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Japanese Citizens Reject Government Plan to Use Soil Contaminated by Fukushima

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

Blowback Over Japanese Plan to Reuse Tainted Soil From Fukushima

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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

Tests to start on radioactive soil for use in reconstruction

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Bags of radioactive soil in a temporary storage site in Iitate, Fukushima Prefecture, will eventually be transported to an interim storage facility.

MINAMI-SOMA, Fukushima Prefecture–The Environment Ministry is exploring the idea of reusing tons of radioactive soil as gravel to rebuild infrastructure in this disaster-stricken prefecture and beyond.

To gauge the feasibility of the project, it will conduct tests on whether contaminated soil can be securely contained without spillage while controlling the level of radioactivity.

The experiment is being conducted in a corner of a temporary storage site in the Odaka district here, just north of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power plant.

If the tests go off without a hitch, the government is looking at reusing the soil as a construction material in recovery efforts.

Bags of soil gathered through decontamination efforts are kept at temporary storage sites around the Fukushima plant, which went into triple meltdown in the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster.

The first phase of the experiment involves 1,000 or so bags of contaminated soil that have to be sorted according to levels of concentration of radioactive cesium.

Radioactive soil with readings of about 2,000 becquerels per kilogram will be used for mock-up construction of seawalls and other structures. The soil will then be covered by fresh soil that is not contaminated.

The test will also explore practical safety management issues, including ways to prevent scattering of contaminated soil and keeping track of measurements of radioactivity of structures once they are completed.

Project workers began opening bags and sorting soil on April 24.

The volume of contaminated soil collected within Fukushima Prefecture amounted to a whopping 16 million cubic meters as of the end of January.

It will be kept at an interim storage facility that has been constructed within the jurisdiction of the towns of Futaba and Okuma in Fukushima Prefecture. Within the next 30 years, the soil is supposed to be transported outside the prefecture for final disposal.

The Environment Ministry said it hopes the tests will show that the plan to reuse radioactive soil in construction is safe. Projects under consideration include building foundations for seawalls and roads. The overall aim is to reduce the amount of soil that will need to be processed for final disposal.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201704250038.html

April 25, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | 3 Comments

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.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170206/p2a/00m/0na/009000c

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