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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

Reuse of radioactive soil feared to trigger illegal dumping

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Piles of black bags containing radioactive soil are seen at a temporary storage site in Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, on June 11, 2016. The Environment Ministry is set to conduct a demonstration experiment there possibly later this year, in which radiation doses will be measured on mounds using soil generated from decontamination work.

Reuse of radioactive soil feared to trigger illegal dumping

An Environment Ministry decision to allow reuse of radioactively contaminated soil emanating from the Fukushima nuclear disaster in public works projects has prompted experts to warn against possible dumping of such soil under fake recycling.

The ministry formally decided on June 30 to allow limited use of soil generated from decontamination work after the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant disaster in mounds under road pavements and other public works projects, as long as the soil contains no more than 8,000 becquerels per kilogram of radioactive cesium. The decision was made despite questions raised during a closed meeting of the ministry over incompatibility with the decontamination criteria for farmland soil.

The Act on the Regulation of Nuclear Source Material, Nuclear Fuel Material and Reactors sets the safety criteria for recycling metals and other materials generated from the decommissioning of nuclear reactors at no more than 100 becquerels per kilogram, and requires materials whose radiation levels exceed that level to be buried underground as “radioactive waste.” The figure of 100 becquerels is derived from the International Commission on Radiological Protection’s standards that annual radiation exposure of up to 0.01 millisieverts poses negligible health risks.

However, the Fukushima disaster has disseminated radioactive materials outside the crippled nuclear plant across far wider areas than expected. Under the special measures law on decontamination of radioactive materials, which was fully put into force in January 2012, waste whose radiation levels top 8,000 becquerels per kilogram is called “designated waste” and must be treated by the government, while waste with radiation levels of 8,000 becquerels or lower can be treated in the same way as regular waste. The figure of 8,000 becquerels comes from the upper limit of annual radiation exposure doses for ordinary citizens under the reactor regulation law, which is set at 1 millisievert. Regarding the double safety standards of 100 becquerels and 8,000 becquerels, the Environment Ministry had earlier explained that the former is for “reuse” and the latter for “waste disposal.”

However, the recent Environment Ministry decision to allow the reuse of contaminated soil in public works projects runs counter to its earlier explanation. The ministry is trying to reconcile that difference by insisting that the radiation levels of tainted soil could be kept under 100 becquerels if mounds using such soil were covered with concrete and other materials to shield radiation. During a closed meeting of the ministry that discussed the matter, some attendants raised questions over inconsistencies with the decontamination criteria for farmland soil.

In April 2011, in the aftermath of the Fukushima meltdowns, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries restricted rice planting in paddies whose radiation levels topped 5,000 becquerels per kilogram of soil. While the restriction was effective for just one year, the same criteria has been in place for ensuing decontamination, where surface soil of more than 5,000 becquerels is removed and surface soil under that level is replaced with deeper layers.

It is inconsistent to strip away soil of more than 5,000 becquerels while recycling soil with the same level of radiation. However, attendants of the closed meeting never discussed the matter in detail, nor did the issue come up for discussion at an open meeting.

The radioactivity concentration of contaminated soil is higher than that of earthquake debris, whose treatment caused friction across the country on the heels of the Fukushima crisis. Therefore, officials attending an open meeting of the ministry discussed the introduction of incentives for users of tainted soil, with one saying, “Unless there are motives for using such soil, regular soil would be used instead.”

Kazuki Kumamoto, professor at Meiji Gakuin University specializing in environmental policy, criticized the ministry’s move, saying, “There is a high risk for inverse onerous contracts, in which dealers take on contaminated soil in exchange for financial benefits.” There have been a series of incidents involving such contracts, in which waste was pressed upon dealers under the guise of “recycled materials,” such as backfill material called ferrosilt and slag generated from iron refining.

“If contaminated soil was handed over under inverse onerous contracts, there is a risk that such soil could be illegally dumped later. Reuse of tainted soil would lead to dispersing contamination,” Kumamoto said.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20160705/p2a/00m/0na/012000c

July 5, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment

Ministry green-lights reuse of radioactive soil for public works projects

The Ministry of the Environment formally decided on June 30 to allow limited use of radioactively contaminated soil in public works projects, but sidestepped estimates from a closed-door meeting that the soil may have to be monitored for up to 170 years.

The ministry decided that soil could be reused for embankments as long as the radioactivity of cesium it contained did not exceed 8,000 becquerels per kilogram. Under the Act on the Regulation of Nuclear Source Material, Nuclear Fuel Material and Reactors, contaminated soil can be used freely if the level of radioactivity is 100 becquerels per kilogram or less.

It earlier emerged that the ministry calculated in a closed-door meeting that some soil would have to be monitored for 170 years — well beyond the life of embankments. However, in its basic policy the ministry simply stated, “Safety and administration methods will be examined during verification processes in the future.”

It is expected that up to around 22 million cubic meters of waste contaminated with radioactive material from the Fukushima nuclear disaster will end up piled up at an interim storage facility straddling the border between the Fukushima Prefecture towns of Okuma and Futaba. The central government plans to dispose of the waste for good outside the prefecture by March 2045, but hopes to reuse as much of it as possible to reduce the amount.

