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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

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

NRA’s radioactive soil concerns omitted from minutes of closed-door meeting

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Concerns raised by the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) on how radioactive soil from the Fukushima nuclear disaster would be reused were omitted from the minutes of closed-door meetings on the issue, the Mainichi Shimbun has learned.
It has already come to light that comments from the Ministry of the Environment that could be interpreted as attempting to manipulate the conclusions of the meetings were left out when the minutes were publicly released. The latest revelation means yet another important part of the minutes is missing.
The meetings were held by the Ministry of the Environment between January and May last year with various radiation experts in attendance. In June, the experts decided to manage and reuse contaminated soil with levels of radioactivity under 8,000 becquerels of cesium per kilogram in public construction projects.
Related legislation reads “When deciding on technical standards to prevent radiation-related health problems, the Radiation Council must be consulted.” The publicly released meeting minutes quote an Environment Ministry representative as saying, “We need to think about the consultations with the council. When we discussed the issue with the NRA, it placed importance on our management (of the reused soil).” The quote shows that the ministry had talked to the NRA, which has jurisdiction over the council, about consultations with the body.
However, a source has disclosed that even though the ministry representative mentioned specific concerns brought up by the NRA, saying, “The Nuclear Regulation Authority was most concerned about where the soil will be used, and whether it might be used in the yards of regular households,” this comment was omitted from the minutes.
Furthermore, in a rough draft of the minutes obtained by the Mainichi Shimbun, during the fourth round of Environment Ministry meetings in February last year, an official stated, “Afterwards we will ask all committee members to review the meeting minutes. After that, during next fiscal year, we are thinking of receiving your support in dealing with the Nuclear Regulation Authority.” However, these words were deleted from the publicly released minutes.
The ministry was unable to give a satisfactory explanation for the concerns raised by the NRA, and so there has been no consultation with the Radiation Council to set health standards. However, according to both the ministry and the NRA, they have discussed the issue of consultations with the committee and agree they are not yet necessary.
According to internal rules created by the authority in December 2013, the Radiation Council only needs to be consulted when setting standards by law or relevant regulations. The standards decided through the ministry meetings are only “basic ideas” before they are set by law or regulations.
The ministry plans to reuse contaminated soil on an experimental basis. An NRA representative commented, “Once the plans for the experiment are in place, we understand that they will discuss the issue with us again.”
Even the existence of the closed-door meetings was originally not announced, but after repeated requests for information disclosure, the ministry revealed the meeting minutes in August last year. While the release was called a “full release,” comments including ones that could be taken as attempting to manipulate the discussion toward a conclusion of using 8,000 becquerels per kilogram as an upper limit when reusing soil were deleted from the records. After this came to light, Environment Minister Koichi Yamamoto said the minutes were “meeting summaries that only included the points of what was said.”

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

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

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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.”

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170109/p2a/00m/0na/012000c

 

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

Reuse of radioactive soil could cut costs by 1.5 trillion yen: ministry estimate

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Behind the Environment Ministry’s controversial decision to allow reuse of highly radioactive soil emanating from the Fukushima nuclear disaster in public works projects was an estimate that the reuse could cut the costs of reducing radiation levels of such soil by over 1.5 trillion yen, it has been learned.

The estimate in question was presented during a closed-door meeting of the ministry in January and stated that reuse of radioactive soil generated from Fukushima decontamination work could cut the cost for purifying such soil from 2.9127 trillion yen in case the levels of radioactive cesium are reduced to 100 becquerels per kilogram to 1.345 trillion yen in case the cesium levels are cut down to 8,000 becquerels per kilogram. The estimate calls the latter option “reasonable from economic and social points of view.”

The Environment Ministry decided in June to allow reuse of soil with radioactive cesium of no more than 8,000 becquerels per kilogram in mounds under road pavements and other public works projects. The decision sparked criticism that it runs counter to the safety standards of 100 becquerels or less for recycling metals generated from the decommissioning of nuclear reactors under the Act on the Regulation of Nuclear Source Material, Nuclear Fuel Material and Reactors. The ministry has insisted that the radiation levels of tainted soil used in road mounds can be held down from 8,000 becquerels to around 100 becquerels by covering those mounds with concrete among other measures.

A ministry working group on safety evaluation of radiation effects held closed-door meetings over the issue on six occasions between January and May this year. In June, the Mainichi Shimbun reported that an estimate presented to one of those meetings stated, “For example, it will take 170 years for radiation levels to reduce to 100 becquerels if tainted soil of 5,000 becquerels is put to reuse,” sparking controversy. In response, the ministry on Aug. 1 released the minutes of the closed-door meetings and other documents on its website.

At the second meeting of the working group on Jan. 27, the copies of a document titled “About reasonable radioactivity concentrations of recycled materials” were handed out to attendants. The document, which was drawn up by the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, includes an estimate that the cost for reducing the radiation levels of tainted soil to 100 becquerels for recycling would reach 2.9127 trillion yen, with a volume reduction rate of 40 percent, adding that 40 percent of contaminated soil could not be put to reuse. Meanwhile, the estimate says it would cost 2.1185 trillion yen to drop the radiation levels of tainted soil to 3,000 becquerels, with a volume reduction rate of 0.5 percent, while it would cost 1.345 trillion yen to decrease the radiation levels of soil to 8,000 becquerels, with a volume reduction rate of 0.2 percent. The latter option could make 99.8 percent of tainted soil available for reuse, the estimate says.

“Considering economic and social factors, it is appropriate to set the radioactivity concentration of recycled materials at several thousand becquerels,” the document stated. A note of caution in the document states, “Apart from this, it is necessary to project the cost for final disposal (of tainted soil).”

A ministry official in charge of the issue told the Mainichi Shimbun, “The document was produced in response to a request by a member of the working group. As the document states, it is difficult to (set the standards for reusing tainted soil) at 100 becquerels from a realistic point of view.”

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20160803/p2a/00m/0na/014000c

August 3, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , , , | Leave a comment