Tokyo
Cooling towers at the Golfech nuclear plant are pictured during sunset on the edge of the Garonne river between Agen and Toulouse, France, September 26, 2017. Reuters Representational image

Greenpeace on Thursday said towns in Fukushima prefecture, close to the disaster-hit nuclear power plant, were exposed to excessive levels of radiation almost 100 times greater than safe levels.

The survey said that in the towns of Namie and Iitate, located between 10 and 40 km from the Fukushima Daiichi plant and where evacuation orders were partially lifted in March 2017, radiation levels continue to be "up to 100 times higher than the international limit for public exposure."

"This is public land. Citizens, including children and pregnant women returning to their contaminated homes, are at risk of receiving radiation doses equivalent to one chest X-ray every week.

"This is unacceptable and a clear violation of their human rights," Jan Vande Putte with Greenpeace Belgium, and leader of a survey conducted in the area, said.

The report published on Thursday warned that all areas surveyed, including those where people have been allowed to return, had levels of radiation similar to an active nuclear facility.

The non-governmental environmental organization said the situation is "requiring strict controls".

This was despite the fact that residents had lifted restrictions on access after years of decontamination efforts, Efe news reported.

Japanese authorities have said these areas are progressively returning to normalcy after the massive 9.1-magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami which struck on March 11, 2011, triggering the nuclear disaster at Fukushima.

The government had said that radiation levels in the reopened zones pose no risk to human health.

Japan also noted that the government data was corroborated by the country's medical experts and organizations such as the UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation.

Refuting this and noting the "ineffectiveness of decontamination work" in these areas, Greenpeace said there remained a "significant risk to health and safety for any returning evacuee".

It added that Tokyo's policy of "effectively forcing people to return by ending housing and other financial support is not working".

Considered the worst nuclear disaster since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine, the accident at Fukushima displaced tens of thousands of people, caused serious damage to the local economy and brought an estimated total cost to the public coffers at $187.6 million. (IANS)