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article imageStudy reassures evacuees the area around Fukushima is safe

By Karen Graham     Mar 13, 2017 in Science
Fukushima - A new study of radiation levels in Fukushima Prefecture's Date City will offer some assurance to residents just 37 miles from the nuclear disaster that they don't have to worry about any long-term effects from radiation.
The new study on the radiation levels seen six years after the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant disaster was conducted by Makoto Miyazaki, a radiologist at Fukushima Medical University, and Ryugo Hayano, a University of Tokyo physicist.
The research team focused on the City of Date, with a population of 62,000, just 60 kilometers (37 miles) from the nuclear disaster site. The residents of Date had no formal evacuation orders in March 2011, so many people did not leave the city. The study found that levels of Cesium radiation had dropped so quickly that residents shouldn't suffer any harm, reports Engadget.
Cesium levels drop 60 percent in two-year period
The researchers claim the cesium radiation levels dropped 60 percent between 2011 and 2013 in Date. This drop in radiation levels happened quickly, due primarily to rain and snow, and according to the study, the median lifetime radiation dose in the most contaminated part of the city was only 18 millisieverts.
Actually, the report suggests that residents are probably living in a very safe area, as this level of radiation is far less than what is typically received over a person's lifetime from the radioactive naturally-occurring elements in the Earth's crust and the high-energy particles that bombard the atmosphere.
Remediation workers check bags of soil and other decontamination waste at a temporary storage site i...
Remediation workers check bags of soil and other decontamination waste at a temporary storage site in Date city in Fukushima Prefecture, Japan. Photo: G. Tudor/IAEA
International Atomic Energy Commission
The International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) considers a dose between 1 and 20 millisieverts per year to be acceptable. In fact, in Japan, workers at the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant are allowed to accumulate as much as 100 millisieverts over a period of five years.
"We found that the mean additional lifetime dose of residents living in Date City is not expected to exceed 18 mSv," the researchers wrote in their study. "This method of combining individual doses and the ambient doses, as developed in this study, has made it possible to predict with reasonable certainty the lifetime doses of residents who continue to live in this radiologically contaminated area."
Use of airborne radiation data to determine dose levels
The researchers used data collected from helicopter flyovers to determine the radiation levels at ground-level. They then estimated the levels that could be seen over a 70-year period.
The researchers also analyzed dosimeter readings collected from more than 400 people living in Zone A. There was no drop in radiation levels around the time decontamination work began in 2012. The study concludes that decontamination efforts may not have any crucial impact on radiation levels, reports Tech Times.
"Population-wise, we didn't see a big decrease in the individual dose," said study author Ryugo Hayano, from the University of Tokyo. But he suggests, "There may be individuals or families for whom the decontamination was effective."
But even with this "good news" report coming out at a time when the Japanese government is encouraging residents to return to areas that were evacuated after the nuclear disaster, other towns, besides Gate may not have the same radiation levels, and as Engadget says, there is only so much science can do in reassuring people who may want to stay away just as a precaution.
More about fukushima, radiation levels, longterm affects, New study, decontamination plans
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