The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry Fukushima Chernobyl Mayak Three Mile Island Atomic Testing Radiation Isotope

Fukushima’s forestry industry still haunted by nuclear meltdown

Yoshihisa Kanagawa, a senior member of the Higashishirakawa forestry cooperative in Fukushima Prefecture, visits a forest in the area.

Feb 21, 2022

Almost 11 years since the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant meltdown, the forestry industry in Fukushima Prefecture is still suffering serious difficulties, with mountains and forests once contaminated by radioactive fallout left untouched.

In addition to declining demand for lumber, lingering worries over the effect of the radiation from the plant hit by the March 2011 quake and tsunami have seen the local forestry industry face acute labor shortages.

Yoshihisa Kanagawa, 65, of the forestry cooperative in the county of Higashishirakawa, still remembers a comment made by a local resident a few years ago.

“Don’t drop anything with radiation,” the resident told him, pointing to bark that had fallen to the ground from a truck loaded with logs Kanagawa was transporting from nearby mountains.

Kanagawa said he felt the deep-rooted mistrust among residents about the effect of the nuclear disaster. “(I was shocked to know) some people were still thinking that way,” he recalled.

Airborne radiation levels in the prefecture’s forests rose immediately after the nuclear disaster at the Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. plant but have declined over time. The average radiation level at 362 sites in the prefecture was 0.18 microsieverts per hour in the year beginning April 2020, down by 80% from the level in the year through March 2012, according to a prefectural survey.

Under the prefecture’s standards, trees can be felled and transported from a forest if the radiation level in the air at the felling site is at 0.50 microsieverts or less per hour.

The bark that fell from Kanagawa’s truck was from logs in forests with radiation levels within prefectural limits.

There was a time when reducing the exposure of forestry workers to radiation was cited as an issue in the local forestry industry.

“Although few people talk about it, some people are (still) concerned about (any potential health effect of) the radiation,” he said. “It would be a shame if this has had something to do with the drop in forestry workers.”

Manahata Ringyo, a forestry firm based in the town of Hanawa, mainly deals with state-owned forests in the area. The town was the biggest lumber producer in the prefecture in 2018.

While more than 90% of the company’s sales are to businesses in the prefecture, the company attaches the results of radiation tests on waste from the logs when dealing with customers outside of the prefecture, as such tests are requested by some of them.

The practice continues even now, after almost 11 years.

The reasons behind the labor shortage in the forestry industry are said to be the hard nature of the work and a decline in demand for lumber.

Masato Kikuchi, 61, president of Manahata Ringyo, believes that the nuclear accident may have exacerbated the situation. “I want (the central government) to do more to secure human resources for the forestry industry in Fukushima Prefecture,” he said.

The number of people newly employed in the forestry industry in the prefecture has decreased by two-thirds in the 10 years since the Fukushima No. 1 disaster. The number of new workers was 242 in 2010, but it began to decline in 2011 and dropped to 78 in 2020, or only 32.2% of the number a decade earlier.

Alarmed by the situation, the prefecture will open a new training facility inside the prefecture’s Forestry Research Center in Koriyama in April to train people in field work and forest management.

The training facility, Forestry Academy Fukushima, will offer a long-term training course of one year for high school graduates who wish to work in the forestry industry and short-term training for municipal employees and forestry workers.

In the one-year program, trainees will cover forestry-related knowledge and skills, as well as acquire practical skills at a training field in a mountain forest. The facility will be equipped with a simulation room for forestry machines, in addition to classrooms and a building for practical training.

Fifteen applicants who have been accepted into the program will begin their one-year training in April.

At the end of the training period, the prefecture will encourage the trainees to find employment at forestry cooperatives and other forestry-related businesses in Fukushima.

“We will try to develop human resources who will be engaged in the forestry industry over the long term,” an official from the forestry promotion division of the prefecture said.

February 23, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , | Leave a comment

Forests affected by Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident

November 22, 2020

Forestry was once a thriving industry in Fukushima – until the 2011 nuclear disaster struck. More than 70 percent of the prefecture is covered with trees, but large areas have been abandoned or neglected.

“It’s regrettable. I didn’t even imagine things were so bad,” says forester Akimoto Kimio, who visited a plantation in Tomioka, about 10 kilometers away from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Ever since an earthquake and tsunami triggered a triple meltdown at the facility, the forest has been abandoned. Some of its most prized pine trees, more than 50 years old, have died.

Akimoto, 72, heads a local forestry cooperative that was relocated elsewhere in the prefecture following the nuclear accident. But after nine years and eight months, it returned to Tomioka on November 4.

Akimoto Kimio, the head of the Futaba district forestry cooperative.

The forestry cooperative ships timber and manages maintenance, such as thinning out trees. Akimoto oversees about 2,000 hectares, 60 percent of which is in areas subject to an evacuation order due to high radiation levels.

His cooperative used to have 20 workers. At one point, the number dwindled to just two. Akimoto has worked hard to keep it afloat, negotiating with the central government and plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company on decontamination work and compensation. He believes forest preservation will one day help to ensure evacuated residents can return.

Unattended areas of woodland can pose various risks, including fires. A contaminated forest would be particularly hazardous in the event of a landslide, because the mud flow is likely to contain radioactive substances.

n 2017, a forest fire near Tomioka burned down trees on a 75-hectare-plot. It took 11 days to extinguish.

“Our mission is to take good care of our hometown forests and enhance the surrounding environment,” says Akimoto on the day his cooperative returned to Tomioka.

“We will help lay the groundwork to ensure residents can return worry-free. We hope many will come home.”

November 22, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

Forestry Agency to log and ship Fukushima trees in trial starting this fall

n-logging-a-20170517-870x522.jpgAn aerial photo taken in August 2015 shows a forest area near the Fukushima No. 1 power plant.

The Forestry Agency said Monday that it will resume felling and shipping trees in Fukushima Prefecture this fall on a trial basis.

Following the triple meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March 2011, logging was suspended in 12 municipalities in the prefecture.

But radiation levels appear to have declined enough to resume logging in some areas, the agency said.

For fiscal 2017, the agency plans to cut and ship trees in national forests in the town of Hirono and the village of Kawauchi.

The agency, which will pick contractors for the work later, said a local company has already expressed an interest.

Logged trees will be shipped after radiation checks. In the current fiscal year ending next March, the agency will also thin forests in the village of Katsurao and remove surplus trees in the town of Naraha, although they will not be shipped.

Forests in areas for which evacuation orders were issued following the nuclear meltdowns have become excessively overgrown as they have not been touched for six years. Work to thin forests is necessary as underbrush needed to maintain soil does not grow due to sunlight being blocked.

In order to prevent wood with contamination levels higher than national standards from going on sale, the agency intends to ship only trees logged in forests with radiation levels below 0.5 microsievert per hour.

Tepco plans to build a new incinerator to dispose of radioactive logs that have piled up in the premises, company officials said.

The logs amassed to about 78,000 cubic meters after the company felled trees to clear land in order to build containment tanks for contaminated water. Construction materials such as mortar was used to cover the soil to isolate radioactive materials.

The new incinerator is slated to begin burning logs in fiscal 2020 through March 2021 and the ashes will be moved to storage warehouses by fiscal 2026, according to the company.

The nuclear plant has an incinerator to burn protective gear worn by workers but the fast-growing pile of logs prompted the company to seek a new facility, which would be able to burn 95 tons of waste per day, they said.

Tepco plans to build four new warehouses to store debris and waste from the decommissioning of the nuclear plant in addition to the eight already in place, officials said.

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