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Ministry to delay trial on reusing Fukushima soil in Kanto areas

Residents in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward on Dec. 21 protest the Environment Ministry’s plan to reuse soil from Fukushima Prefecture at a site in Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden.

March 2, 2023

Local opposition has forced the Environment Ministry to delay the start of a trial on reusing soil that had been contaminated with radioactive fallout from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, sources said.

The ministry wanted to begin the trial within this fiscal year, which ends at the end of this month.

Under the plan, soil collected in Fukushima Prefecture during decontamination work following the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant would be distributed to three sites in the Kanto region.

The government’s policy is to reuse the soil if its radioactivity level clears the safety threshold of 8,000 becquerels per kilogram to reduce the mountains of soil that will undergo final disposal.

As of the end of January, around 13.41 million cubic meters of soil had been transported to interim storage facilities in the towns of Okuma and Futaba in Fukushima Prefecture after decontamination work.

A law dictates that the soil must undergo final disposal outside Fukushima Prefecture by 2045.

Sites for the final disposal have not been decided.

The ministry decided to conduct the trial of reusing such soil on the premises of ministry-related facilities in Tokyo, Saitama Prefecture and Ibaraki Prefecture.

However, local residents expressed strong opposition to the plan at the ministry’s explanatory meetings in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward and Saitama Prefecture’s Tokorozawa in December.

In Tokorozawa, a neighborhood association consisting of residents living near the site of the trial adopted a resolution to oppose the plan.

The Tokorozawa mayor has also shown reluctance to accept the plan.

Asked if the ministry would go ahead with the trial despite the local opposition, an official at the ministry’s environmental restoration and resources circulation bureau said: “We will continue explaining the project by, for example, answering questions from local residents.

“We don’t plan to go through a process to gain an agreement with local residents about the project, so the ministry will make the final decision.”

Sources said the ministry has already decided to postpone the trial. It will continue holding explanatory meetings for residents in the three areas.


March 5, 2023 Posted by | Fuk 2023 | , , | Leave a comment

Trials to reuse decontaminated soil around Tokyo postponed

Feb. 24, 2023

Japan’s government is postponing trials in the Tokyo area to reuse soil that was decontaminated following the 2011 nuclear accident due to complaints from residents. They would have been the first of their kind outside Fukushima Prefecture.

The trials were set to start by the end of March in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward and Tokorozawa City in neighboring Saitama Prefecture.

But Environment Ministry officials say residents complained and raised concerns at briefing sessions in December.

They say some people questioned why their neighborhood was chosen, and that others complained about a lack of information.

The mayor of Tokorozawa has also been hesitant, as the majority of a local community group opposes the plan.

Ministry officials say they will consider when to start the trials after providing thorough explanations to the residents.

Soil exposed to radioactive fallout from the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has been cleansed and stored.

The government plans to reuse it for public works projects, as long as the concentration of radioactive substances meets certain safety standards.

February 26, 2023 Posted by | Fuk 2023 | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tokyo, Saitama residents say ‘no’ to living near Fukushima soil

The flower bed in Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden where decontaminated soil from Fukushima Prefecture will be reused

February 25, 2023

Residents of Tokyo and Saitama are up in arms at an Environment Ministry plan to reuse decontaminated soil from Fukushima Prefecture in their midst, including a major park in the capital’s Shinjuku district. 

They formally submitted requests on Feb. 24 asking to suspend the plan to distribute the soil that was formerly contaminated from radioactive fallout due to the 2011 triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The plan, announced in December, is aimed at reducing the volume that would go to the final storage site. 

One potential test site is Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden in the heart of Tokyo.

At a meeting on Feb. 24 between about 50 local residents and Environment Ministry officials, a request was submitted asking to cancel the plan as well as holding explanatory meetings about the project.

After the meeting, one of the residents, Kunikazu Hirai, 70, said, “We are angry at the danger of having soil that was once contaminated with radiation brought right next door to us.”

According to Environment Ministry officials, there were about 1.2 million visitors to Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden in fiscal 2021, although annual visitors numbered about 2 million prior to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The two other candidate test sites are the National Institute for Environmental Studies in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, and the National Environmental Research and Training Institute in Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture.

All three sites are managed by the Environment Ministry and officials believe that consent of local residents is not needed to proceed with their plan.

However, Saitama residents not only attended the Feb. 24 meeting with Environment Ministry officials but also submitted their own request to stop the project.

The unpopularity of the plan is understandable. A proposal to reuse soil in two municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture went nowhere after local residents raised strong opposition.

Only soil decontaminated to levels below 8,000 becquerels per kilogram will be used in the trial runs.

The plan for Tokyo calls for reusing the soil in a flower bed in an area of Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden that would be off-limits to the public. The flower bed would be 10 meters by 3 meters with a hole dug 1 meter deep.

A plastic sheet will be placed in the hole before about six cubic meters of decontaminated soil covers it. A 50-centimeter layer of soil will be placed on top of the decontaminated soil.

The water collected in the sheet will be moved to an adjacent tank and measured for radiation levels. If the levels are under government standards, the water would be released into the sewage system.

The Environment Ministry held an explanatory meeting on Dec. 21, but only 28 people showed up, in large part, because notification of the scheduled meeting was given at the last minute.

Shinjuku Mayor Kenichi Yoshizumi said while the project was completely in the hands of the central government, he expressed dissatisfaction at the explanation and documents presented by the Environment Ministry, which he called “difficult to understand.”

