A Greenpeace radiation expert checks contamination levels at the Minami Fukushima kindergarten (© Noriko Hayashi / Greenpeace)

The children of Fukushima City are due to return to their schools this week despite the continued contamination of school buildings by radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Just over a week ago, our radiation experts found dose rates exceeding international safety standards at several schools, as well as many public areas in Fukushima City; this is why we are calling on Japan’s incoming Prime Minister, Yoshihiko Noda, to keep the area’s schools closed until they are properly decontaminated. No parent should have to choose between radiation exposure and education for their child – yet this is the decision facing thousands of parents.

The Greenpeace radiation monitoring team surveyed a high school, preschool, and childcare centre, along with several public areas in Fukushima City, and discovered high radiation rates at one school where they authorities had already carried out decontamination work. 

Video of the press conference where our experts announced their findings

They also found radiation at rates that are dangerous for children at a park in central Fukushima City, and in other public areas.

While average dose rates remain above the international 1mSv/y maximum allowed in many places – including areas already decontaminated by the authorities - lower levels of radiation were recorded in locations where local communities taken the initiative to carry out their own clean up activities.

A notable decrease in radiation was found at a preschool in Fukushima City following decontamination efforts by community groups and NGOs, however, while this is positive news for the children, as the surrounding area has not been cleaned, the children remain at risk when outside the school, and the school itself is at constant risk of being re-contaminated.

What this highlights is not only that official clean-up efforts to date have not been enough to protect the health of children, but that the authorities are creating more work by conducting selective decontamination, and putting the people of Fukushima at greater risk by forcing them to take matters into their own hands.

Last week, the Japanese government announced a new clean up plan for the greater Fukushima area – but like many of its initiatives so far, this is too little and too late. Prime Minister Noda must delay the opening of schools, immediately relocate people who are in high-risk areas, and mobilise the huge workforce needed to get radiation dose rates as far below safety limits as possible.

This is the challenge for incoming Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda. He must move quickly to secure people’s health, homes and livelihoods. Then he must secure his country’s future by abandoning nuclear technology, and moving towards a future powered by renewable energy. Japan’s parliament made the first move on this on Friday, but voting in a crucial and landmark renewable energy bill. This bill gives Mr Noda the chance to move Japan away from the risky and expensive nuclear path, to protect Japan’s economy and the future for its people, and show the world what a true energy revolution looks like.

Find out more:

Greenpeace International’s Fukushima nuclear disaster webpage

Energy [R]evolution - a detailed practical blueprint for cutting carbon emissions while achieving economic growth by replacing fossil fuels and nuclear power with renewable energy and energy efficiency

Raw data sheets from Greenpeace’s radiation monitoring

Google map of locations and radiation readings

Greenpeace’s letter to the Japanese national government calling for stronger protective and decontamination measures:

A detailed list of Greenpeace’s demands