TOKYO — Japan said Thursday it is considering expanding the area covered by a compulsory evacuation order, with no immediate end in sight to the world's worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.
As emergency workers began pumping nitrogen into the quake-damaged Fukushima Daiichi plant to prevent further explosions, the government said it was seeking advice from experts on whether more areas should be evacuated.
Residents within a 20-kilometre (12-mile) radius of the nuclear power plant have already been ordered to leave, while those living up to 10 kms beyond that have only been told to stay indoors.
Evacuation orders are currently issued when residents are at risk of receiving radiation of at least 50 millisieverts, but the government said that arrangement assumed only brief exposure.
"The standard does not take into account the effects of accumulative exposure," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said. "We are discussing what standards to use for accumulative radiation."
Edano said a procedure to inject nitrogen gas, designed to reduce the risk of a hydrogen explosion, was "proceeding smoothly."
In the days after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami crippled the plant, large explosions resulted from hydrogen accumulation near the reactors, damaging the outer buildings housing them.
Radiation from the plant has leaked into the sea and air, contaminating vegetables and raising fears over marine life in a country where the national diet depends heavily on seafood.
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