Japanese schools test for Fukushima Fallout

The following is a radio transcript...

TONY EASTLEY: With nuclear fallout fears from the Fukushima nuclear meltdowns spreading, local councils in Tokyo have begun checking schools and parks for radioactive contamination.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has also announced spot checks of fresh and processed foods.

The ABC's North Asia correspondent Mark Willacy went along to one school in his Tokyo neighbourhood to report on the search for radioactive hot spots.

(Sound of Japanese children playing)

MARK WILLACY: In the playground of the Meguro Honcho Nursery School it's a celebration of dirt. The kids roll in it, scoop it into buckets - one even samples a mouthful of it.

But there are fears something could be lurking in the dirt here and that's radioactive caesium spewed out by the oozing Fukushima reactors.

As the kids play, a few metres away in a corner of the yard the principal Michiko Ikeda is hovering over a Geiger counter and writing down readings.

(Michiko Ikeda speaking Japanese)

"There is no solution here," says principal Ikeda. "We cannot say this is absolutely safe. Parents are worried about radiation, our staff too. By taking these radiation measurements, we want to show that we care for the children," she says.

Hovering over principal Ikeda as she wields her Geiger counter is Hiroshi Sato, from the local Meguro council.

(Hiroshi Sato speaking Japanese)

"Recently it because clear that radiation came further south than we thought, all the way to Tokyo," he tells me. "So we are now checking dozens of schools in the Meguro area," he says.

(Sound of Japanese protesters)

"Women, protect our children" chant these protesters and the vast majority of these demonstrators are women. Surrounded by police they march through Tokyo, right past the headquarters of TEPCO, the operator of the Fukushima nuclear plant.

These demonstrations are becoming more common in Tokyo as is the sight of people wielding Geiger counters.

Back at the Meguro Honcho Nursery School the playground has been given the all clear but principal Michiko Ikeda says the search for radioactive hot spots will go on.

(Michiko Ikeda speaking Japanese)

"I still worry when it rains," she tells me. "I worry about it a lot. After it rains we wash all the outside equipment and toys and we clean out the drains to reduce the radiation level," she says.

(Sound of Japanese children playing)

But here in the playground the kids are oblivious to all this - all they want to do is to continue to delight in the dirt.

This is Mark Willacy at the Meguro Honcho Nursery School in Tokyo for AM.

Internet site reference: http://www.abc.net.au/am/content/2011/s3363735.htm


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