Tokorozawa residents raised objections at an explanatory meeting held in their community in January, and Mayor Masato Fujimoto said it would be difficult for the project to proceed if residents were opposed.

Kenichi Oshima, a professor of environmental economics at Ryukoku University in Kyoto, said the ministry likely wanted to conduct the trial in Tokyo to attract more attention and gain understanding.

But he added, “What has to be paid attention to is not to create a dispute between various regions by having the central government pressuring localities with comments such as, ‘Are you saying you will not cooperate to help Fukushima Prefecture?’”

February 26, 2023 Posted by | Fuk 2023 | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Decontaminated Soil Planned for Shinjuku Gyoen, Japan “Aware of Safety” Opposition in Various Locations

Image of flower beds using decontaminated soil

February 25, 2023
On February 24, some residents of Shinjuku Gyoen (Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo), one of the candidate sites for a demonstration project by the Ministry of the Environment to reuse decontaminated soil from the decontamination process following the accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, submitted a request to the ministry to stop the project. The Ministry said, “We want as many people as possible to know the safety of the project. The gap between the two parties has not been closed.

 A citizens’ group consisting of local residents handed a letter to ministry officials at the House of Councilors building (Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo), demanding the suspension of the project, a detailed explanation of the project, and the holding of a public meeting to explain the project. About 50 people attended the meeting.

 According to the ministry, the number of visitors to Shinjuku Gyoen was approximately 1.2 million in FY2021, and before the Corona disaster, the number had remained at approximately 2 million.

 After the offer was made, Shintaro Fujii, Assistant Counselor in charge of the Ministry’s Environmental Restoration Project Office, told the press, “We will answer questions and opinions politely and consider holding additional explanatory meetings in consultation with Shinjuku City.

 Kunikazu Hirai, 70, one of the sponsors of the citizens’ group, told the press, “We are angry about the danger of radioactive soil coming to our neighborhood. The group was joined by a group that is working against the project in Tokorozawa City, Saitama Prefecture, another candidate site for the project.

 Last December, the ministry announced that it was considering starting the project at three facilities under its control, including Shinjuku, Tokorozawa, and Tsukuba City in Ibaraki Prefecture. At Shinjuku Gyoen, where public access is restricted, the ministry plans to reuse decontaminated soil with a radioactivity level of less than 8,000 becquerels per kilogram to create flower beds. The start date has not yet been determined.

February 26, 2023 Posted by | Fuk 2023 | , , , | Leave a comment

High bidding rates for decontamination, etc., with many one-party bidders, the Board of Audit pointed out

An investigation by the Board of Audit has revealed that about half of the decontamination and other bidding projects being conducted by the Ministry of the Environment in the wake of the accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station had only one bidder participating, and that the success rate tended to be high. The Board of Audit announced the findings on February 3, 2023.

A decontamination site in Naraha Machi, Fukushima Prefecture, which was opened to the press by the Ministry of the Environment in March 2013. In the foreground is a contaminated water treatment facility, and in the background is a temporary storage area for contaminated soil and other materials packed in sandbags

February 14, 2023
The Ministry of the Environment is in charge of nuclear power plant accident countermeasure projects, such as decontamination, treatment of contaminated waste, and construction of interim storage facilities for soil collected during decontamination, as part of the restoration and reconstruction projects following the Great East Japan Earthquake that occurred in March 2011. The total amount of the government budget for these projects amounted to 5.16 trillion yen through FY 2009.

 Article 44 of the Special Measures Law stipulates that TEPCO will ultimately bear the costs of nuclear accident countermeasure projects as compensation, with some exceptions. According to the Ministry of the Environment, TEPCO has already compensated 3.1699 trillion yen, about 80% of the 4.209 trillion yen claimed as of the end of December 2010. Although government funds are not the final source of funds, they are subject to inspection by the Board of Inquiry.

 At the request of the upper house of the Diet, the inspection office investigated the bids and contract amounts at the time of the order, mainly for nuclear power plant accident countermeasure projects with initial contract amounts totaling 1.854 trillion yen that were ordered by the Ministry of the Environment between April 2004 and September 2009. The decontamination projects, which are divided into those directly under the Ministry of the Environment and those ordered by local governments, mainly covered the former.

The bidding rate for the first project increased by more than 10 percentage points.

 Among the projects covered by the survey, the National Audit Office examined the participation and success rates for 735 general competitive bids for construction and operations by the Ministry of the Environment’s Fukushima Regional Environment Office.

 In terms of bidding participation, 49.3% of the bids were “one-party bids,” with only one participant; the percentage of one-party bids was particularly high for bids for construction consultant services, at 62.1%. The percentage was relatively low at 29.5% for construction bids involving decontamination work.

 The Ministry of the Environment (MOE) was urged to ensure competition in order to reduce the bidding ratio, given the difference of more than 10 percentage points between single and multiple bids: 94.6% for single bids and 81.3% for multiple bids.

The difference in the winning bid rate was relatively small for construction work, at 97.5% for single bidders versus 91.9% for multiple bidders. On the other hand, for construction consultant services, the winning bid rate jumped from 78% for multiple bidders to 94.4% for one bidder.

