Contaminated Soil, the challenge of cleaning up in Japan

 

A nuclear decontamination law will go into full effect Sunday Jan. 1, 2012), setting the stage for full-fledged efforts to clean up buildings, soil and waste contaminated with radioactive materials in areas affected by the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Fukushima Prefecture.  The central government will be responsible for the cleanup efforts in a no-go zone around the crippled plant and other evacuation areas in the seaside prefecture also heavily hit by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.  Under the law, which was partially enacted in August, decontamination plans will be formulated by 102 municipalities in eight prefectures where radiation doses are expected to exceed 1 millisievert a year on top of natural background radiation and that from medical treatment.  The cleanup cost in the areas will be shouldered by the central government. The eight prefectures are Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, Saitama and Chiba.

The Environment Ministry is set to launch an office in the city of Fukushima on Sunday to push decontamination work within Fukushima Prefecture, with plans to start in late January the cleanup of infrastructure such as roads and water supply inside the no-go zone and elsewhere.  Full-fledged cleanup work is likely to start at the end of March, ministry officials said.  The ministry hopes to halve annual radiation doses for ordinary people and reduce those for children by 60 percent by the end of August 2013.

Under the law, the state will dispose of ashes from incinerated waste and sludge if they are found to contain more than 8,000 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram.  It will still be necessary to find either space in the affected areas to temporarily keep contaminated soil and waste or landfills for disposal. The central government has recently asked municipalities in the Futaba district in Fukushima Prefecture to host a temporary storage facility for a massive amount of contaminated soil to be removed within the prefecture.  In the prefectures except Fukushima, contaminated waste is to be buried in landfills with plastic liners, but whether local communities will give a nod to the disposal remains to be seen.

Nuclear decontamination law to go into full force Sunday, Mainichi Daily News, Japan, December 31, 2011

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