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Is contaminated soil from the nuclear accident waste? A valuable resource? Ask the Experts

Tsunehide Chino, associate professor at Shinshu University, is interviewed online December 20, 2021; photo by Tetsuya Kasai.

April 8, 2022

Fukushima: The delivery of contaminated soil from the decontamination process following the accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant to an interim storage facility was largely completed last month. The law stipulates that the final disposal of the contaminated soil must be outside the prefecture, but no one has yet found a place to accept the soil. We asked Tsunehide Chino, an associate professor at Shinshu University and an expert on radioactive waste administration, about the legal status of the facility and how the contaminated soil should be “recycled.

     ◇ ◇Associate Professor Tsunehide Chino of Shinshu University

 –The delivery of contaminated soil to the interim storage facility was largely completed at the end of March.

Burying decontaminated soil in an interim storage facility: 2:27 p.m., June 17, 2021, Okuma Town, Fukushima Prefecture; photo by Tetsuya Kasai.

 The law states that “necessary measures shall be taken for final disposal outside the prefecture by 2045. That is quite a delicate phrase.”

 –prefectures can argue that the promise to remove the materials out of the prefecture should be honored.

 The problem has taken on another dimension since the law clearly states this. For example, the government signed a ‘letter of commitment’ with the governor of Aomori Prefecture regarding the final disposal of high-level radioactive waste from Rokkasho Village in Aomori Prefecture outside the prefecture. It is not a law.”

 The law is not wrong, and neither the prefectural governor nor the heads of local governments have any choice but to talk about their positions, even if they don’t believe that the cargo will be removed in 45 years. It has become difficult for them to express their true feelings.”

 –The national government has a policy of recycling contaminated soil with radiation levels below 8,000 becquerels per kilogram, as final disposal of the entire amount of contaminated soil is difficult.

 There is no legal basis for recycling. If the prefectural governor and others say that the contaminated soil in the interim storage facility will be taken out of the prefecture because it is clearly stated in the law, then it makes sense to discuss and make the recycling of contaminated soil into a law.

 –How was the standard for recycling (8,000 becquerels) determined?

 In 2005, the government established a clearance system that allows radioactive waste to be disposed of as normal waste, and set the standard at 0.01 millisievert per year as a level of radiation that has negligible effects on the human body when it is recycled or landfilled. This is equivalent to 100 becquerels of radiation per kilogram. After the nuclear accident, however, the government relaxed the standard for disposal to 1 millisievert per year. The amount of radiation that we calculated backwards from that is 8,000 becquerels per kilogram.

 –So you want to apply this to soil that is to be reclaimed?

 The government has positioned reclamation as part of the disposal process. The government has taken the liberty of changing the rules to say that although it is disposal, it only needs to meet the 1 millisievert per year requirement.

 If it’s disposal, it has to meet clearance standards. The repository has been operated in accordance with these standards. But, for example, it is estimated that it would take 160 years of natural attenuation for contaminated soil with a level of 5,000 becquerels per kilogram to meet the criteria for disposal. It is unlikely that the facilities where the soil will be recycled will be maintained and managed for that long. The government’s policy is irresponsible.”

 –The government says that the soil to be reclaimed is a “precious resource.

 The Basic Policy for Fukushima Reconstruction and Revitalization approved by the cabinet in July 2012 clearly states that contaminated soil in the prefecture will be finally disposed of outside the prefecture 30 years after interim storage begins, and the idea that soil is a resource was written into law in December 2002.

 In waste administration, waste is anything that is no longer needed. If it can be used or sold, it is a resource. So we ask the Ministry of the Environment, ‘So you give away soil for public works projects for a fee? We tell them that there is no such thing as “reverse compensation,” in which we pay for the soil when we give it to them. But they are not very understanding.

 –The legalities regarding the handling of contaminated soil are unclear, and the standards are difficult to understand. How do you plan to resolve the situation where residents have no say in the matter?

 The situation cannot be solved by creating a law. The first step is for the government and TEPCO to explain firmly that it will be more difficult than expected to return the living environment in the hard-to-return zones and other areas to the state it was in before the nuclear accident. The best way to restore the trust that has been lost over the past decade is for both sides to understand the bitter reality.

     ◇ ◇ ◇

 Tsunehide Chino was born in 1978 in Tokyo. D. (Policy Science) from Hosei University’s Graduate School of Social Sciences. associate professor at Shinshu University’s Faculty of Humanities since 2014. has been researching issues such as radioactive waste for nearly 20 years, mainly in Rokkasho Village, Aomori Prefecture. He is also the coordinator of the Nuclear Waste Subcommittee of the Citizens Commission on Atomic Energy.

April 9, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , | Leave a comment

Contaminated soil piles up in vast Fukushima cleanup project

March 18, 2022

More than a decade of decontamination efforts around the crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant has allowed thousands of evacuees to return home. But there are still some areas off limits due to the radiation levels. And as contaminated soil piles up, former residents are wondering when, or if, they will go back.

The cleanup work started soon after the nuclear accident in March 2011. The nuclear disaster discharged radioactive particles across Fukushima and neighboring prefectures. More than 70 percent of Fukushima’s municipalities were registering radiation levels above the national safety standard. Decontamination was key to making the region safe again and reviving local industries.

Workers have been removing radioactive topsoil, grass, trees, and building materials. The scale and expense of the project is vast. The Japanese government has already spent more than $43 billion on decontamination efforts.

Decontamination work started soon after the nuclear accident.