February 19, 2023 Posted by | Fuk 2023 | , | Leave a comment

Fukushima: Director Makoto Shinkai of “Suzume no Togome”: “If I don’t depict the scenery of Futaba-gun, I will be telling a lie”

C)2022 “Suzume no Togome

The protagonists stop their car at a coastal area in the prefecture along Route 6 and get off at a hill overlooking the beautiful sea. As they look around, they see a village with overgrown grass. Director Makoto Shinkai (49)’s latest animated film, “Suzume no Togome” (The Sparrow’s Doorstep),” depicts the Great East Japan Earthquake as one of its themes, as well as Fukushima Prefecture and other affected areas. In an exclusive online interview with Fukushima Minpo, Shinkai said, “I felt that if I did not depict the scenery of Futaba County, I would be telling a lie with ‘Suzume no Togomei’ (Suzume’s Door Closed).


 The film features Suzume, a 17-year-old high school student living in Kyushu. The film is an adventure story in which Suzume and her friends are trying to close the “door” that leads to disaster in abandoned buildings in various parts of the country where people no longer live.

 Suzume and his friends drive down National Route 6, passing by a sign that reads “Difficult-to-return zone. While the road has been cleaned up, the houses on both sides of the road remain abandoned. The view from the top of the hill where they arrived at the site shows buildings reminiscent of TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

 Two summers ago, Shinkai visited the area and experienced firsthand the current situation in the hard-to-return zone. It is meaningful to indirectly convey to the audience that this kind of scenery exists in Japan,” he said. He was determined not to let the disaster fade away.

 There are many scenes that faithfully reproduce the scenery of various parts of Japan. However, in depicting Fukushima Prefecture, the shapes and layouts of the houses were fictitious while maintaining the atmosphere of the area. There are many people who want to return. I couldn’t just paint someone’s house without their permission.”


 In Shinkai’s works, background art plays an important role in the story. Many viewers are drawn to the sparkling sea and colorful grasslands. Memories of people who once spent their lives in abandoned schools and hot spring resorts float in the air. The film is a directing collaboration between Shinkai and the director of the hit film “Kimi no na wa. The art director of this film, Takumi Tanji, who has been working with Shinkai for about 20 years, including on the hit film “Kimi no na wa. He is like a ‘Superman’ to me,” he says.

 Tanji is responsible for setting up fictional locations such as hot spring resorts and amusement parks based on real landscapes. Even if I ask him to do something a little difficult, he smiles and says, “Well, we’ll figure it out. He has the full confidence of all the staff, including myself, that we can leave everything in his capable hands.


 Twelve years will soon pass since the disaster. An increasing number of people of that generation do not know what it was like at the time of the disaster. He analyzes that more than one-third of the audience is younger than the disaster victims and says, “If I could create an opportunity for people to learn about the disaster, I would like to think that it was only possible because it was an animation.

 About three months have passed since the release of the film. He has given stage greetings throughout Japan and visited Fukushima Prefecture on January 28. He received many letters through the theaters and was encouraged by the warm response, smiling and saying, “I felt that it was good that this film exists.

 There has been criticism of the depiction of the disaster in entertainment films, and he accepts that “there can never be a film that everyone agrees with, and I can’t easily say that it was a success. Still, he also believes that if films only avoid depicting the painful parts of the disaster, they will not move people’s hearts.

 I hope that animated films can play a role in society, and not just be interesting,” he said. He believes in the power of film and intends to continue to face this challenge.

February 13, 2023 Posted by | Fuk 2023 | , , | Leave a comment

Lack of competition in biddings for Fukushima decontamination,auditors say

Feb. 3, 2023

Japan’s Board of Audit has found that nearly half of the tenders related to reconstruction work related to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident had only one bidder.

The auditors on Friday submitted their report on government projects such as decontamination and waste disposal in the aftermath of the 2011 accident.

The Environment Ministry’s Fukushima office held 735 public tenders in the five and a half years until September 2021. Of these, 49.3 percent had one bidder.

The percentage is about 15 points higher than the average for public tenders held by the government.

The auditors also found that, on average, the prices offered by successful bidders were 94.6 percent of the prices set by the government.

This is more than 13 points higher than the average for tenders with two or more bidders.

The Board of Audit is calling on the government to ensure fair competition in public biddings.

Sophia University Professor Kusunoki Shigeki says the findings raise suspicion of a structural problem that allows only one bidder to take part.

He says that when a bidder is confident of winning, it usually sets a high price.

February 13, 2023 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Residents of Namie-cho voiced their concerns at a briefing session

Residents (foreground, left) speak out against Namie Town and the national government’s decision to lift the restrictions on the lifting of the restrictions, questioning the resumption of their farming operations.

January 31, 2023

On March 30, Namie Town, Fukushima Prefecture, held explanatory meetings for local residents in Fukushima and Sendai cities in preparation for the lifting of the evacuation order for the specific reconstruction and revitalization center (reconstruction base) located in the difficult-to-return zone. In response to the government’s claim that the requirements for lifting the evacuation order have been met, participants raised questions about the continued high radiation levels and the resumption of farming operations.

 According to Namie Town’s plan for reconstruction centers, decontamination and infrastructure development will be completed in March of this year. Therefore, the evacuation order for the base is expected to be lifted by the end of March.

 The lifting of the evacuation order requires three conditions: (1) a decrease in radiation levels, (2) decontamination and infrastructure improvement, and (3) sufficient consultation with local residents. Briefing sessions for residents were held at seven locations until February 5, and consultations have only just begun, but on February 30, the government decided that “the requirements for lifting the evacuation have been met as a result of a comprehensive assessment of the efforts made to restore the area.

 Mayor Eiki Yoshida said, “There are 80% of the town’s land outside of the base, which is called ‘white land. We will strive for the lifting of the restrictions on the outside areas while keeping a close eye on the lifting of the restrictions at the end of March.

