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NRA criticizes Asahi story on radiation dose monitors

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This radiation dose monitoring post, installed about 21 kilometers from the Sendai nuclear power plant in Satsuma-Sendai, Kagoshima Prefecture, can only measure radiation doses up to 80 microsieverts per hour.

The head of the Nuclear Regulation Authority on March 16 criticized an Asahi Shimbun story on radiation dose monitors around the Sendai nuclear power plant, saying it is misleading to residents near nuclear facilities.

The NRA demanded that The Asahi Shimbun explain the news-gathering process that led to the March 14 story headlined, “Half of the radiation dose monitoring posts around the Sendai nuclear power plant cannot measure levels that serve as criteria for evacuation,” in the vernacular Asahi Shimbun.

“(The article) is criminal in the sense the content fanned unnecessary anxieties among municipalities hosting nuclear power plants and people living around them,” Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of NRA, said.

The article, carried in the morning edition, said 22 of the 48 monitoring posts installed in the area between 5 kilometers and 30 km from the Sendai plant in Kagoshima Prefecture can only measure radiation doses up to 80 microsieverts per hour. That means these posts are incapable of measuring doses of 500 microsieverts per hour, the criterion for judgments on issuing evacuation orders to residents immediately after a nuclear accident.

“It is not a problem that only half of the monitoring posts can measure (500 microsieverts) and the other half cannot do so,” Tanaka said. “What is important is whether those monitoring posts are sufficient for us to judge (whether to order evacuations) through monitoring.”

On the evening of March 15, the NRA released a statement on its website, saying, “There is a possibility that (the article) will cause misunderstandings.”

The statement said monitoring posts that can accurately measure low radiation doses and monitoring posts that can measure high radiation doses are installed in combination, so the mechanism to judge whether to issue evacuation orders has been “put in place.”

The NRA statement also said, “We recognize that it is important to continuously enhance monitoring systems for emergencies.”

In addition, the NRA took issue with a comment from the nuclear watchdog that appeared in the article.

“Our staff never said what was written,” the NRA said.

It demanded that The Asahi Shimbun explain whether the comment was a fact.

The Asahi Shimbun carried the article to enhance local governments’ evacuation systems as much as possible.

“As for the article, (our reporters) interviewed NRA executives several times,” the newspaper said in a statement.

* * *

Asahi’s stance on the issue

The Asahi Shimbun believed that, in the case of radiation doses rising sharply after an accident at a nuclear power plant, 500 microsieverts per hour will become an important barometer on whether to immediately evacuate residents living in the area between 5 km and 30 km from the plant.

Therefore, the newspaper focused on whether equipment that can measure 500 microsieverts per hour has been put in place.

After the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co., the government revised its guidelines to deal with nuclear disasters. The government decided that people living within a radius of 5 km from a nuclear plant would have to evacuate immediately if an accident occurs.

For people living in the area between 5 km and 30 km from the plant, the government decided that they would have to stay indoors, and a judgment would be made on whether to issue evacuation orders to them after checking the radiation doses measured by monitoring posts.

The government decided that if a level of 20 microsieverts per hour continues for an entire day, it will instruct those residents to evacuate within a week. However, if the radiation doses reach 500 microsieverts per hour, the government will instruct them to evacuate immediately.

This year, The Asahi Shimbun asked 21 prefectures that are obliged to compile evacuation measures for residents about the installation of monitoring posts in the area between 5 km and 30 km from a nuclear plant.

With the exception of Kagoshima Prefecture, where the Sendai nuclear plant is located, 20 prefectures have installed or plan to install monitoring posts that can measure up to 500 microsieverts per hour in all or most of the spots.

Prefectural government officials said that in the accident in Fukushima, the area of high radiation doses spread widely and that it is a matter of course that the monitoring posts can measure up to 500 microsieverts.

Others said that making it possible to measure up to 500 microsieverts will lead to relief and safety of the prefecture’s people.

Officials of prefectural governments have made such remarks because of the accident that occurred at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. Radiation doses could differ drastically in spots that are several kilometers away.

In the initial stage of the Fukushima disaster, measuring radiation doses while moving in a car was inadequate due to a shortage of gasoline and other reasons.

In a complex disaster combined with an earthquake or other factors, there is a possibility that measuring equipment cannot be transported because of damage to roads.

The 48 monitoring posts that are installed in the area between 5 km and 30 km from the Sendai nuclear plant are positioned so that they can be used to make judgments on evacuations from each district.

As for the Sendai nuclear plant, an NRA official in charge of the issue revealed to The Asahi Shimbun this month that when the government “approved” the evacuation system around the plant in 2014, prior to the restarts of its reactors, a then division chief of the NRA strongly asked the Kagoshima prefectural government to expand its monitoring system.

As for the current situation of monitoring systems, the NRA is also looking into the installation and capabilities of monitoring posts around nuclear power plants throughout the country.

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201603170065

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March 18, 2016 - Posted by | Japan | ,

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