Storage facility worries residents

The contaminated soil and waste was piling up in residential areas and hindering reconstruction efforts, so the government decided to build temporary storage facilities on land stretching across the towns of Futaba and Okuma which host the nuclear plant. It occupies a 1,600-hectare site—nearly five times the size of New York’s Central Park.

Large amounts of contaminated soil and waste are brought in daily to the interim storage facility.

Since 2015, about 1,000 trucks have been arriving daily and dumping around 7,000 bags of soil. The Environment Ministry says workers have moved almost 13 million cubic meters of it so far.

The government introduced a law requiring the soil to be moved out of Fukushima Prefecture by 2045. But the people of Fukushima, especially those who used to live near the site, are worried it will become a permanent fixture.

“There is concern that this will become a final disposal site, but I understand that it’s inevitable that people will have to accept it,” says an 84-year-old man who once lived on the site. “I don’t think I will be alive in 30 years, but I want them to put my land back the way it was.”

Promising research

In a bid to reduce the overall amount of waste, crews are sorting the material at the facility to separate what can be burned. It is hoped that some of the soil can be reused.

Technology is being developed to allow the re-use of contaminated soil.

The Environment Ministry is looking at whether it can use the soil to grow vegetables or build roads. Research on food cultivation in the area has found radiation levels below official standards.

So far, the research has been limited to one district of Fukushima. The Environment Ministry is planning to commission further studies aim to help people understand what’s possible and, most importantly, what’s safe.

A final disposal site

The biggest challenge for the national government is to find suitable land outside of Fukushima for final disposal. Officials have been running a public awareness campaign to try to find support for a location. So far, no municipality has volunteered to be the host.

Despite the lack of progress, the government is adamant it remains committed to its deadline.

“We have promised the local government we will dispose of the waste outside the prefecture by March 2045,” says Environment Ministry official Hattori Hiroshi. “Since it is required by law, we will fulfill the promise. Of course, we are fully aware of the voices of concern from local people.”

High radiation zones remain

Officials say the project to transfer contaminated soil to an interim storage site will be largely completed by the end of this month, but in parts of Fukushima—including the towns of Futaba and Okuma—the radiation levels are relatively high and full-scale decontamination work has not yet begun. And more than 30,000 people still are not able to return their homes.

Barricades are set up around a “difficult-to-return” zone.

Not one of the former residents of Futaba has returned to live there full-time. Local officials are hoping to allow some back in June for the first time. But an official survey found that more than 60 percent of the former residents have no intention of returning. Only about one in ten said they want to return. Almost a quarter of respondents say they haven’t made their minds up yet.

Many of the evacuees have already restarted their lives elsewhere. The central and local governments are hoping they can attract new residents to the area and are offering $17,000 to anyone who makes the move.

But for those former residents undecided about returning, safety concerns are paramount. They want to know if the decontamination work will be completed and the soil will be moved. They also want more clarity about the decommissioning work at the crippled plant. The government has promised that will be completed by 2051 at the latest, but details are scant.

March 20, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , , | Leave a comment

Contaminated soil from nuclear power plant, destination yet to be determined…

March 12, 2022

Seven years have passed since the operation of the interim storage facilities that surround TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant began. The delivery of contaminated soil from the decontamination of the nuclear accident is expected to be almost completed by the end of this month, except for that from the difficult-to-return zone. Although Fukushima Prefecture has legislated that the contaminated soil must be removed from the prefecture by 2045, the destination of the soil has yet to be decided.

After the nuclear accident, more than 17 million cubic meters of contaminated soil and waste from decontamination in Fukushima Prefecture have been generated. Because it is unrealistic to dispose of such a large amount of waste, the government hopes to reuse the contaminated soil, which has a relatively low concentration of radioactive materials, as a “resource” for public works projects and agricultural land. The target is soil with a level of 8,000 becquerels per kilogram or less, which currently accounts for three-fourths of the total. Furthermore, it is estimated that up to 97% of the material will be reusable by the year 45 due to natural attenuation and other factors.

 However, at this point, only a little less than 1 million cubic meters will be used for a demonstration project in Iitate Village, Iitate Prefecture, to demonstrate the use of agricultural land. It would be nice if it could be used for large-scale public works projects such as port reclamation, but in this day and age, there is no need,” said a Ministry of the Environment official.

Eleven years after the earthquake, there is not even a clear destination for the contaminated soil. Residents are expected to protest if attempts are made to reuse the soil, and zero governors have responded that they would be willing to accept it. In municipalities that do not have interim storage facilities, the contaminated soil is “stored on-site” and can be found in residential areas in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

Survey of 46 prefectural governors: Zero governors responded that they were “willing to accept” the waste.

 It is not easy to gain the understanding of residents. In 2006, the Japanese government planned to use the contaminated soil for a demonstration project to widen an expressway in Minamisoma City. However, local residents protested one after another, saying that it was the same as final disposal and that their crops would be damaged by harmful rumors, and in March of last year, the government informed the residents of its decision to abandon the project.

 The residents of the area were not happy with the decision.