 There are 302 households and 818 residents who can live in the recovery centers. As of March 25, there are 9 households and 18 people who have applied for accommodation in preparation for the lifting of the restrictions. The number of demolitions of houses and other structures has reached 310, and many people are worried that they do not have a home to return to, even if they want to stay in preparation or return home.

 Akio Kanno, 71, who evacuated to Hyogo Prefecture and attended the Sendai meeting, said, “It is not reconstruction if there are almost no residents returning and no buildings. What are we going to do with the original community?

 At a briefing in Fukushima City, many participants expressed concern about radiation exposure.

 The government and the town explained that the radiation dose was below the evacuation standard of 20 millisieverts per year and that the results of demonstration cultivation showed that six crops, including spinach, komatsuna, and cabbage, were below safe standards.

 However, Motoharu Shiga, 75, the head of a ward in the Suemori area, one of the reconstruction sites, and an evacuee to Fukushima City, said, “Root vegetables that were not subject to the demonstration cultivation are still highly radioactive. After returning home, we will not be able to eat only foods that are below the standard,” he pointed out. (Editorial board member Noriyoshi Otsuki)

February 4, 2023 Posted by | Fuk 2023 | , , , | Leave a comment

De retour à Fukushima, un voyage à travers la zone d’exclusion nucléaire

February 3, 2023 Posted by | Fuk 2023 | , , | Leave a comment

Recycling decontaminated soil from the nuclear power plant accident is “no one’s business” Residents of Shinjuku, which has an unexpected connection with TEPCO, have stood up to stand up for the issue

Gen Hirai (second from right) and others protest the demonstration project to reuse decontaminated soil in Kabukicho, Tokyo, on December 12.

January 13, 2023
One month has passed since the announcement of a demonstration project to reuse so-called “decontaminated soil” collected during decontamination work after the accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in the Tokyo metropolitan area. People who live near Shinjuku Gyoen (Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo), one of the planned sites, have joined forces and established a group to oppose the reuse of the soil. Shinjuku has an unexpected connection with TEPCO. What do the locals think? Can other areas be left to their own devices? We took another look at the situation. (Takeshi Nakayama and Yoshiko Nakazawa)

◆No attempt has been made to reach a consensus among the residents.
 The local people are trying to push the project forward without the knowledge of many of them,” said one angry writer.
 Gen Hirai, 70, a writer, is angry. Gen Hirai, 70, is the chairman of the “Association Opposing the Introduction of Radioactively Contaminated Soil into Shinjuku Gyoen,” which lodged a complaint with the Shinjuku City government on March 12, claiming that there had been insufficient explanation of the demonstration project.
 On September 9, the Ministry of the Environment announced a demonstration project using Shinjuku Gyoen as a candidate site. The project will use the flower beds behind the office building, which are normally closed to the general public, and plant them by covering them with decontaminated soil.
 On the 21st, an explanatory meeting was held for residents of Shinjuku 1 and 2 chome facing the Gyoen. However, only 28 people attended the meeting, and Ms. Hirai, who lives in 1-chome, was unaware of it until she learned about it through the media.
 It cannot be said that we are trying to build consensus among the residents of the city,” said Hirai. Mr. Hirai felt a growing sense of crisis and held a study session on the issue of decontaminated soil on the 28th. On the 7th of this month, he established a group to oppose the project with other ward residents.
◆University professors, lawyers, theater performers, and restaurant owners in the Golden district

Gen Hirai speaks about his proposal for a demonstration project to reuse decontaminated soil at the Shinjuku City Office in Kabukicho, Tokyo, on December 12.

During his visit to the Shinjuku City Office on January 12, Gen Hirai submitted a written request to the city officials to inform the residents of the demonstration project and to stop bringing decontaminated soil into the city unless its safety is guaranteed.
 The 20 people who accompanied him were a diverse group, including not only local residents but also university professors, lawyers, theater people, and restaurant owners from the Golden Gaien district near the Gyoen. The participants questioned whether the law had been properly established for the reuse of decontaminated soil, and whether this would lead to the spread of contamination rather than alleviate the burden on Fukushima.
 Although Shinjuku has a strong impression of an entertainment district such as Kabukicho, there are many condominiums in the Shinjuku Gyoen area, and some people have lived in the area for three generations. Mr. Hirai used to play in Shinjuku Gyoen when he was in elementary school, and even now he takes a walk there once every three days. Many kindergarteners also visit the park, and there is a promenade where many people come and go. Why are they trying to conduct a demonstration project in such a park?
◆Shinjuku Metropolitan High School, which has produced successive generations of TEPCO executives
 Shinjuku is also characterized by its close ties to TEPCO.
 Graduates of Shinjuku Metropolitan High School, located near the Gyoen Garden, have produced successive generations of TEPCO executives. According to the “Choyo Alumni Association,” a group of graduates, Tsunehisa Katsumata, who was chairman at the time of the Fukushima nuclear accident, and Naomi Hirose, who served as president after the accident, are among the names on the list. In addition, the TEPCO Hospital was located in Shinanomachi near the Gyoen until February 2014. I would like to ask Katsumata and others what they think about bringing (decontaminated soil) so close to their alma mater,” he said.
 What stands out above all else is the Ministry of the Environment’s forward-looking attitude. This can be seen in a video shown at the briefing in Shinjuku, titled “Fukushima and the Environment Beyond. The video, “Fukushima and Beyond: Toward the Environment,” which was shown at the briefing in Shinjuku, also gives some indication.
 The decontaminated soil is described as “an issue that remains in the land of Fukushima, which continues to recover. The video shows images of temporary storage sites in Fukushima Prefecture lined with flexible container bags filled with decontaminated soil, and asks the question, “Is this really a problem only in Fukushima? Is this really only a problem in Fukushima?
 It seems as if he is trying to say that a demonstration project is needed to accept decontaminated soil outside of Fukushima Prefecture, but it is not clear that he is seriously trying to answer the questions of the local residents. The call center, which was listed in the briefing materials, is open only on weekdays, but the staff is curt: “We will use the ‘opinions’ we receive as reference in our future studies.

