Japan to recommend new evacuations around nuclear plant

Japan to recommend new evacuations around nuclear plant

Japanese authorities said Thursday that they would recommend the evacuation of hot spots near the nuclear power plant damaged in the March earthquake and tsunami, DPA reported.

The locations, to be announced in the next few days, were outside the 20-kilometre evacuation zone but had seen spikes in radiation levels that could expose people to more than the recommended maximum of 20 millisieverts per year, government spokesman Yukio Edano was quoted as saying in news reports.

Last month, about 100 households in the town of Date in Fukushima prefecture were declared within one of the hot spots.

The latest evacuation recommendations would be optional, and the government offered to assist those within the designated areas who choose to leave. It has also advised pregnant women and children particularly strongly to avoid the areas.

The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, 250 kilometres north-east of Tokyo, has been leaking radioactive substances since it was hit by the March 11 disaster.

The plant's operator has said it has restored a measure of cooling functions to its overheating reactors and radiation levels around the plant were now at a level equivalent to 1.7 millisieverts per year and "constantly sinking."

Leaks have stabilized at around 1 billion becquerels of radioactive substances per hour, 2 million times lower than at the peak of the leaks, the Kyodo News agency said.

A becquerel refers to the number of molecules that decay per second in a given quantity of material, releasing radiation. Millisieverts refer to the amount of radiation absorbed by an organism.

Also Thursday, the government said beef from more than 1,300 cattle suspected of having been fed contaminated straw had been shipped to almost all parts of Japan from several prefectures near the affected power plant.

Local authorities should turn their resources from testing produce waiting to be shipped to testing beef arriving on the market, officials were quoted as saying by Kyodo.

The announcement came after the government Tuesday banned the shipment of all beef from Fukushima after beef from one of its farms was found to contain radioactive caesium at six times the legal maximum.

Edano on Tuesday apologized on behalf of the government for not ensuring all farmers were aware of the dangers of feeding their cattle hay that had been stored outside near the power plant.

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