Japan Set To Extend Evacuation Zone

The Japanese government is considering extending the evacuation zone around the Fukushima nuclear plant because of high radiation levels.

A 20-kilometre exclusion zone has been in place around the plant since a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami hit Japan one month ago today.

But Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, Yukio Edano, says changes are being considered.

“From the perspective of cumulative radiation, we need to take measures to secure people’s safety,” he said.

No decision has been announced, but local media reports say the zone could be extended to 30km and authorities will stop anyone trying to return to their homes.

Engineers at the damaged plant north of Tokyo said on Sunday they were no closer to restoring the plant’s cooling system, which is critical if overheated fuel rods are to be cooled and the six reactors brought under control.

They are hoping to stop pumping radioactive water into the ocean today, days later than planned.

The government has so far refused to widen the evacuation zone despite being urged by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to do so.

Both Australia and the United States recommend citizens stay 80km away from the plant.

Fukushima governor Yuhei Sato criticised the evacuation policy, saying residents in a 20- to 30km radius were initially told to stay indoors and then advised to evacuate voluntarily.

“Residents in the 20- to 30km radius were really confused about what to do,” he told NHK television yesterday.

The earthquake and tsunami is the worst crisis in Japan since World War II, leaving nearly 28,000 dead or missing and rocking the world’s third-largest economy.

At precisely 2:46pm (local time) Japan fell silent to remember the dead and missing.

In ruined villages along the north-east coast, survivors put their hands together in prayer and bowed their heads as once again an emergency siren sounded.

Japan’s prime minister used the occasion to thank the world for offering help during the past month.

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