March 16, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , | Leave a comment

Where to in 2045? Contaminated Soil from the Nuclear Power Plant Accident: Current Status of Interim Storage Facilities in Fukushima

February 21, 2022
 Contaminated soil and other materials generated by decontamination following the accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant are being temporarily stored at an interim storage facility adjacent to the plant. The decontamination of areas outside the difficult-to-return areas has largely been completed, and the decontamination of areas inside the difficult-to-return areas in the designated reconstruction and revitalization base areas (reconstruction bases), where evacuation orders are expected to be lifted after this spring, is also proceeding. However, no concrete measures have been taken for decontamination of the difficult-to-return areas outside the reconstruction centers, and no progress has been made in discussing the transport of contaminated soil out of Fukushima Prefecture. Eleven years after the accident, there is still no way to solve the problem of radioactive waste. (Kenta Onozawa, Shinichi Ogawa)

12.67 million bags from 52 municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture
 Radioactive materials released from the nuclear power plant in the accident contaminated land and buildings in Fukushima Prefecture and other large areas. Each municipality has made progress in decontamination, and the soil and other waste from the decontamination process has been collected in flexible container bags (sandbags, one bag is one cubic meter), and delivery to the interim storage facility built around Fukushima Daiichi began in FY2015. As of February 10, 2022, the total amount of waste will amount to about 12.67 million cubic meters from 52 of the 59 municipalities in Fukushima. (*The graph below can also be viewed by region: Hamadori, Nakadori, and Aizu)

How much contaminated soil has been transported to the interim storage facility?
February 10, 2022

All areas:

Fukushima Prefecture has a population of 1,810,286 (as of 1 May 2021) and has a geographic area of 13,783 square kilometres (5,322 sq mi). Fukushima is the capital and Iwaki is the largest city of Fukushima Prefecture, with other major cities including Kōriyama, Aizuwakamatsu, and Sukagawa. Fukushima Prefecture is located on Japan’s eastern Pacific coast at the southernmost part of the Tōhoku region, and is home to Lake Inawashiro, the fourth-largest lake in Japan. Fukushima Prefecture is the third-largest prefecture of Japan (after Hokkaido and Iwate Prefecture) and divided by mountain ranges into the three regions of Aizu, Nakadōri, and Hamadōri.


Hamadōri (浜通り) is the easternmost of the three regions of Fukushima Prefecture. Hamadōri is bordered by the Abukuma Highlands to the west and the Pacific Ocean to the east. The principal city of the area is Iwaki.

Area: 2,969.11 km2 (1,146.38 sq mi)

Population: (2017) 452,588


Nakadōri (中通り, Nakadōri) is a region comprising the middle third of Fukushima Prefecture, Japan. It is sandwiched between the regions of Aizu to the west and Hamadōri to the east. The principal cities of the area are Kōriyama and the prefecture’s capital, Fukushima.

Area : 5,392.95 km2 (2,082.23 sq mi)

Population: ( 2017) 1,159,245


Aizu (会津) is the westernmost of the three regions of Fukushima Prefecture. The principal city of the area is Aizuwakamatsu.

Area: 5,420.69 km2 (2,092.94 sq mi)

Population: (2017) 270,648

Source: Interim Storage Facility Information Website

The total amount of contaminated garbage is not foreseeable.
 According to the Ministry of the Environment, the amount of contaminated soil generated from the decontamination of areas other than the difficult-to-return areas is estimated to be 14 million cubic meters, a huge amount equivalent to 11 fillings of Tokyo Dome. The soil is scheduled to be delivered to the interim storage facility by March 2010. In the remaining difficult-to-return areas in seven cities, towns, and villages in Fukushima Prefecture, six cities, towns, and villages (excluding Minamisoma City) have been designated as “Designated Reconstruction and Revitalization Centers (Reconstruction Centers)” where decontamination will be carried out ahead of time. It is estimated that 1.6 to 2 million cubic meters of contaminated soil will be released from the decontamination of the reconstruction centers.
 In addition to this, in August 2009, the government decided to lift the evacuation order for those who wish to return to their homes in the difficult-to-return areas outside the reconstruction centers. The Ministry of the Environment said, “We will proceed with the acquisition of land and the construction of storage facilities while monitoring the status of delivery. We do not know the maximum amount that can be brought in.

Uncertainty about transporting the materials out of Fukushima Prefecture
 As the name implies, the storage at the interim storage facility is supposed to be “temporary” before the final disposal. The government has promised that the contaminated soil will be transported to a final disposal site outside Fukushima Prefecture in 2045, 30 years after the storage began in 2015. However, it is not clear if there are any municipalities that will accept the waste contaminated by the nuclear accident, and the candidate site has not yet been decided.
 At present, three quarters of the total amount of contaminated soil stored at the site contains less than 8,000 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram. The government plans to reuse the contaminated soil with a concentration of 8,000 becquerels or less for road construction and other public works. The government plans to reuse soil contaminated with less than 8,000 becquerels for road construction and other public works. However, opposition to the use of contaminated soil from local residents is strong, and efforts to put the technology to practical use are running into difficulties. The Ministry of the Environment says, “We will continue to develop technology and work to gain the understanding of the people concerned.

The interim storage facilities are located around the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant and cover an area of 1,600 hectares. Of the privately owned land, which accounts for about 80%, 93% has been acquired by the government. The delivery of contaminated soil generated outside the difficult-to-return area is expected to be completed in March 2022.

