Greenpeace: Radiation 'hot spots' near Olympic site in Fukushima

Japan's environment ministry said the area in general was safe but that it was in talks to survey the region.

    The Japanese government is eager to use the Olympics to showcase Fukushima's recovery from the 2011 disaster [File: Issei Kato/Reuters]
    The Japanese government is eager to use the Olympics to showcase Fukushima's recovery from the 2011 disaster [File: Issei Kato/Reuters]

    Environmental campaign group Greenpeace has said it detected what it called radiation "hot spots" near the starting point for the upcoming Olympic torch relay in Fukushima, northeastern Japan.

    Greenpeace on Wednesday urged fresh radiation monitoring and continued clean-up efforts, saying in a press release that its surveys had shown areas of high readings near J-Village, a sports complex located about 20 kilometres (12 miles) from the nuclear plant damaged in the 2011 tsunami.

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    Japan's environment ministry said the area, in general, was safe but added it was in talks with local communities to survey the region ahead of the Games that open on July 24.

    The Japanese government is eager to use the Olympics to showcase Fukushima's recovery from the disaster and intends to use J-Village as the starting point for the Japan leg of the torch relay, which begins in March.

    Originally designed as a training centre for athletes, J-Village functioned for years as a logistics hub for crews working to control and decommission the crippled reactors.

    After a clean-up process, the sports centre became fully operational again in April this year, shortly after Japanese Olympic officials decided to use it as the starting point for the torch relay.

    Conflicting findings

    Greenpeace said they had detected some spots with radiation levels as high as 1.7 microsieverts per hour when measured one metre (one yard) above the surface.

    This compared with the nationally allowed safety standard of 0.23 microsieverts per hour, and a normal reading in Tokyo of about 0.04 microsieverts per hour.

    The hot spots showed a reading of 71 microsieverts per hour at the surface level, Greenpeace said.

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    However, J-Village's internet site says the radiation reading at its main entrance was 0.111 microsieverts per hour on Wednesday, while one of its fields showed a reading of 0.085 microsieverts per hour.

    Tokyo Electric Power, which operates the Fukushima plant, said it cleaned the spots on Tuesday after the environment ministry told the company about them.

    Greenpeace said it had relayed its findings to the Japanese government as well as local and international Olympic organisers.

    The group will publish a report of its findings in the region next year.

    South Korean concerns

    Greenpeace's comments came as South Korea's Olympic committee said it plans to buy radiation detectors and ship homegrown ingredients to Japan for its athletes at the Tokyo Games over concerns local food may be contaminated

    Japan has posted data showing the country is safe from Fukushima radiation and many countries have lifted Fukushima-related food restrictions.

    However, the Korea Sports & Olympic Committee (KSOC) plans to ship red pepper paste, a key ingredient in Korean dishes, and other foods, as well as to check for radiation in meat and vegetables that can only be sourced locally due to stringent quarantine rules, a KSOC meals plan report shows.

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    KSOC will arrange local Korean restaurants to prepare meals for baseball and softball players competing in Fukushima, as shipping boxed lunches from Tokyo is not feasible, it said in the "2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics Meals Support Centre Plan".

    "These Korean restaurants should only handle food confirmed as radiation free."

    The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear station, located about 220km (130 miles) northeast of Tokyo, was rocked by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami in March 2011, sparking three reactor meltdowns.

    More than 160,000 residents fled nearby towns in the aftermath as radiation from the reactors contaminated water, food and air.

    SOURCE: News agencies