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Japan groups alarmed by radioactive soil
by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) July 5, 2011

Soil radiation in a city 60 kilometres (40 miles) from Japan's stricken nuclear plant is above levels that prompted resettlement after the Chernobyl disaster, citizens' groups said Tuesday.

The survey of four locations in Fukushima city, outside the nuclear evacuation zone, showed that all soil samples contained caesium exceeding Japan's legal limit of 10,000 becquerels per kilogram (4,500 per pound), they said.

The highest level was 46,540 becquerels per kilogram, and the three other readings were between 16,290 and 19,220 becquerels per kilogram, they said.

The citizens' groups -- the Fukushima Network for Saving Children from Radiation and five other non-governmental organisations -- have called for the evacuation of pregnant women and children from the town.

The highest reading in the city of 290,000 people far exceeded the level that triggered compulsory resettlement ordered by Soviet authorities following the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Ukraine, they said.

Kobe University radiation expert professor Tomoya Yamauchi conducted the survey on June 26 following a request from the groups.

"Soil contamination is spreading in the city," Yamauchi said in a statement. "Children are playing with the soil, meaning they are playing with high levels of radioactive substances. Evacuation must be conducted as soon as possible."

The coastal Fukushima Daiichi plant has been spewing radiation since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami knocked out its cooling systems.

earlier related report
Japan proposes second disaster recovery budget
Tokyo (AFP) July 5, 2011 - Japan's cabinet on Tuesday approved a two trillion yen ($24 billion) second special budget to finance relief and rebuilding after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan's cabinet plans to submit the proposed budget to parliament on July 15 and aims to pass it by the end of the month.

The budget sets aside 800 billion yen in reserve for reconstruction, and 275 billion yen to tackle the Fukushima nuclear crisis, including compensation for victims and health checks for local residents.

Already faced with the industrialised world's largest public debt at around 200 percent of GDP, the government will not issue fresh bonds to finance the supplementary budget to March 2012 but plans to instead divert funds left over from last year.

In May, Japan passed a four trillion yen extra budget, the first since the disaster hit and left more than 22,000 people dead or missing. The government plans a third extra budget later this year, with analysts estimating it to be worth 10 trillion yen.

However, analysts warn that political gridlock surrounds those plans and other key economic measures, including a bond issuance bill.

Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda on Tuesday warned that if opposition parties continue to block the bond issuance bill needed to fund 40 percent of the main budget for the current fiscal year started April the government might have to begin curbing its spending from as early as September.

Lawmakers in the opposition-controlled upper house are demanding Kan resign immediately, and have refused to support a number of key bills until he steps down.

The premier survived a no-confidence vote in June by promising to resign at some point in the future, and has since indicated that he will step down in late August.

The embattled premier took another blow Tuesday as his disaster reconstruction minister quit, having caused a furore with scathing remarks to leaders of tsunami-hit regions.

The government has estimated costs resulting from damage from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami at 16.9 trillion yen, but this does not include expenses associated with the crisis at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi atomic plant.

-- Dow Jones Newswires contributed to this story --


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Japan radiation refugees to get more compensation
Tokyo (AFP) July 5, 2011 - Japanese families who had to flee their homes because of the Fukushima nuclear disaster will receive additional compensation of up to $3,700 per person, the embattled utility said Tuesday.

The money, following earlier payments of $12,300 per household, is meant to compensate the radiation refugees for their "mental suffering", Industry Minister Banri Kaieda said, according to the Kyodo News agency.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), which is still struggling to control the crippled Fukushima Daiichi plant, estimates that the new round of payouts will total up to 48 billion yen ($592 million), a spokesman said.

The company will give the new payments to 160,000 people who have fled from a 30-kilometre (18.6 mile) radius around the plant, including a 20 km legal no-go zone, and from other radiation hotspots further afield.

The new payments take into account the time families have spent away from their homes so far, and amount to 100,000 yen ($1,234) per person per month. Those who have returned home will be paid for the period they were gone.

In Fukushima prefecture, more than 83,000 people were away from their homes as of Tuesday.

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Japan names more Fukushima evacuation areas
Tokyo (AFP) June 30, 2011
Japan on Thursday recommended 113 households should evacuate from four districts considered radiation "hot spots" near the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, officials said. The voluntary guidance, for areas where higher levels of radiation have been detected sporadically, will affect households in Fukushima prefecture's Date city, officials said, adding that they would be given finan ... read more

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