Thursday that radioactive iodine at 4,385 times the legal limit was found in a seawater sample taken near the plant on the previous day.
But Hidehiko Nishiyama, an agency spokesman, said the radiation-contaminated water posed no immediate threat to human health.
"We will do our utmost to stop it from rising," he said.
The agency said Wednesday that radioactive iodine at 3,355 times the legal limit had been detected in a sample also taken a day earlier from the sea near the reactors.
In the soil contamination in Iitate, IAEA experts found radioactivity from iodine-131 at 25 megabecquerel per square metre of soil, more than double the agency's evacuation threshold of 10 megabecquerel, an IAEA source said.
"The first assessment indicates that one of the IAEA operational criteria for evacuation is exceeded," senior IAEA official Denis Flory told reporters.
It was the highest level measured among nine communities located 25 to 60 kilometres away from the reactors, which are located 250 kilometres north-east of Tokyo.
"They should really think about evacuating," the source said of the village of 7,000 people.