Despite people’s clamor for transparency in radiation levels found in the prefecture of Fukushima, a Cabinet office team has delayed releasing the results of its latest measurement of radiation in three municipalities in the region. The government has postponed making the results public as they seek to recalculate the information and release a much lower level findings.
While the three municipalities in question currently have an active evacuation order, the order might be lifted soon. As such, the government has begun taking radiation levels in the area to support the lifting. But a source, speaking to the Mainichi newspaper, said that tests yielded results that are higher than expected, which pushed the Cabinet Office team to withhold the data temporarily as it might discourage residents from going back.
Documents from November last year, which detail the radiation measurements and date of release, were never made public. They indicated the measurements taken by the Japan Atomic Energy Agency and the National Institute of Radiological Sciences from the city of Tamura’s Miyakoji district, the village of Kawauchi and the village of Iitate. New dosimeters, left indoors and outdoors at houses, buildings, farms and wilderness areas, were used to take the radiation levels. As most of the measurements were done on an aerial level, the Cabinet Office wanted to compare results from that with those taken on the ground to come up with radiation estimates by job type. This is with the government’s assumption that the residents would be spending eight hours outdoors, and sixteen hours indoors daily.
Previous levels were measured using old dosimeters given by the Fukushima prefecture to its residents, which showed much lower levels. However, the recent ones taken were significantly higher than expected. While expectations were at 1 to 2 millisieverts a day, data showed the levels to be at 2.6 to 6.6 millisieverts. As the team realize that the results would “have a huge impact” which will “need to be explained to local communities,” it was decided to defer releasing the results. The JAEA and NIRS recalculated results by changing their initial assumption that people would be working outdoors for a shorter period, such as a farmer who will spend only six hours outdoors. The new results were submitted to the Cabinet Office team, which they planned to release later this month to the three municipalities.
Atsuo Tamura from the Cabinet Office team confirmed the recalculation and unreleased documents, but denied covering up anything. He said, “We did not hold the results back because they were too high. We did so because it was necessary to look into whether the assumptions for residents’ lifestyle patterns matched reality.” But a professor of radiation and hygiene from the Dokkyo Medical University, Shinzo Kimura, is not convinced. “The assumption of eight hours a day outside and 16 hours inside is commonly used, and it is strange to change it. I can’t see it as anything but them fiddling with the numbers to make them come out as they wanted,” he explained.