By Kiyoshi Takenaka
TOKYO (Reuters) – Fukushima prefecture, home to the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, on Tuesday reassured participants and spectators at the Olympic torch relay this year that they would not need to worry about radiation exposure.
The four-month torch relay ahead of the 2020 Olympics will begin on March 26 at J-Village, a soccer training center in Fukushima that served as a frontline operations base for workers who battled the 2011 nuclear crisis.
Of more than 24,000 monitoring spots along the relay route in Fukushima, one in Iitate village, 240 km (150 miles) northeast of Tokyo, had the highest reading, at 0.77 microsieverts per hour, the prefecture’s December survey results showed.
A four-hour stay there would bring radiation exposure to 3.08 microsieverts, or 0.003 millisieverts, well below the government’s target of keeping the public’s annual exposure arising from the nuclear accident below 1 millisievert.
By comparison, an air traveler is exposed to 0.1 to 0.2 millisieverts of radiation during a round trip between Tokyo and New York.
“This won’t be posing any problem for holding the torch relay,” the Fukushima prefecture said in a statement.
The radiation level in Iitate is about 20 times higher than that of downtown Tokyo, which registered at 0.037 microsieverts per hour on Tuesday, according to the web page of Japan’s nuclear watchdog, the Nuclear Regulation Authority.
A magnitude 9 earthquake and massive tsunami hit eastern Japan on March 11, 2011, triggering the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.
The buildup of contaminated water at the crippled Fukushima plant, operated by Tokyo Electric Power, has hampered what will be a decades-long recovery and alarmed neighboring countries.
Athletes from at least one country, South Korea, are planning to bring radiation detectors and their own food this summer.
The torch relay will take place in Fukushima for three days to March 28, during which more than 260 people will carry the flame, before it starts to crisscross Japanese archipelago in the run-up to the Tokyo Olympics starting on July 24.
(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka. Editing by Gerry Doyle)