Radiation could keep residents away from Fukushima area for years

Tokyo, August 22, 2011 — High levels of radioactive contamination in the area surrounding the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan could keep residents from moving back in for years to come, according to reports.

Japanese government officials said that some areas would have to be kept off-limits to former residents, even after cleanup procedures are completed.

Supporting evacuees and containing radiation in areas surrounding the earthquake-damaged nuclear power plant are among the challenges that Japanese authorities face after the March tsunami.

The announcement came after a government survey showed higher-than-expected radiation levels within the evacuation zone around the plant, even after the plant's operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. reported a drop in levels inside the facility.

A report by Japan's Ministry of Science and Education found pockets — mainly within two miles of the plant — where annual radiation exposure could reach 200 to 500 millisieverts.

The government requires residents to evacuate if the cumulative dosage is likely to exceed 20 millisieverts a year. The annual limit for nuclear-plant workers in normal circumstances is 50 millisieverts, and 250 millisieverts in emergency conditions.

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