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Decade after Fukushima disaster, decontamination work remains incomplete in 85% of regions

Greenpeace says Japan should suspend returning residents to the afflicted region

Mar.5,2021

Decontamination work remains incomplete in 85% of regions where the Japanese government claims to have removed radioactive contaminants from the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant disaster, an international environment group’s analysis shows.

In a report titled “Fukushima Daiichi 2011-2021,” published on Thursday ahead of the 10th anniversary of the disaster on March 11, Greenpeace urged the Japanese government to discontinue its policy of returning residents to the afflicted region without regard for science-based analysis.

Two weeks after the disaster struck in March 2011, the group sent a team of radioactivity exports to the scene in the first of 32 total visits through November 2020 to survey the radiation impacts in the Fukushima region. The recent report was based on its findings to date.

The Japanese government has announced the completion of most decontamination work for a Special Decontamination Area (SDA), which does not include a region close to the plant with particularly high levels of contamination that prevent residents from returning. Carried out through March 2019, the effort involved a commitment of 30 million person-hours and cost US$28 billion.

But an analysis of government data by Greenpeace showed that of the 840 square kilometers in the SDA, actual decontamination work had only been completed on 120 square kilometers, or 15 %.

In the case of Iitate — the largest of the seven administrative districts located entirely inside the SDA — decontamination had yet to be completed for 18,183 hectares, or 79% of its area. In the second-largest district of Namie, just 2,140 hectares, or 10%, had undergone even some decontamination.

Resident evacuation orders for the two regions were lifted in March 2017 — but according to Greenpeace, radiation levels make them still too dangerous for human habitation.

According to a Greenpeace study last November, the average amount of radiation in five out of 11 sites surrounding one home in Iitate was 0.5 microsieverts per hour (μSv/h), exceeding the government’s target of 0.23μSv/h.

The area immediately outside of one Namie school was found to be open to the general public despite 93% of measured sites showing radiation above the government’s targets.

“The fact that 85% of the contaminated surface area of the seven Fukushima districts inside the SDA has not been subject to decontamination is directly related to the radiological hazards posed by the mountainous forested areas,” the report explained.

“These remain a long-term source of contamination, including recontamination,” it warned.

Shaun Burnie, the Greenpeace senior nuclear specialist responsible for writing the report, urged the Japanese government to immediately suspend its return policy and decontamination program in order to protect residents of the Fukushima region, arguing that they ignore science-based analysis.

The same day, Greenpeace also published a technical report analyzing the decommissioning of the Fukushima Daiichi reactor. In it, Greenpeace proposed that the Japanese government adopt an alternative to its current decommissioning plan, which increases the amount of water contaminated with high-level radioactive material.

As an alternative approach, it suggested replacing water with air as a means of cooling reactor core fuel, while reducing the amount of contaminated water by installing moats to prevent seawater and underground water infiltration around the plant.

Chang Ma-ri, a climate energy campaigner for Greenpeace, said, “The ravages of radioactive contamination caused by the Fukushima disaster will pose a burden on humankind that will not be resolved for the next century or more.”

“The Japanese government needs to start by withdrawing its imminent plans for the release of contaminated water [into the ocean],” she urged.

By Kim Jeong-su, senior staff writer

http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_international/985626.html

March 6, 2021 - Posted by | Fukushima 2021 | , ,

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