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Greenpeace warns of radiation risk to Japan children
by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) June 9, 2011

Greenpeace called on Japan on Thursday to evacuate children and pregnant women from a town about 60 kilometres (40 miles) from the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant because of high radiation.

The environmental and anti-nuclear group said its own data from Fukushima town roughly matched that of the government, but that it drew radically different conclusions, especially on the health threat for children.

It demanded Japan's government "provide full financial and logistical support for the prompt evacuation of pregnant women and children living in high-radiation areas and conduct a full clean-up of contaminated areas."

Greenpeace chief Kumi Naidoo, after a visit to a kindergarten in the town where parents have been removing contaminated topsoil, said that Fukushima's people now face both a "radiation catastrophe" and an "information limbo".

Since the March 11 disaster, Japan has raised the legal exposure limit for people, including children, from one to 20 millisieverts per year -- matching the safety standard for nuclear industry workers in many countries.

"This is highly unacceptable," said Jan Beranek, the group's energy campaign leader, at a news conference in Tokyo.

"After the accident in Chernobyl, the Soviet government decided to evacuate anyone living in a place where the annual dose was to exceed five millisieverts.

"In that sense it's really unacceptable and unjustifiable for the Japanese government to insist that 20 millisieverts is harmless."

Beranek said the 20-kilometre evacuation zone around the plant was not wide enough and did not match the irregular pattern of radiation exposure.

In Fukushima town, people, including children, were now being exposed to 10 to 20 millisieverts per year through the air alone -- not counting contaminants inhaled or ingested through dust, water or food -- he said.

Radiation experts agree that children are at highest risk because they are still growing, will have more time to develop cancers and other health defects, and are most likely to develop thyroid cancer.

"At least parts of the population that are sensitive need to be evacuated, and the remaining people who decide to stay for various reasons need to be given proper support and information," Beranek said.

He advised that people avoid breathing in any radioactive dust by wearing face masks or staying indoors at windy times, and that they avoid eating, smoking or drinking when their hands may be contaminated.

Meanwhile, the city of Date, located just outside the nuclear no-go zone, said Thursday it would distribute radiation dosimeters to all its 8,000 pre-school, elementary and junior high pupils, a news report said.

The city said the devices would be part of its efforts to ensure children's health as there were radiation hotspots, the Kyodo News agency said.

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Japan consumer confidence: first rise in 4 months
Tokyo (AFP) June 9, 2011 - Japanese consumer confidence rose in May from the previous month for the first time in four months after plunging in the wake of March's earthquake, tsunami and an ongoing nuclear crisis.

The Cabinet Office's consumer sentiment index was up 1.1 points to a seasonally adjusted 34.2 after falling at the fastest pace on record in April to a two-year low of 33.1.

Readings below 50 indicate pessimism outweighing optimism.

Although sales of water and food surged as people stockpiled immediately after the quake and the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, a mood of self restraint has hit spending in areas such as entertainment and travel.

Japan's consumer confidence has remained below its pre-financial crisis levels and retail sales slumped last year after government subsidies for car purchases were withdrawn and incentives to purchase appliances were reduced.

The economy plunged into a technical recession after the quake and tsunami devastated infrastructure and manufacturing facilities in the northeast and left nearly 24,000 dead or missing in Japan's worst crisis since World War II.

Separate data on Thursday showed the economy shrank by an annualised 3.5 percent in January-March, slightly less than a May estimate of a 3.7 percent contraction.

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Japan detects high radiation levels off coast: report
Tokyo (AFP) May 28, 2011
Japan has revealed radiation up to several hundred times normal levels has been detected on the seabed off the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, a report said Saturday. The science ministry announced late Friday highly radioactive materials were detected in a 300-kilometre (190-mile) north-south stretch from Kesennuma in Miyagi Prefecture to Choshi in Chiba Prefecture, the Kyodo news agency ... read more

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