TOKYO, January 26, 2012 (AFP) - A Fukushima museum official on Thursday played down concerns in France about the possible contamination of artworks soon to be loaned to the nuclear hit region by the Louvre.
The Paris museum plans to send 24 pieces to Japan, including to Fukushima prefecture, home to the stricken nuclear plant, in a show of solidarity with the disaster-hit country.
The touring exhibition will run from April 27 to September 17 in Japan's Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, a Louvre official told a joint news conference with Japanese museum officials at the French embassy in Tokyo.
The artworks -- paintings, sculptures, drawings and other works from different eras and civilizations -- will arrive on July 28 at the Fukushima prefectural Museum of Art some 60 kilometres (37 miles) away from the tsunami-hit nuclear power plant.
Tetsuo Sakai, head of the Fukushima museum, said radiation levels inside the exhibition room averaged 0.05 microsieverts per hour -- a long way below government-mandated evacuation levels.
However, he acknowledged radiation levels outside the facility have been much higher, still hovering at around 1.0 microsievert per hour.
Museum officials are now removing a contaminated lawn as part of their efforts to reduce levels of radioactivity ahead of the exhibition, he added.
"With these efforts, radiation levels will decline further and further," Sakai told the news conference.
The show was organised as a gesture of solidarity with the Japanese, after last year's massive March 11 earthquake and tsunami hit the northeast of Japan, sparking the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the Louvre official said.
"The proposed project is going to encourage Fukushima people, telling them, 'You are not alone'," the Fukushima museum chief said.