TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan plans to ask pregnant women and children to move away from radiation "hotspots" that were found far away from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, the government said on Thursday, reflecting new anxieties about the spread of radioactivity.
The government will not, however, evacuate entire towns, but rather homes where residents could be exposed to more than 20 millisieverts of radiation per year. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told reporters.
Twenty millisieverts is the annual radiation limit the government has set for school children in Fukushima, where workers at the Daiichi plant 240 km (150 miles) from Tokyo are battling to bring under control the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl.
Following the earthquake and tsunami in March that resulted in the nuclear disaster the government has set up a forced evacuation zone within a 20 km (12 mile) radius of the plant after deciding that radiation levels there were too high for human habitation.
But the government has been confronted with far-flung, isolated hotspots of contamination outside the 20 km radius with relatively high levels of radiation.
Edano said data gathered from certain parts of Minami Soma city, about 20 km from Daiichi, and Date city, about 50 km from the nuclear plant, are currently being assessed and that the government would recommend evacuation on a household basis.
He also said that those wanting to evacuate, including adults and those who were not pregnant, would receive firm government support.
"We will respond flexibly and lift evacuation recommendations if radiation levels decline," Edano said.
(Reporting by Shinichi Saoshiro; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)