An interim storage facility for temporarily storing contaminated soil surrounds the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in Okuma Town, Fukushima Prefecture (Photo by Ryo Ito taken from the Oozuru helicopter on January 25, 2022)

February 21, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , | Leave a comment

Japanese Citizens Reject Government Plan to Use Soil Contaminated by Fukushima

June 18, 2018
Japanese residents are fighting a government proposal to use soil contaminated with radiation from the area of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant for agriculture and road construction.
On June 3, the Japanese Ministry of the Environment released the outline of its plan to use soil contaminated by the nuclear accident that occured in March 2011 after a tsunami caused the facility’s power supply and emergency generators to fail. As a result of the power failure, meltdowns occurred in three reactors, resulting in the release of radioactive material. 
In 2011 after the accident, Japan enacted a law that allows the government to use contaminated waste from the Fukushima site for public purposes, Osamu Inoue, environmental law partner at Ushijima & Partners in Tokyo, recently told Bloomberg BNA.
According to the ministry’s plan, the contaminated soil will be used to grow horticultural crops in Fukushima Prefecture that won’t be consumed by humans. In a similar plan released in 2017, the ministry also suggested that contaminated soil be used for road construction.
However, the use of contaminated soil for road construction and agriculture has been heavily criticized by residents living in close proximity to the project locations with safety concerns.
“Pollutants contained in crops will surely pollute air, water and soil, thereby contaminating food to be consumed by human beings,” Kazuki Kumamoto, professor emeritus at Meiji Gakuin University in Tokyo, told Bloomberg Environment. Kumamoto also noted that contaminated crops could release radiation into the environment.
According to Kumamoto, because contaminated soil isn’t considered nuclear waste under Japanese law, it doesn’t have to be treated by special facilities. While the International Atomic Energy Agency’s standard for contamination radioactive waste that needs to be treated by special facilities is 100 becquerels per kilogram, the Japanese limit is much higher, at 8,000 becquerels per kilogram for nuclear waste and soil.
“The relaxed benchmark is one factor triggering safety concerns among residents,” Nagasaki told Bloomberg Environment earlier this month. 
“The government is saying that the contaminated soil will be covered by materials such as concrete, effectively reducing radiation levels, but many residents near the reuse projects aren’t convinced,” he added.
In addition, more than 2,300 property owners in the areas where the projects are expected to take place are declining government offers to sell their land because they don’t believe they are being compensated appropriately, Yoshiharu Monma, chairman of the Association of Landowners in Fukushima Prefecture, recently told Bloomberg. According to Monma, the government is only agreeing to compensate property owners for half of what the land was worth before the 2011 disaster if the land is to be used for interim storage facilities.
“This is totally unfair and, as much as the landowners are willing to sell their land to facilitate the government’s decontamination plans, they won’t do so until the government fixes such compensation discrepancies,” Monma noted.

June 22, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Blowback Over Japanese Plan to Reuse Tainted Soil From Fukushima

June 14, 2018
By Brian Yap
Japan’s plan to reuse soil contaminated with radiation from the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant accident for agriculture is sparking something of its own nuclear reaction.
Residents and other critics don’t want any part of it.
“Pollutants contained in crops will surely pollute air, water and soil, thereby contaminating food to be consumed by human beings,” Kazuki Kumamoto, professor emeritus at Meiji Gakuin University in Tokyo told Bloomberg Environment. Contaminated crops “could trigger the release of radiation.”
The Ministry of the Environment released its latest plan June 3 for reusing the soil as part of a decontamination project associated with the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011. The accident occurred after a tsunami disabled the facility’s power supply and caused its emergency generators to fail, leading to meltdowns in three reactors, hydrogen-air explosions, and the release of radioactive material.
The ministry’s plan calls for using the soil to develop farmland in Fukushima Prefecture for horticultural crops that won’t be consumed by humans, the June 3 document said. It builds on the ministry’s 2017 plan to use the contaminated soil for road construction.
Japan enacted a law in 2011 to respond to the Fukushima accident that provides for post-disaster measures and enables the government to reuse contaminated waste for public works and other purposes, with roads themselves being disposal sites, Osamu Inoue, environmental law partner at Ushijima & Partners in Tokyo, told Bloomberg BNA.
Safety issues
The reuse projects for road construction and agricultural land have met heavy opposition from residents living close to where such projects have been planned, according to Akira Nagasaki, environmental law partner at City-Yuwa Partners in Tokyo.
Key among their concerns are the changes Japan made to its benchmark.
Contaminated soil isn’t classified as nuclear waste under the law and therefore isn’t required to be treated by special facilities, Kumamoto said. That’s because Japan relaxed its benchmark, based on one set by the International Atomic Energy Agency, for determining at what level of contamination radioactive waste must be treated and disposed using more protective measures.
The international agency standard is 100 becquerel, a measure of radioactivity, per kilogram. Japan revised its limit to 8,000 becquerel per kilogram for nuclear waste and soil, exempting a greater amount of contaminated soil from strict treatment requirements and allowing it to be reused for public works projects and agricultural land.
“The relaxed benchmark is one factor triggering safety concerns among residents,” Nagasaki told Bloomberg Environment June 8. He added that the government has been promoting its plan to put contaminated soil back to earth, which seems contrary to the former process of removing it.
“The government is saying that the contaminated soil will be covered by materials such as concrete, effectively reducing radiation levels, but many residents near the reuse projects aren’t convinced,” he said.
The government’s original scheme set in 2012, Kumamoto said, was to have the contaminated areas in Fukushima Prefecture completely cleaned up in 30 years, with the tainted soil that had been temporarily stored offsite moved to interim storage facilities near the Fukushima No.1 Nuclear Plant.
Thirty-six of the prefecture’s 59 cities and townships are included in the government’s decontamination plan, environment ministry statistics show. Contaminated soil temporarily stored outside the areas closest to the Fukushima No. 1 plant was supposed to have been moved to interim storage facilities on land nearest the nuclear site by 2015 and kept there for 30 years.
Unfair Compensation
Another concern is how the government plans to compensate the owners of the land where these sites would be located.
Most of the more than 2,300 property owners in the area have refused to sell their land to the government for the storage sites because they don’t think they’re being fairly compensated, said Yoshiharu Monma, chairman of the Association of Landowners in Fukushima Prefecture.
The government agreed to compensate the owners for what the land was worth before the 2011 disaster if that property was to be used for the temporary storage sites, Monma said. But if the land has been designated for interim storage facilities, the government will only pay half of its value before the disaster.
“This is totally unfair and, as much as the landowners are willing to sell their land to facilitate the government’s decontamination plans, they won’t do so until the government fixes such compensation discrepancies,” Monma added.

