Parents fight back over raised radiation limits

Thousands of parents living near Japan's stricken Fukushima Daiichi power plant have condemned a government decision to lift radiation limits for schools in the area by 20 times, saying the move is based on incomplete science and could put children in danger.

The decision, which has also prompted the resignation of a government adviser, has been condemned as political expediency. Toshiso Kosako, the adviser who resigned on Friday, denounced the Prime Minister, Naoto Kan, for his "whack-a-mole" policies on the crisis. A tearful Mr Kosako said: "The government has belittled laws and taken decisions only for the present moment."

He said new guidelines raising the acceptable annual radiation exposure in Fukushima Prefecture's elementary schools from one to 20 millisieverts "are inconsistent with internationally commonsensical figures" and were "determined by the administration to serve its interests".

But it is the voices of local parents that are likely to prove hardest for the government to ignore. Takayuki Sasaki, a baker and father of two, barely knew what radiation was two months ago. Today, he thinks about little else. "I've sent my kids to my wife's family in Tokyo," he says. "I told her to stay there till it's safe but who knows when that will be? We've all been left in the dark.

"Those parents who have the means to move their children are already doing so," Mr Sasaki adds. "I feel like one of the lucky ones because my wife is from Tokyo."

In the seven weeks since the crisis began more than 80,000 people have been evacuated from a 20km zone around the Fukushima plant. The power station has been leaking radiation since the earthquake and tsunami triggered a partial meltdown of its reactors.

Mr Kan's government has repeatedly defended the new limits, which are equal to the annual maximum dose permitted for German nuclear workers. Workers at power plants in the United States can be exposed to 50 millisieverts per year. The average annual radiation exposure from natural sources is about 3.1 millisieverts.

The impact of cumulative exposure on children, however, is a scientific grey area. Parents in Fukushima say the government's calculations are deceptive because they assume people spend most of their time indoors.

"I keep my children inside now all the time because I'm afraid of what they're breathing," said Niki Soeta, a mother of two from the prefecture. "Can the government imagine what that's like? We want to be reassured that it's safe." She was among hundreds of parents who gathered yesterday in a meeting hall in Fukushima City to plan strategy and protests against the government policy.

"We're all absolutely furious," said Machiko Sato, banging the table for emphasis. "We're angry at the government and at Tepco [Tokyo Electric Power] for doing this to us. We're breathing in this contaminated air as we speak. But we're old and the radiation can't do us much harm. It's the children we have to protect."

Parents and lobbyists are scheduled to meet bureaucrats today to hand over a petition demanding the withdrawal of the new radiation standard. Activists say the country's Nuclear Safety Commission rubber-stamped the school radiation limit after just two hours of closed-doors discussion, without consulting anyone outside the government.

Mr Kosako also criticised the government for stalling the release of simulations showing the spread of radiation from the Fukushima plant. The head of Japan's Meteorological Society, Hiroshi Niino, admitted last week that announcing all the radiation forecasts carried the risk of "creating panic" among the public.

Mr Sasaki said: "The system isn't working because it's top down. The officials from the Nuclear Safety Commission tell the government what they've decided. The government tells Fukushima. Fukushima tells the schools and the school principals tell us that it's safe. That's when I knew it was time to get my kids out of school. I just don't believe them."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
News
people
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Tracy Emin's 1998 piece 'My Bed' on display at Christie's
artOne expert claims she did not
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
Sport
Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
footballMan City vs Burnley match report
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
film
News
Ernesto Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, right, met at Havana Golf Club in 1962 to mock the game
newsFidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones