While walking through the highly contaminated outskirts of Fukushima City last week, I suddenly realized that this capital of the prefecture is as far from the Fukushima nuclear disaster site as my hometown is from Borssele where the only Dutch nuclear power plant in the Netherlands is located —about 60 km. While people in the 20 km exclusion zone around the Fukushima disaster site have been evacuated, the residents of this densely populated city have already waited nine months for decontamination of their houses, gardens and parks without getting any official government support for relocation, not even for children and pregnant women.
We spent four days in Fukushima City doing a radiation survey in the neighbourhoods of Watari and Onami. People there have been left to cope alone in a highly contaminated environment by both the local and national governments. Our radiation experts found hot spots of up to 37 microSieverts per hour in a garden only a few meters away from a house and an accumulation of radioactivity in drainage systems, puddles and ditches. Overall, the radiation levels in these neighbourhoods are so high that people receive an exposure to radiation just from external sources that is ten times the annual allowed dose. How high their internal exposure is from eating contaminated food and inhaling or ingesting radioactive particles remains unknown, since no government program is keeping track of this.