New guidelines exposes Japanese children to 20 times more radiation than was previously permissible
Outraged parents have held a rowdy demonstration outside Japan’s education ministry in Tokyo to protest against the government’s decision to weaken nuclear safety standards in schools.
Under new guidelines, Japanese children are allowed to be exposed to 20 times more radiation than was previously permissible.
The new regulation means children can now be exposed to as much radiation as a German nuclear worker.
The government argues the change is essential to keeping schools open in the Fukushima region.
According to Nobel Prize-winning group Physicians for Social Responsibility, the new limits mean exposed children now have a one-in-200 risk of getting cancer, compared with a one-in-500 risk for adults.
The decision provoked outrage from within Japan’s government, with the prime minister’s chief scientific adviser resigning in protest.
The government says it had no choice but to raise the legal exposure limit, saying about three-quarters of the schools in Fukushima have radiation levels above the old safety level of one millisievert.
The vast majority of schools would have closed, putting the education of hundreds of thousands of children on hold.
Hundreds of parents travelled from the radiation zones of Fukushima to the doors of the education ministry in Tokyo, furious at the government’s decision.
“While it may perhaps be safe to raise the exposure limit from one millisievert to 20 millisieverts per year, it doesn’t seem to be the case that the people raising that limit would allow their own children to go and play in those areas,” said Fukushima resident Sanako Kaji.
Like a sacrificial offering to an angry mob, an education ministry official was bundled outside to speak to the demonstrators, although he had very little to offer them at all.
The hapless official’s words only seemed to anger the protesters further.
“The current radiation levels for schools in Fukushima pose no health risks to kids at all,” the official said.
“The ministry does agree that it should take every measure possible to lower radiation levels at schools.”
For the protesters, the meltdown at Fukushima is an ominous warning that the government must heed.
“This is an opportunity to get rid of nuclear energy and switch to renewable energy”, said protester Tsutomu Une.
“If we let this chance pass us by, we’re wasting all the sacrifices made by the victims of this disaster.”