May 27 Japan will pay schools near the
quake-ravaged Fukushima nuclear power plant to remove
radioactive top soil and set a lower radiation exposure limit
for schoolchildren after a growing outcry over health risks.
The Education Ministry triggered protests in April when it
set a radiation exposure limit for children of 20 millisieverts
per year, the same dosage the International Commission on
Radiation Protection recommends for nuclear plant workers.
The decision became a focal point for anger over Prime
Minister Naoto Kan's handling of the crisis and the forced
evacaution of tens of thousands residents.
Education Minister Yoshiaki Takaki said Tokyo would pay for
local schools to remove topsoil in playgrounds that exceeded
It would also set a target of radiation exposure for
children at schools of one-twentieth of the previous limit.
"We will provide financial support to schools . for measures
to deal with soil in school yards as a way to lower radiation
levels for children," Takaki told a news conference.
The magnitude 9.0 earthquake on March 11 and the massive
tsunami that followed killed about 24,000 people and knocked out
power to the Fukushima plant, triggering the world's worst
nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986.
The crisis has displaced some 80,000 residents from around
the plant and prompted a review of Japan's energy policy, with
the government "starting from scratch" on nuclear policy.
Greenpeace on Thursday slammed the country's "continued
inadequate response" and plant operator Tokyo Electric Power
said another 36 tonnes of radioactive water had leaked from a
waste disposal building that has served as a temporary storage
The approach of Japan's rainy season increases the risk of
radiation spilling into groundwater and will require tighter
monitoring, Tokyo Electric spokesman Junichin Matsumoto said.
(Writing by Kevin Krolicki; Editing by Tomasz Janowski and Nick