June 22, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima: Radioactive Soil Might Be Used to Build New Roads—and Residents Are Not Happy

May 1, 2018
Residents of Fukushima, Japan, are rallying against plans to build new roads that use soil exposed to radiation during core meltdowns at the local nuclear plant in 2011.
The Environment Ministry plans to begin trials using the soil next month, with the city of Nihonmatsu as the testing ground, The Japan Times reported.
The project would bury large black bags full of the soil under a 656-foot stretch of the planned road. More than 17,650 cubic feet of soil would be buried at a depth of around 1.6 feet. The bags would then be covered with clean soil to block harmful radiation. Those bags, in turn, would be paved over with asphalt.
may 1 2018.jpg
Ripped bags containing radioactive soil near Japan’s tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on February 11, 2016. 
This represents but a small portion of the roughly 775 million cubic feet of irradiated soil in the prefecture. The 2011 meltdowns, caused by an earthquake and a resulting tsunami, sent radioactive debris spewing over the local area. The material eventually contaminated hundreds of square miles of Fukushima.
The Japanese government has encouraged residents to return to their former homes, but many still believe it is unsafe. Authorities even began withdrawing housing assistance payments to those who left the area after the meltdown, effectively forcing them to return.
Authorities eventually plan to hold all tainted material in temporary storage before transporting it to final disposal spots outside the state, but that could take as long as 30 years. According to a 2016 NPR report, there are around 9 million bags of contaminated soil awaiting disposal.
Because of the huge amount of soil to be disposed of, authorities want to use some of it productively. The Environment Ministry said it would use soil emitting a maximum radiation of 8,000 becquerels per kilogram. The average for soil used in road construction is around 1,000 becquerels per kg. If the trials are successful, the ministry plans to replicate the plans nationwide.
february 2015.jpg
Workers move bags containing radiated soil, leaves and debris from a temporary storage site in Tomioka on February 23, 2015. 
But to the residents whose lives were upended by the 2011 disaster, any amount of excess radiation is too much. A briefing given by the Environment Ministry on Thursday was interrupted by locals opposed to the project, according to The Japan Times.
“Ensuring safety is different from having the public feeling at ease,” farmer Bunsaku Takamiya, 62, said. His farm is close to one of the planned roads, and he fears that the proximity of his crops to the soil will stop people from buying his produce. “Don’t scatter contaminated soil on roads,” shouted another resident during the meeting. 
A ministry-linked official told the newspaper that, given the residents’ anger, “it’s difficult to proceed as is.”

May 5, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , | Leave a comment

SEVEN YEARS AFTER: Radioactive debris piling up at Fukushima interim facility

March 5, 2018
feb 17 2018.jpg
Bags containing radioactive soil and other waste are piled up high at an interim storage facility in Futaba, Fukushima Prefecture, on Feb. 17.
FUTABA, Fukushima Prefecture–Stacks of soil and other waste contaminated by the Fukushima nuclear disaster continue to grow at an interim storage facility here.
Black bags filled with radioactive debris collected during decontamination work in various locations in the prefecture have been brought to the facility since October, when operations started.
Heavy machinery is used to stack the bags, and green sheets now cover some of the piles.
The town of Futaba co-hosts the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. The interim facility is expected to eventually cover about 1,600 hectares of land in Futaba and Okuma, the other co-host of the plant.
The government has acquired 801 hectares as of Jan. 29, and 70 percent of that space is already covered with contaminated debris.
Negotiations between the government and landowners are continuing for the remaining hectares.
The government plans to move the contaminated debris to a final disposal site outside the prefecture by March 2045. However, it has had difficulties finding local governments willing to accept the waste.

March 5, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , , | Leave a comment

High levels of radioactive material migrating down into soil around Fukushima

may 19 2017.png

High levels of radioactive cesium remain in the soil near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and these radionuclides have migrated at least 5 centimeters down into the ground at several areas since the nuclear accident five years ago, according to preliminary results of a massive sampling project being presented at the JpGU-AGU joint meeting in Chiba, Japan.

In 2016, a team of more than 170 researchers from the Japanese Geoscience Union and the Japan Society of Nuclear and Radiochemical Sciences conducted a large-scale soil sampling project to determine the contamination status and transition process of radioactive cesium five years after a major earthquake and tsunami caused a nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.  

The team collected soil samples at 105 locations up to 40 kilometers (25 miles) northwest of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in the “difficult-to-return” zone where entry is prohibited. The project seeks to understand the chemical and physical forms of radionuclides in the soil and their horizontal and vertical distribution.

The Japanese government has monitored the state of radioactive contamination in the area near the plant since the 2011 accident by measuring the air dose rate, but scientists can only determine the actual state of contamination in the soil and its chemical and physical forms by direct soil sampling, said Kazuyuki Kita, a professor at Ibaraki University in Japan, who is one of the leaders of the soil sampling effort.

