Tokyo: Radiation meters will be distributed to about 34,000 children living in the largest city near the tsunami-damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant to monitor their exposure levels, a city official said on Tuesday.

The decision to hand out the meters comes amid growing concern over the safety of children as the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima plant drags on, posing potential long-term
health risks.

The devices, called dosimeters, will be distributed in September to children between the ages of four and 15 living in Fukushima city, which has recorded relatively high radiation levels since a massive March 11 earthquake and tsunami severely damaged the nuclear plant.

Dosimeters have already been supplied to area schools but not to each student, according to city official Koichi Kato. Other towns in the area have begun similar measures, but Fukushima's plan is the largest to date.

"We intend to continue the programme for about three months," Kato said. "We are still considering whether to expand it further to include other residents."

Fukushima city, where about 300,000 people live, is 60 kilometers from the nuclear facility. The government has established a 20-kilometre "no-go" zone around the plant, and a further 10-kilometre ring outside of that in which residents, particularly pregnant women and children have been instructed to take special precautions and be prepared to evacuate.

Some 80,000 people have been forced from their homes by the crisis, leaving nearby towns almost completely empty. Many children from those towns are now going to classes in or around Fukushima city.


(Agencies)