A park with a signboard showing underground storage of decontaminated soil in Funabashi City, Chiba Prefecture, in December 2022.

◆”Shinjuku City also believes what the government says.
 Mr. Hirai said that the government seems to be leaving residents behind.
 He points out that the Shinjuku City government is also accepting the government’s position that the decontaminated soil is safe, even though it cannot be scientifically proven that it is safe. The opposition group will hold an inaugural meeting on March 24, and will continue to raise the issue widely.
 The demonstration project is currently announced for Shinjuku City and Tokorozawa City in Saitama Prefecture, and Tsukuba City in Ibaraki Prefecture is also being discussed, but the cleanup of decontaminated soil is not limited to these areas.
 According to the Ministry of the Environment, decontaminated soil from Fukushima Prefecture will be collected at an interim storage facility near the Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant and then transported out of the prefecture for final disposal by 2045. As of the end of last year, about 13.38 million cubic meters of decontaminated soil had been collected. The company advocates the reuse of the soil to reduce the amount for final disposal and to make it easier to transport the soil out of the prefecture.
◆Decontaminated soil is becoming more and more familiar to people…
 The problem is the radioactive concentration of the decontaminated soil to be reused.
 According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, for about 50 years before the nuclear accident, the average radioactive concentration of farmland in Japan was about 20 becquerels per kilogram. On the other hand, the Ministry of the Environment has set a recycling standard for decontaminated soil of 8,000 becquerels or less, about 400 times higher. This is 80 times lower than the recycling standard of 100 becquerels or less for materials from decommissioned nuclear power plants.
 Yayoi Isono, professor emeritus of environmental law at Tokyo Keizai University, commented, “Under these standards, a considerable amount of waste is reused. If soil with a low concentration of radioactive materials is mixed with the soil, it can be diluted to the standard level. If the amount of soil to be reused increases, the number of areas subject to reuse could also increase. If more soil is reused, the number of areas where it will be reused could increase.

Workers seal and bury soil contaminated with radioactive materials in Seya Ward, Yokohama, March 2012.

There are other troubling issues. As a result of the widespread release of radioactive materials from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, decontamination was widely implemented in the Tohoku and Tokyo metropolitan areas. Decontaminated soil is stored at a total of 29,000 locations in seven prefectures outside of Fukushima Prefecture, including Iwate, Ibaraki, Gunma, and Chiba. The Ministry of the Environment is urging measures such as sealing the soil in bags or containers, covering them with tarps to shield them from water, and covering them with fill.
 However, the measures to be taken after storage differ between Fukushima Prefecture and other prefectures. The basic policy approved by the Cabinet in November 2011 stipulates that the government is responsible for securing interim storage facilities in prefectures where “a significant amount” of contaminated soil and other materials are generated. Fukushima Prefecture falls under this category, while other prefectures are to dispose of contaminated soil onsite.
◆Ministry of the Environment embarking on a demonstration project based on the idea that there is reuse of soil
 However, municipalities outside of Fukushima Prefecture that have decontaminated soil are facing a complicated situation. Marumori Town in Miyagi Prefecture, which is storing decontaminated soil at 44 locations including schools, has approached the Ministry of the Environment, saying, “The government and TEPCO are responsible for transporting the soil out of the town for disposal.
 An official from the town’s general affairs division said, “Some people in the town say, ‘It is not right that the people who dumped the waste did not clean it up, and that the people in the area where the waste was dumped are responsible for disposing of it. The government has not agreed to remove the waste from the town, but we are asking the government to do so, even if it means amending the law,” he said.
 The cleanup of decontaminated soil cannot be a personal matter. However, the grounds for the cleanup methods are not clear, and in some cases, the methods are not clear.
 Reuse of decontaminated soil within Fukushima Prefecture and on-site disposal of decontaminated soil outside of Fukushima Prefecture are merely policies approved by the Cabinet of the time. The question remains as to whether consensus building is sufficient. As for the final disposal of decontaminated soil in Fukushima Prefecture, the ministry official said, “We are currently discussing this at an experts’ meeting.
 In spite of this situation, the Ministry of the Environment is embarking on a demonstration project with the idea that the soil can be reused.
 Journalist Junko Masano criticized the Ministry, saying, “There is little legal basis for reusing the soil, and the push to do so is ridiculous. If the land is actually to be reused for road construction and other purposes, it will be necessary to verify protective measures.
 The aforementioned Mr. Isono also commented, “The response to the Fukushima accident will be the foundation for the future. We should have careful discussions on whether we should reuse the waste in the first place and, if so, how we should proceed.
◆Desk Memo
 Radioactive contamination caused by TEPCO’s nuclear power plants. TEPCO is supposed to be in charge of cleaning up the mess, but it is now forcing each region to accept the contaminated soil. The company is now pressuring each region to accept the contaminated soil, as if it were a natural disaster, saying that it is not someone’s fault and that everyone should cooperate for the recovery. This is the premise that makes us feel uncomfortable. This is where the question should be asked again. (Sakaki)

January 20, 2023 Posted by | Fuk 2023 | , , , | Leave a comment

Decontamination work to start in more parts of Fukushima in FY 2023

Dec. 16, 2022

The Japanese government says decontamination work will start next fiscal year in more parts of Fukushima Prefecture that remain off limits following the March 2011 nuclear accident.