Understanding the radionuclides’ chemical and physical forms helps scientists understand how long they could stay in the soil and the risk they pose to humans, plants and animals, Kita said. The new information could help in assessing the long-term risk of the radionuclides in the soil, and inform decontamination efforts in heavily contaminated areas, according to Kita, one of several researchers will present the team’s preliminary results at the JpGU-AGU joint meeting next week.

Preliminary results show high levels radioactive cesium are still present in the soil near the plant. The levels of radiation are more than 90 percent, on average, of what was found immediately following the accident, according to Kita.

Most of the radiocesium in the soil was found near the surface, down to about 2 centimeters, immediately following the 2011 accident. Five years later, at several sampling points, one-third to one-half of the radiocesium has migrated deeper into the soil, according to Kita. Preliminary results show the radiocesium moved about 0.3 centimeters per year, on average, deeper into the soil and soil samples show the radiocesium has penetrated at least 5 centimeters into the ground at several areas, according to Kita.

The team plans to analyze samples taken at greater depths to see if the radiocesium has migrated even further, he said.  

Most of the radioactive cesium remains after five years, but some parts of the radioactive cesium went from the surface to deeper soil,” he said.

Knowing how much radioactive contamination has stayed on the surface and how deep it has penetrated into the soil helps estimate the risk of the contaminants and determine how much soil should be removed for decontamination. The preliminary results suggest decontamination efforts should remove at least the top 6 to 8 centimeters of soil, Kita said.  

The preliminary data also show there are insoluble particles with very high levels of radioactivity on the surface of the soil. Debris from the explosion fused with radiocesium to form small glass particles a few microns to 100 microns in diameter that remain on the ground, according to Kita. The team is currently trying to determine how many of these radiocesium glass particles exist in areas near the nuclear plant, he said.

We are afraid that if such high radioactive balls remain on the surface, that could be a risk for the environment,” Kita said. “If the radioactivity goes deep into the soil, the risk for people in the area decreases but we are afraid the high radioactive balls remain on the surface.”

Nanci Bompey is the manager of AGU’s public information office. This research is being presented Thursday, May 25 at the JpGU-AGU joint meeting in Chiba, Japan.

May 22, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment

Test to recycle some screened soil from Fukushima


Japan’s Environment Ministry is studying the possibility of using some screened soil cleared from Fukushima Prefecture after the 2011 nuclear power plant accident in public works projects.

The Japanese government says, within the next 30 years, it plans to dispose of some 22 million cubic meters of soil and other waste that will be removed from the prefecture as part of the decontamination effort.

To make the job easier, the Ministry hopes to use soil with acceptable levels of radioactive material to build roads, embankments and parks.

The ministry began testing the feasibility of such projects last month at a temporary storage site in Minami Soma, Fukushima Prefecture. The process was shown to the media on Wednesday.
The experiment involves sifting the soil to remove rocks, leaves and branches, then entering it into a machine that measures the level of radioactive substances. The soil is then piled into mounds.

Ministry officials will monitor radiation levels in the air and groundwater around the mounds.

They plan to draw up guidelines for local governments and construction workers by April next year.

The ministry says it aims to use soil with up to 6,000 becquerels per kilogram of radioactive substances in roads and embankments, and up to 4,000 becquerels in parks.

But residents in Minami Soma have requested that for the experiment, the Ministry only use soil with up to 3,000 becquerels per kilogram.
As a result, the officials are unable to test whether soil with higher levels of contamination is safe for recycling.

The project also raises questions about the long-term monitoring of public works built with contaminated soil, and how the Ministry will win the support of people who live nearby.


May 18, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

Japan ponders recycling Fukushima soil for public parks & green areas


Workers move big black plastic bags containing radiated soil. Fukushima prefecture, near Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Soil from the Fukushima prefecture may be used as landfill for the creation of “green areas” in Japan, a government panel has proposed, facing potential public backlash over fears of exposure to residual radiation from the decontaminated earth.

The advisory panel of the Environment Ministry on Monday proposed reusing soil that was contaminated during the Fukushima nuclear meltdown of 2011 as part of future landfills designated for public use, Kyodo news reported

In its proposal, the environmental panel avoided openly using the word “park” and instead said “green space,” apparently to avoid a premature public outcry, Mainichi Shimbun reported.

Following an inquiry from the news outlet, the Ministry of the Environment clarified that “parks are included in the green space.”

In addition to decontaminating and recycling the tainted earth for new parks, the ministry also stressed the need to create a new organization that will be tasked with gaining public trust about the prospects of such modes of recycling.

To calm immediate public concerns, the panel said the decontaminated soil will be used away from residential areas and will be covered with a separate level of vegetation to meet government guidelines approved last year.

In June last year, the Ministry of the Environment decided to reuse contaminated soil with radioactive cesium concentration between 5,000 to 8,000 becquerels per kilogram for public works such as nationwide roads and tidal banks.

Under these guidelines, which can now be extended to be used for the parks, the tainted soil shall be covered with clean earth, concrete or other materials.

Such a landfill, the government said at the time, will not cause harm to nearby residents as they will suffer exposure less than 0.01 mSv a year after the construction is completed.

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant suffered a blackout and subsequent failure of its cooling systems in March 2011, when it was hit by an earthquake and a killer tsunami that knocked out the facility, spewing radiation and forcing 160,000 people to flee their homes. Three of the plant’s six reactors were hit by meltdowns, making the Fukushima nuclear disaster the worst since the Chernobyl catastrophe in 1986.

