The press has widely reported the reopening of Naraha as the government uses it as a PR tool. Much of the reporting focused on issues such as the lack of stores, services or schools. This is a distraction from the very real pressing concern of the radiation levels and uncertain status of the town’s decontamination efforts.
Naraha has been plagued with problems and high radiation levels yet the government has characterized the town as being “safe”. Naraha was the site of Fukushima Daiichi debris findings in 2013. Pieces identified as a tree and reactor building debris were found in Naraha with extremely high radiation levels.
“The small 2cm by 2cm piece had 12,000 μSv/h (12 mSv/h) of y-rays and beta only (no gamma reading given). The larger item that appears to be a piece of wood read at 4,700 μSv/h of y-rays and beta only. ”
Another piece of debris had 7 billion bq/kg in a JAEA analysis. It was confirmed to be from Fukushima Daiichi and was described as a piece of polyolefin, a substance frequently used as cable insulation in nuclear power plants. This debris piece was found in Naraha in 2013.
Asahi Shimbun discovered illegal practices were being used in the decontamination work being done in Naraha in 2013. Naraha currently houses large stockpiles of radioactive soil and debris as seen in this photo. The town is part of the long term consolidated storage plan where contaminated soil from around Japan is being collected and stored near Fukushima Daiichi.
Naraha’s city water supply was found to have 18,700 bq/kg of cesium in the soil in the bottom of the reservoir. In May of 2014 Narahaofficials demanded that the central government decontaminate Naraha to pre-disaster levels. Nothing further was reported on this to show any response to these requests.
The public exposure limits set by the ICRP is 1 millisievert per year of external exposure. This equals an hourly reading of .08 microsieverts per hour. Microsieverts per hour is the commonly used measurement for environmental radiation readings.
ICRP 1mSv/year = .08 uSv/hour (microsieverts per hour) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sievert#ICRP_definition_of_the_sievert
The Japanese government however, claims 1mSv/y = 0.23μSv/h by calculating how many hours a day they assume someone would spend outdoors and indoors. This estimate ignores hot spots and the varying radiation levels one would actually be exposed to as they move throughout their day. Internal exposures are not estimated.
Radiation readings taken recently by Days Japan found quite high levels in Naraha. The light colored building in the lower center of the map is a school. All of the readings are over the .08 uSv/hr readings ICRP would consider the maximum safe level. Many are over the Japanese government’s higher “safe” level.The official government monitoring station for Naraha has read consistently over .2 uSv/hr. Most monitoring posts have been criticized for reading too low when compared with a geiger counter held nearby. This has been due to the government decontaminating around the monitoring posts, resulting in artificially low readings.
Soil samples in Naraha were found as high as:
52500 bq/kg cesium 137 & 134 combined
34790 bq/kg cesium 137 & 134 combined
26480 bq/kg cesium 137 & 134 combined
The ambient radiation levels near where some of these soil samples were taken were .3 to .7 uSv/hour. So quite high soil contamination is existing in areas with what are considered low or moderate radiation levels by the government. Many of these high contamination findings are near schools, busy roads and temples in Naraha.
Asahi Shimbun has been one of the very few media outlets to honestly report what is going on in Naraha. Many of the former residents have serious reservations about returning due to the radiation levels. These concerns are even more so for those with children. Many of the homes were destroyed in the initial disaster, others have become beyond repair due to being left uninhabited for four years. Asahi Shimbun also points out that a large section of Naraha has been used to build facilities for dealing with the disaster site at Fukushima Daiichi and that about 1000 Fukushima Daiichi workers are now housed in facilities in Naraha. These workers outnumber the former residents of Naraha.
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