Authorities designated the areas as “difficult-to-return zones”, and evacuation orders remain in effect.

On Friday, Reconstruction Minister Akiba Kenya said the decontamination work includes parts of Okuma and Futaba towns.

A detailed schedule remains undecided, but the work will begin in the fiscal year starting next April.

The government plans to fund the work with 6 billion yen, or nearly 44 million dollars, from the state budget.

Some parts of the “difficult-to-return zones” have already been cleaned up so that people can return.

The ruling coalition has been urging the government to decontaminate more areas.

December 19, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , , | Leave a comment

Decontaminated soil taken out of Fukushima prefecture and reused for the first time outside of Fukushima, at a Ministry of the Environment facility

Storage of decontaminated soil at an interim storage facility in Okuma Town, Fukushima Prefecture, in June.

December 5, 2022
On December 5, it was learned that the Ministry of the Environment plans to conduct a demonstration test for reusing soil removed from decontamination sites in Fukushima Prefecture following the accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant at its Environmental Research and Training Center in Tokorozawa City, Saitama Prefecture. This is the first test in which decontaminated soil will be taken out of Fukushima Prefecture, and the question is whether the test will gain the understanding of local residents. A briefing session for local residents will be held on March 16.
 The Ministry of the Environment has not revealed the amount of decontaminated soil to be brought in or the timing of the test, saying, “The details of the test will be announced after the briefing.
 The law stipulates that decontaminated soil from Fukushima Prefecture must be removed from the prefecture by 45 years for final disposal.

December 11, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , | Leave a comment

Iitate will be 1st to lift evacuation order without decontamination

Akihiko Morota, deputy director-general of the government’s Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters, explains the status of the difficult-to-return zone to Iitate village residents at a briefing in Fukushima city on Nov. 20.

November 21, 2022

FUKUSHIMA–Iitate village near the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant plans to lift an evacuation order next spring for a small portion of the “difficult-to-return zone” so it can reclaim space for a park.

This marks the first time an evacuation order will be lifted without first carrying out decontamination work since the government made it easier to lift evacuation orders in 2020.

The order was originally issued due to high levels of radiation detected following the triple meltdown at the plant triggered by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Iitate Mayor Makoto Sugioka and the central government’s Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters made the announcement at a news conference following a briefing for residents in Fukushima city on Nov. 20.

Residents of Iitate in eastern Fukushima Prefecture had initially opposed lifting the evacuation order without first decontaminating the area, but the mayor said they were persuaded.

“We were able to obtain their consent at the briefing,” Sugioka said.

The area where the order will be lifted without any decontamination work is small. It spans just 0.64 hectares and includes only one household.

Workers will set up shields on the ground there to prevent exposure to radiation.

But the government has confirmed that even without the shielding, the radiation level is below the standard for issuing an evacuation order, at 20 millisieverts per year. The village plans to use this area as a park.

The government designated areas with readings of more than 50 millisieverts a year as difficult-to-return zones.

Iitate has a difficult-to-return zone measuring 1,080 hectares in total, according to the village and the central government.

Within this area, officials have designated a 186-hectare special zone for reconstruction and revitalization, which covers 63 households. That land will be decontaminated by removing topsoil contaminated with radioactive materials.

But there is no prospect for lifting the order for the remaining land outside the special zone, which covers 10 households.

In December 2020, the government created new criteria for lifting an evacuation order for land outside the special zone, where radiation levels are below the standard due to natural attenuation. Those conditions include a request from the local government and confirmation that no one will live there.

Among eight municipalities that have such special zones, this will be the first time that an evacuation order will be lifted outside the zone. No municipalities other than Iitate are seeking a lifting of the evacuation order under the new criteria.

November 27, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima Iitate Village Lifting of Evacuation Order for “Out of Base Area” First indication of timing

November 20, 2022

The national government and Iitate Village in Fukushima Prefecture have announced that they will lift the evacuation order for a part of the Nagadori area, which has been designated as a “difficult-to-return zone” due to the accident at the TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, around the major holidays in spring next year under the so-called “lifting of evacuation order without decontamination.

This is the first time that a specific date for lifting the evacuation order for areas outside of the “base area” has been announced.

In the Nagadori area of Iitate Village, which is a hard-to-return zone where entry is severely restricted, 17% of the area has been designated as a “specific restoration and rehabilitation base zone” where decontamination and other measures will be carried out first, with the aim of lifting the evacuation order in the spring of next year.

On April 20, the central government and Iitate Village held a press conference after holding a briefing session for local residents in Fukushima City to discuss the possibility of lifting the evacuation order in the spring of next year under the framework of “lifting the evacuation order without decontamination,” which allows the lifting of the evacuation order even if the government has not decontaminated the land, provided that the local government has strong intentions to use the land and the radiation level is lowered and the residents do not return. The government has announced that it plans to lift the evacuation order for a part of the area outside the “base area” around the major holidays in the spring of next year.

The area to be removed is a 6,400-square-meter plot of land where a government demonstration experiment to block radiation by pouring concrete on the ground was being conducted, and it represents 0.07% of the area outside the “base area” in the village.