Gov’t proposes reusing Fukushima’s decontaminated soil on green land

The Environment Ministry on Monday proposed reusing decontaminated soil from disaster-hit Fukushima Prefecture as landfill for parks and green areas.

At a meeting of an advisory panel, the ministry also called for launching a new organization to map out plans on how to gain public understanding about the reuse of decontaminated soil, ministry officials said.

The proposals come at a time when Fukushima Prefecture faces a shortage of soil due to the decontamination work following the 2011 nuclear meltdown.


March 28, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Radiation limit for contaminated soil in reuse experiment lowered after local opposition

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Black bags containing radioactively contaminated soil are seen piled up at a temporary storage site in Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, in this June 2016 file photo. (Mainichi)

The radiation limit for soil contaminated by the Fukushima nuclear disaster in an experiment to reuse it in construction was lowered from 8,000 becquerels per kilogram to 3,000 becquerels per kilogram after strong opposition from a local mayor, it has been learned.

The experiment is to be carried out at a temporary storage site in Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, where around 1,000 bags of contaminated soil will be opened, made into construction foundations, and their radiation levels measured. The experiment will be done to check, among other things, whether the radiation exposure dose remains at the yearly limit of 1 millisievert or less. The experiment will cost around 500 million yen. The results are expected to be put together next fiscal year or later.

From soon after the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, municipalities including Minamisoma asked the national government to separate out lower-radiation level concrete and other debris for reuse in things like groundwork for coastal forests used to defend against tsunami. At first, the Ministry of the Environment was negative about this, but in December 2011 the ministry allowed such reuse for debris with a limit of 3,000 becquerels per kilogram. According to documents released in response to a release of information request made by the Mainichi Shimbun, some 350,000 metric tons of this kind of debris have been used in Minamisoma and the towns of Namie and Naraha in projects such as groundwork for coastal forests.

Then in June last year, the Ministry of the Environment decided on a policy of reusing contaminated soil with 8,000 becquerels or less per kilogram in structures such as soil foundations for public works projects.

The same month, Minamisoma’s Mayor Katsunobu Sakurai visited then vice-minister of the environment Soichiro Seki, where he questioned Seki about the 3,000 becquerel limit that had been used until being replaced by the 8,000 becquerel limit. Sakurai reportedly called for the 3,000 becquerel limit to be used in the upcoming experiment in Minamisoma.

Sakurai says, “If they don’t use the 3,000 becquerel limit it is inconsistent. It doesn’t make sense for a ministry that is supposed to protect the environment to relax the standards it has set.”

The ministry confirmed to the Mainichi Shimbun that the experiment will only use soil up to the 3,000 becquerel limit, and said that the soil used will on average contain about 2,000 becquerels per kilogram.

February 6, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Nuclear watchdog questions Environment Ministry’s plan to reuse radioactive soil


Bags containing contaminated soil and other materials produced through decontamination work are seen at a provisional storage site in Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) has raised questions about the Environment Ministry’s proposal to reuse radioactive soil resulting from decontamination work around the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant due to the insufficiency of information on how such material would be managed, it has been learned.
As the ministry has not provided a sufficient amount of information, the nuclear watchdog has not allowed the ministry to seek advice from its Radiation Council — a necessary step in determining standards for radiation exposure associated with the reuse of contaminated materials.

The Ministry of the Environment discussed the reuse of contaminated soil in closed-door meetings with radiation experts between January and May last year. The standard for the reuse of such materials as metal produced in the process of decommissioning nuclear reactors is set at 100 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram. Materials with a contamination level topping 8,000 becquerels are handled as “designated waste” requiring special treatment. In examining the reuse of contaminated soil, the ministry in June decided on a policy of reusing soil containing up to 8,000 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram as a base for roads with concrete coverings.

According to sources close to the matter, the ministry sounded the NRA out on consulting with the Radiation Council over the upper limit of 8,000 becquerels and other issues. An official from the NRA requested the ministry to provide a detailed explanation on how such soil would be handled, including the prospect of when the ministry would end its management of the reused soil, and how it would prevent illegal dumping. The official then told the ministry that the rule of 100-becquerel-per-kilogram rule would need to be guaranteed if contaminated soil were reused without ministry oversight.

The official is also said to have expressed concerns over the ministry plan, questioning the possibility of contaminated soil being used in somebody’s yard in a regular neighborhood. Since the ministry failed to respond with a detailed explanation, the NRA did not allow the ministry to consult with the Radiation Council.

Government bodies are required to consult with the council under law when establishing standards for prevention of radiation hazards. It was the Radiation Council that set up the 8,000-becquerel rule for designated waste.

An official from the NRA’s Radiation Protection and Safeguards Division told the Mainichi Shimbun, “We told the ministry that unless it provides a detailed explanation on how contaminated soil would be used and on how it will manage such material, we cannot judge if its plan would be safe.”


January 10, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment

Environment Ministry deleted some of its remarks from minutes on contaminated soil meet



The Ministry of the Environment deleted some of its remarks made in closed-door meetings on reuse of contaminated soil stemming from the Fukushima nuclear disaster from the minutes of the meetings, it has been learned.

When the ministry posted the minutes on its website, it said it had “fully disclosed” them. The deleted remarks could be taken to mean that the ministry induced the discussions. The remarks led the meetings to decide on a policy of reusing contaminated soil containing up to 8,000 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram. An expert on information disclosure lashed out at the ministry’s handling of the minutes, saying, “It is extremely heinous because it constitutes the concealment of the decision-making process.”

