Playgrounds Checked For Radiation

Japanese officials have started measuring radiation levels in some school playgrounds amid fears the Fukushima nuclear plant might be leaking into the area.

Radiation levels are being checked in the playgrounds of 1,400 schools in Fukushima Prefecture.

They are outside the 20 kilometre exclusion zone set up by the government around the nuclear plant.

The checks come after Japanese media reported that the operator of Japan’s crippled nuclear power plant had found water with 5 million times the legal limit of radioactivity inside a reactor.

The plant’s operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), meanwhile, has offered token “condolence” money to those affected in the Fukushima region.

Meanwhile, South Korea has expressed concern to Japan about the pumping of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean.

Japan says it is dumping more than 11,000 tonnes of low-level radioactive water into the ocean to make space for even more contaminated run-off from water used to douse overheating fuel rods.

The government says the release is needed to stabilise the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant.

South Korea’s embassy in Tokyo has expressed concern that the release may be in breach of international laws.

“It’s the proximity between the two countries that makes Japan’s release of radioactive water a pressing issue for us,” an unnamed official told South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.

Tokyo Electric Power Co, the operator of the stricken plant, said the release of the water – the equivalent of more than four Olympic-sized swimming pools – would not harm marine life or seafood safety.

Traces of airborne radioactive material had already been detected in South Korea, but were said to be too minuscule to pose health risks.

Meanwhile, Singapore has suspended fruit and vegetable imports from another Japanese prefecture after raised radiation levels were detected in cabbages from the region.

The sample was from Hyogo, based around Kobe, 1,000 kilometres west of the Fukushima nuclear plant.

Elevated levels of radioactive iodine have also been found in young lance fish found off Ibaraki, about 140 kilometres south of the Fukushima plant. Authorities have advised the public not to eat the species.

After the discovery, Japan introduced a new legal limit for radioactive iodine in fish.

Government spokesman Yukio Edano said fish containing 2,000 becquerels of radioactive iodine or more per kilogram should not be consumed, extending a limit already applied to vegetables in Japan to seafood.

Responding to public concern, the Japanese government also said it will increase inspections of marine products.

Singapore had earlier banned imports from 10 Japanese prefectures including Fukushima and Tokyo.

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