Since it has been confirmed that radiation levels have been sufficiently reduced, the government will allow people to freely enter the area to see the results of this demonstration project.

This is the first time that a specific date for the lifting of the evacuation order for “outside the base area” has been announced.

In conjunction with this, the policy of lifting all evacuation orders for the base area in the village was also announced.

Iitate Village Mayor Makoto Sugioka said, “We would like to consider using the site as a place where we can confirm the effects of the radiation dose reduction demonstration project and a place where we can pass on to future generations what has been done in the difficult-to-return zone and Nagadori area.

November 27, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , , | Leave a comment

Radiation dose and gene expression analysis of wild boar 10 years after the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant accident


The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident led to contamination with radioactive cesium in an extensive environment in Japan in 2011. We evaluated the concentration of radioactive cesium in the skeletal muscles of 22 wild boars and the expression of IFN-γ, TLR3, and CyclinG1 in the small intestine and compared them with those of wild boar samples collected from Hyogo prefecture. The average 137Cs radioactivity concentration in wild boars in the ex-evacuation zone was 470 Bq/kg. Most of samples still showed radioactivity concentration that exceeded the regulatory limit for foods, but the dose remarkably decreased compared with samples just after the accident. IFN-γ expression was significantly higher in wild boars in the ex-evacuation zone than in samples from Hyogo prefecture. TLR3 expression was also upregulated. CyclinG1 expression also tended to be high. Hence, wild boars might have received some effects of low-dose radiation, and immune cells were activated to some extent. However, pathological examination revealed no inflammatory cell infiltration or pathological damage in the small intestine of wild boars in the ex-evacuation area. Long-term monitoring would be necessary, but we consider that the living body responds appropriately to a stimulus from a contaminated environment.


On March 11, 2011, the Great East Japan Earthquake was one of the most significant disasters caused by earthquakes and tsunamis. Moreover, the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant resulted in widespread contamination of radioactive materials. After the accident, more than 165,000 people were evacuated, but wild and livestock animals were left behind in the evacuation zone at that time. We had earlier investigated the effect of radiation on those animals, and the results were published in several research papers1,2,3,4,5,6 and a book chapter7. However, because the half-life of 137Cesium is approximately 30 years, a long-term environmental survey in the ex-evacuation area is necessary to understand the impact of chronic low-dose radiation on wildlife physiology.

Ten years have elapsed since the earthquake, much of the area where people lived has been decontaminated already, and humans are returning now. Although several people are evacuating, the remaining wild animals are free to live contaminated with radioactive materials. Recent research has revealed that numerous wildlife species are now abundant throughout the ex-evacuation zone8. Hunters in Fukushima have exterminated numerous wild animals, but they are not used for human consumption due to the contamination. Even after the Chernobyl accident, wildlife surveys have reported high radioactive contamination rates in wild boars even after several years9. In a previous research that examined 213 wild boar muscles in Tomioka town, Fukushima Prefecture, in 2019, it was observed that 98.6% of the samples had radioactivity concentration that exceeded the standard value (100 Bq/kg)10 as a general food. Therefore, the meats of those wild boars are not edible and are discarded. However, these wild boars are considered to be affected by low doses of radiation, and analyzing them is important considering the effects on humans.

The physiological functions and immune systems of pigs are extremely similar to those of humans11,12,13. Therefore, we intended to understand the responses in abandoned pigs to radioactive contamination, which can be helpful in understanding the radiation effects and responses in humans. Our previous report demonstrated that there were alterations in gene expression in the small intestine of animals in the ex-evacuation zone after radiation4. The genes involved in inflammation showed significantly higher expression in pigs in the ex-evacuation zone than in control pigs. Therefore, exposed pigs could have an inflammatory response due to oxidative stress with the indirect action of radiation. This is caused by breaking the O–H bonds of water molecules in the body and generating reactive oxygen species14,15. As superoxide and hydroxyl radicals of reactive oxygen species have unpaired electrons, they oxidize DNA, proteins, and lipids16,17,18. Consequently, the biomolecules would be damaged. However, the body has a mechanism to eliminate reactive oxygen species. Nevertheless, if numerous reactive oxygen species are generated by radiation, the elimination will be insufficient, leading to oxidative stress. Chronic inflammation due to oxidative stress is known to induce cancer, lifestyle-related diseases, and immune-related diseases. Therefore, we performed a follow-up investigation using wild boars, which are biologically the same species as pigs, in this study. Muscles and small intestines were collected from the wild boars that were exterminated by the Hunting Association. These samples were evaluated for the amount of radioactive cesium, and the changes in the expression of genes responsible for immunological or physiological functions were analyzed (Fig. 1).


Radioactivity concentration in skeletal muscles and total exposure dose rates of wild boars

Figure 2 shows relationship between the total exposure dose rates and the radioactivity concentration in the skeletal muscles of wild boars. The total exposure dose rates are summation of internal and external dose rates of whole body. Average 137Cs radioactivity concentration and total dose rates in 22 wild boars in the ex-evacuation zone were 470 Bq/kg and 7.2 µGy/d, respectively. The lowest and highest values were 124 and 1667 Bq/kg, respectively. And the medians were 289 Bq/kg and 6.8 µGy/d. In contrast, the average 137Cs radioactivity concentration and total dose rates of the three wild boars in Hyogo prefecture were 1.5 Bq/kg and 0.0 µGy. The lowest and highest values were 0.6 and 2.7 Bq/kg, respectively, and the median was 1.2 Bq/kg.