The meetings were called the “working group to discuss safety assessments of impacts of radiation.” The meetings were attended by about 20 people, including radiation experts, officials of the Environment Ministry and the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) and others. The meetings were held six times from January to May in 2016.

The meetings discussed the reuse of radioactively contaminated soil generated when areas affected by the Fukushima nuclear crisis were decontaminated.

Initially, the meetings themselves were unpublicized. But because requests for information disclosure on the meetings were filed one after another, the Environment Ministry posted the minutes and relevant data on its website in August. As a matter of clerical procedures, the ministry said at that time that everything was disclosed.

The minutes that were disclosed contain “draft minutes” that were prepared before becoming official documents, but the Mainichi Shimbun obtained an “original draft” that was prepared even before then. Comparing the disclosed minutes with the original draft, the Mainichi found multiple cases of remarks being deleted or changed. According to the original draft, an Environment Ministry official said at the fourth meeting on Feb. 24, “With the assessments of soil with 8,000 becquerels, there have been cases in which the annual radiation dose slightly exceeds 1 millisievert in times of disasters and the like. But it will be good if it stays within 1 millisievert.” But the remark was deleted from the disclosed minutes.

Soil contaminated with radiation exceeding 8,000 becquerels is handled as “designated waste,” but discussions were held on reusing of contaminated soil containing 8,000 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram during a series of meetings. In the Feb. 24 meeting, the JAEA showed an estimate that workers engaged in recovery work on a breakwater made of contaminated soil of 8,000 becquerels that has collapsed in a disaster would be exposed to radiation exceeding 1 millisievert per year — the maximum dose allowed for ordinary people. Based on the estimate, there was a possibility of the upper limit for reusing contaminated soil being lowered, but the Environment Ministry official’s remark promoted experts and others to call for s review to make a new estimate, with one attendee saying, “If it collapses, it will be mixed with other soil and diluted.”

A fresh estimate that the annual radiation dose will stay at 1 millisievert or lower was later officially presented, and the Environment Ministry officially decided in June on a policy of reusing contaminated soil containing up to 8,000 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram.

January 5, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

Temporary Radioactive Soil Storage Sites Hinder Fukushima Farmers

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Farmers harvest rice in one of Hisayoshi Shiraiwa’s paddies in Katsurao, Fukushima Prefecture, on Oct. 19, 2016. Another rice paddy in the foreground serves as a temporary storage site for piles of black plastic bags containing radioactive soil.

FUKUSHIMA — Wide swaths of temporary storage sites for radioactive soil and other waste generated from decontamination work in areas around the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant are hampering locals from resuming farming, it has been learned.

The makeshift storage sites occupy roughly 1,000 hectares in total, or an area the size of 213 Tokyo Domes, across zones currently or formerly designated for evacuation in 11 municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture, according to the Ministry of the Environment. The high occupancy is the result of delayed work to develop interim storage facilities for contaminated soil.

Because slightly over 90 percent of those temporary storage sites lie on farmland, local governments are deprived of the very foundation for restoring farming — a key local industry — in those areas while farmers are concerned about possible damage caused by harmful rumors.

According to the Environment Ministry, there are about 280 temporary storage sites in areas designated as evacuation zones. Those storage sites — which are leased to the ministry by local farmers — accommodate over 7 million black plastic bags containing radioactive soil, grass and branches. Those flexible container bags — each capable of containing 1 cubic meter of soil and other waste — are commonly known as “flecon baggu” in Japanese.

Under the ministry plan, interim storage facilities will be built in areas totaling some 1,600 hectares in the so-called “difficult-to-return” zones in the prefectural towns of Futaba and Okuma around the Fukushima No. 1 plant. Under the scheme, radioactive soil temporarily stored at different locations in Fukushima Prefecture will be transported there for longer storage periods spanning up to 30 years before it is put to final disposal outside the prefecture.

While the ministry had initially sought to begin construction of interim storage facilities in July 2014, delays in negotiations with local residents and efforts to acquire land lots made it impossible to meet the schedule. The ministry aims to finish acquiring up to 70 percent of land necessary for the construction of interim storage facilities by the end of fiscal 2020, but the land it had managed to acquire by the end of October this year stood at a mere 170 hectares, or only 10 percent of the planned area.

The Environment Ministry estimates that up to 22 million cubic meters of contaminated soil and other waste will be generated across Fukushima Prefecture, but the interim storage facilities are expected to be able to accommodate no more than 12.5 million cubic meters of such waste by the end of fiscal 2020.

The Fukushima Prefecture village of Katsurao, where evacuation orders were lifted in most areas in June, has been pushing restoration of farming as a key policy measure. However, the total size of rice paddies in the village has dropped from some 130 hectares operated by roughly 270 households in 2010 — prior to the Fukushima meltdowns — to around 6 hectares operated by 11 households this year. Nearly 30 percent of the village’s rice paddies totaling some 220 hectares now serve as temporary storage sites for radioactive soil and other waste.

Hisayoshi Shiraiwa, a 70-year-old farmer in Katsurao, harvested rice in his paddy in October, which is adjacent to another paddy that serves as a temporary storage site for piles of black plastic bags containing radioactive soil. As the price of rice from the area hasn’t recovered to pre-disaster levels, local farmers are worried about prolonged reputational damage.

“As long as temporary storage sites remain here, farmers will lose their motivation and face a shortage of successors,” Shiraiwa said.

nov 20 2016.jpg

November 21, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , | Leave a comment