Naoto Kan's exit nears; radiation detected in Japanese children's thyroids

Updated On: Aug 19, 2011

Prime Minister Naoto Kan may quit as early as next week, as Japan’s lower house of parliament is set to pass the last of Kan’s three legislative goals that he set before pledging to resign.

The bill will subsidise geothermal, solar, wind, biomass and hydropower sources in order to reduce dependence on nuclear power. Nuclear power accounted for about 31 percent of Japan’s power supply before the March 11 earthquake. Currently, renewable energy accounts for 9 percent of Japan’s power supply.

“The scheme will create a large market in a short time,” said Tetsunari Iida, executive director of the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies in Tokyo. “It will prompt immediate growth of related industries,” like manufacturing and construction.

However, Hideoaki Matsui, a senior researcher at the Japan Research Institute, commented that geothermal power generation may not benefit as much as wind and solar power operators because of the time needed to complete projects.

The bill is set to become law as early as August 26 and will be effective on July 1, 2012.

The other two of Kan’s legislative goals are the authorisation to sell bonds to finance about 40 percent of this year’s budget and the 2 trillion yen disaster relief package.

Report: Japan energy law paves way for Kan exit  [Bloomberg, 18 Aug 2011]

In other news, an alarming 45% of children surveyed around the Fukushima prefecture were found to have internal exposure to radioactive material in their thyroid glands, higher than initially assumed.

Radioactive iodine can accumulate in the thyroid glands, increasing the risk of cancer later in life. Children are especially susceptible as the thyroid glands produces hormones related to growth.

Currently, the acceptable limit of radiation set by Japan’s Nuclear Safety Comission is 0.2 microsieverts (mSv) per hour. However, it was reported that the highest radiation level detected among the children surveyed was 0.1 mSv per hour. 

On April 25, the government raised the acceptable radiation exposure limit for children from 1 mSv/year to 20 mSv/year.

The tests were conducted in Iwaki city, Kawamata town and Iitate village late March, but detailed results were released to families of the children only last week. The taskforce reportedly did not consider informing families of the detailed results as a priority since contamination levels did not surpass the safety limit. No further surveys by the task force have been made since then.

Report: Fukushima radiation alarms doctors  [Al Jazeera, 18 Aug 2011]
Radiation in Japanese children’s thyroids  [AFP, 18 Aug 2011]
Report: Nearly half of children near Fukushima absorbed radiation [Asahi Shimbun, 19 Aug 2011]

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