Gene expressions in the small intestine

In our previous study conducted in 2012, microarray analysis revealed that several genes in the small intestine exhibited significant expression differences after radiation in abandoned pigs. More detailed experiments using real-time PCR confirmed that IFN-γ and TLR3 expressions were significantly increased after radiation in abandoned pigs. Furthermore, our subsequent study of wild boars in the ex-evacuation zone in 2015 showed that CyclinG1 expression was significantly higher than that in the control group4. Therefore, we focused on the expression of IFN-γ, TLR3, and CyclinG1 in the present study as a follow-up survey. We found that IFN-γ and TLR3 expressions were significantly higher in Fukushima wild boars than in Hyogo wild boars. The expression of CyclinG1 also tended to be higher (Fig. 3).

Pathological and morphological changes in the small intestine

In the pathological analysis, tissues were fixed and cut for HE staining to examine whether intestinal tissues were damaged or showed inflammation because of radiation exposure. No morphological changes and infiltration of inflammatory cells were observed (Fig. 4).


Although 10 years have elapsed since the earthquake, the reconstruction of the disaster area is in progress. In Fukushima, there are still areas where it is difficult to return home. However, decontamination of urban regions and agricultural land is progressing, and residents are rebuilding their lives. Moreover, agricultural products are sold after being thoroughly inspected for radiation dose and confirmed to be safe. It is the increase in the number of wild animals that threatens the livelihoods of the returning people. From 2016 to 2017, Lyons et al.8 surveyed the ecology of wild animals using network cameras. They found that wildlife preferred the environment without humans and increased in number in the ex-evacuation zone, despite chronic radiation exposure. The wild boar was the most abundant species in the ex-evacuation zone. Even before the Fukushima Daiichi accident, wild boars were targeted for extermination, and the Hunting Association was hunting, but at that time, the meat was also edible in this area. However, it is now just discarded after hunting. The wild boars present in the mountains have not been decontaminated but eat contaminated food and water. Several studies on the Chernobyl accident demonstrated that the pollution of mushrooms in the mountain range continued for a long time19,20.

The intestine can be significantly affected by radiation through internal exposure after oral intake of contaminated food. It is also one of the essential organs of the immune system. Therefore, we evaluated whether the expression of genes responsible for the immune system and cell cycles in the small intestine of wild boars in the ex-evacuation area is altered compared to that in animals in the noncontaminated area.

Our results demonstrated that IFN-γ and TLR3 were significantly upregulated in Fukushima wild boars compared to those in Hyogo wild boars. Moreover, CyclinG1 expression tended to increase. As mentioned earlier, these genes were selected from the microarray analysis in our previous research4. IFN-γ is one of the crucial cytokines for acquired immunity and inflammation. Recently, Zha et al. described that IFN-γ is a master regulator for several cytokines involved in numerous biological processes21. It functions as a master switch to operate cell activation or inhibition. In comparison, the major portion of innate immune cell activation is mediated by TLRs. TLR3 is involved in dsRNA recognition and is associated with antiviral responses. Furthermore, TLR3 is an important molecule for radiation susceptibility. Takemura et al. reported that TLR3-deficient mice exhibited substantial resistance to gastrointestinal syndrome (GIS)22. TLR3 is bound to cellular RNA leaking from damaged cells and induces inflammation. CyclinG1 is one of the target genes of the transcription factor p53 and is induced in response to DNA damage. It also plays a role in G2/M arrest in response to DNA damage recovery and growth promotion after cell stress23. Therefore, the changes in the expressions of the genes encoding these proteins suggested that the immune system and cell cycles in wild boars in the ex-evacuation zone were affected by low-dose radiation. These results are consistent with our previous investigation conducted in 2012. A state of high IFN-γ expression suggests an activated state of immune cells. Despite the low-dose, radiation-induced oxidative stress may result in elevated expression of inflammatory cytokines. However, no correlation was observed between IFN-γ expression and radiation levels in the skeletal muscle of wild boars in this study (data not shown). This could be due to the lower doses of 137Cs observed in the present study rather than those in the previous investigation. Furthermore, pathological examination revealed no infiltration of immune cells in the submucosa of small intestines of wild boars in the ex-evacuation area.

Therefore, the elevated expression of these genes can be considered as a consequence of the living body’s ability to appropriately process the effects of low-dose radiation. The highest radiation concentration in the skeletal muscle was 1667 Bq/kg, which was much lower than that in abandoned pigs investigated in 2012, at > 15,000 Bq/kg on average. Cui et al. investigated 213 wild boars and reported a median 137Cs value of 420 Bq/kg in 201910. Most samples collected from the wild boars in the ex-evacuation zone still showed radioactivity concentration that exceeded the regulatory radiocesium limit for foods in the present study, but the dose is steadily decreasing. Cunningham et al. investigated DNA damage and concluded that there was no evidence of significant harmful impacts to wild boars exposed to low-dose radiation24.

Furthermore, Pederson et al. investigated whether chronic low-dose radiation affects cataract prevalence in wild boars but reported no significantly higher risk in the animals in the exclusion zone25. Finally, we also report the results of this study as a record of 10 years after the accident. Although an increase in the expression of IFN-γ, TLR3, and CyclinG1 was detected, there were no pathological abnormalities in wild boars in the ex-evacuation zone. However, it is difficult to conclude the effects of radiation only ten years after the accident. We intend to continue conducting wild boar surveys regularly to elucidate the effects of long-term low-dose radiation exposure.

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November 7, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , , | Leave a comment