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After the 1986 Chernobyl accident, more than 6,000 thyroid cancers clearly linked to radioactive iodine were found in children and adolescents. A study by Weiss’ U.N. committee found exposure to iodine was lower in Fukushima than at Chernobyl. Still, parents are worried because the Chernobyl cancers didn’t emerge until a couple of years later.

“Nobody can say this is over. I’d be the last to say that,” Weiss says.

Mayor Shouji Nishida of Date, a city of 66,000 people in Fukushima prefecture, says his community is preparing for the future by relying less on the central government, and by adjusting expectations. He believes 5 millisieverts of radiation a year — five times the typical amount of background radiation in Japan — is a realistic goal.

“We are defining policies to live and coexist with radiation,” he says.