After failing to reach its radiation decontamination target, the government proposed that evacuees from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster return to their homes and take responsibility for their own safety.
The residents called for continued clean-up efforts, but government officials offered them dosimeters instead.
The proposal was made on June 23 in a meeting between central government officials and evacuees from the Miyakoji district of Tamura, Fukushima Prefecture.
Under the central government’s policy, evacuees cannot return to their homes until decontamination work reduces radiation levels to 0.23 microsievert per hour, or 1 millisievert a year. The government said it is responsible for achieving this target.
Decontamination work in the Miyakoji district has been completed, but radiation levels in residential areas still range between 0.32 and 0.54 microsievert per hour on average, much higher than the government’s goal.
According to an audio recording of the June 23 meeting obtained by The Asahi Shimbun, evacuees urged government officials to continue the decontamination work until the radiation target is met.
However, the officials rejected their request.
They explained that the goal of 0.23 microsievert per hour was set to prevent the accumulated radiation exposure from exceeding 1 millisievert a year among people who stay outdoors for eight hours a day.
One official said the actual radiation exposure levels will differ from individual to individual.
“We will offer you a new-type dosimeter because we want you to check your exposure to radiation by yourselves,” the official said.
The official indicated that the government plans to allow evacuees to return home by the “bon” consecutive holiday season in mid-August.
The government has spent billions of yen trying to decontaminate a number of areas around the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. Workers have described the efforts as futile, and some said they have dumped radioactive debris into rivers without properly collecting and disposing of it.
“If the government has an unlimited budget, it can conduct decontamination work until the people are satisfied,” said Tomohiko Hideta, an official of the Reconstruction Agency. “In reality, however, it’s impossible to do.”
Hideta also confirmed that the government at the June 23 meeting proposed that residents check radiation exposure levels by themselves with dosimeters.
The Environment Ministry denied its officials suggested such a thing in the meeting.
But when told that audio recordings of the meeting and the words of many residents show that these proposals were indeed made, the ministry declined to provide clear answers.
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