High levels of radiation have been detected near Japan’s J-Village, a sports facility and the starting point of the upcoming Olympic torch relay, according to Greenpeace.
Radiation levels as high as 71 microsieverts per hour were found on the surface near J-Village in northeastern Japan, according to a Greenpeace press release issued Wednesday. This level of radiation is hundreds of times greater than what’s stipulated in Japan’s decontamination guidelines, prompting Greenpeace Japan to demand that the Japanese government conduct regular radiation monitoring and decontamination of regions affected by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Japan’s environment ministry said the area was generally safe but it was in talks with local communities to survey the region before the 2020 Games, which open on 24 July.
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.
Readings at ground level were as high as 71 microsieverts, which is 308.7 times more than the nationally accepted 0.23 microsieverts per hour—the standard for decontamination—and 1,775 times the level prior to the Fukushima disaster, according to Greenpeace.
Sieverts describe the amount of ionizing radiation that can be absorbed by human tissue. Natural radiation exposure amounts to between 2,000 to 3,000 microsieverts each year, so people hanging out near these hot spots would exceed their annual dose in around two to three days, according to Reuters. While upsetting, it’s not excessively dangerous or life-threatening. It’s not until people are exposed to levels between 1,000 to 3,500 millisieverts (1 millisievert is 1,000 microsieverts) that radiation sickness and life-threatening symptoms set in. By comparison, a single chest x-ray yields about 100 microsieverts (0.1 millisieverts) of radiation exposure.
The Tokyo Electric Power Company, which operates the Fukushima plant, said it cleaned the spots on Tuesday after the environment ministry told the firm about them.
The discovery of these hot spots represents an uncomfortable truth for the Japanese government. The consequences of the Fukushima nuclear meltdown will persist for many decades to come.