Under the ministry’s basic policy, reuse of the soil will be limited to public works where the body in charge of administering it is clearly established, and the radiation dose at a distance of 1 meter is no more than 0.01 millisieverts per year. When using contaminated soil with a level of radioactivity of 8,000 becquerels per kilogram, it would be placed under at least 50 centimeters of cover soil, which would then be covered with sand and asphalt.

During the closed-door meeting, it was calculated that it would take 170 years for the radioactivity of tainted soil to naturally decrease from 5,000 to 100 becquerels per kilogram — much longer than the durability of soil mounds, at 70 years.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20160701/p2a/00m/0na/006000c

July 1, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment

Japan approves guidelines of reusing soil from Fukushima for public works

TOKYO, June 30 (Xinhua) — Japan’s Ministry of the Environment approved Thursday guidelines of reusing contaminated soil from the Fukushima nuclear disaster for national public works despite public concerns over safety.

According to the guidelines, Japan would allow tainted soil generated from the Fukushima decontamination work with the radioactive cesium level lower than a certain limit varying from 5,000 to 8,000 becquerels per kilogram according to different uses, to be reused in national public works.

The tainted soil, while reused, shall be covered with clean earth, concrete or other materials, so as to make the amount of radiation sustained by residents living nearby less than 0.01 mSv a year after the construction is completed, according to the guidelines.

The reuse is aimed to cut the amount of radioactive soil from Fukushima disaster to be shipped to other prefectures for final disposal, according to the ministry.

The decision was made despite public concerns that contaminated materials would still leach out as roads or other public works in which the tainted soil is used might decay or collapse during earthquakes, floods or other national disasters or fail over time.

Earlier estimates by a working group of the ministry showed that it would take as long as 170 years before the soil’s radiation levels drop to legal safety standards, while public works such as roads are often durable for just 70 years.

Under the Act on the Regulation of Nuclear Source Material, Nuclear Fuel Material and Reactors, the safety standards for reusing materials generated from the Fukushima decontamination work are less than 100 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram.

http://www.shanghaidaily.com/article/article_xinhua.aspx?id=330465

June 30, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment

Japan’s roads to have radioactive foundations

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The country’s environment ministry will use irradiated soil from the Fukushima nuclear disaster to build roads, sea walls, railway lines and other public building projects

It is one of the biggest headaches of the Fukushima nuclear accident: how to dispose of vast volumes of radioactive soil, enough to fill 18 sports stadiums, contaminated by fallout from the disaster? Now the government of Japan has found an original, and controversial, answer — use it to build roads.

The country’s environment ministry is pressing ahead with a plan to use the irradiated soil as the foundations of roads, sea walls, railway lines and other public building projects. They insist that the concrete and asphalt which will cover the soil base will shield motorists and local residents from…

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/_TP_/article/japan-s-roads-to-have-radioactive-foundations-wtkvxdgsc

June 29, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , | 2 Comments

Reuse of radioactive soil approved despite 170-year safety criteria estimate

An Environment Ministry decision to allow reuse of contaminated soil emanating from the Fukushima nuclear disaster under road pavements came despite an estimate that it will take 170 years before the soil’s radiation levels reach safety criteria, it has been learned.

According to the revelation, an Environment Ministry panel approved the recycling of tainted soil generated from Fukushima decontamination work despite an estimate presented during a closed meeting of a working group that it will require 170 years for radioactivity concentrations in the contaminated soil to drop to legal safety standards, shelving a decision over whether such soil should be put under long-term management.

The ministry is planning to allow reuse of the tainted soil in mounds beneath road pavements, asserting that radiation will be shielded by concrete covering such mounds. However, an estimate presented at the closed meeting of the working group on the radiation impact safety assessment states that such mounds would be durable for just 70 years, suggesting that the soil would need to be managed for another 100 years after its road use ends.

“There’s no way they can manage the soil for a total of 170 years without isolating it,” said an angry expert.

The working group is a subgroup of an Environment Ministry panel called “the strategic panel for technical development of volume reduction and reuse of removed soil in temporary storage,” and the two groups share some of their members. According to the working group’s in-house documents obtained by the Mainichi Shimbun, the closed meetings were held six times between January and May, with the attendance of over 20 people including eight group members and officials from the Environment Ministry and the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA).

Under the Act on the Regulation of Nuclear Source Material, Nuclear Fuel Material and Reactors, the safety standards for recycling metals and other materials generated from the decommissioning of nuclear reactors are set at up to 100 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram. Meanwhile, the special measures law concerning decontamination of radioactive materials, which was enacted after the 2011 Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant crisis, classifies materials whose radiation levels top 8,000 becquerels per kilogram as designated waste, and stipulates that waste whose radiation levels are 8,000 becquerels or lower can be put to ordinary disposal.

According to working group chairman and Hokkaido University professor Tsutomu Sato, the group served as a forum to “prepare itself for theoretical argument” over setting the upper radiation dose limit for reusing contaminated soil at 8,000 becquerels.

The Environment Ministry set forth the plan to reuse contaminated soil in public works such as in mounds beneath road pavements and in coastal levees on the grounds that the “radiation levels can be contained to levels on par with clearance levels” by covering tainted soil with concrete and other materials. During the second meeting of the working group on Jan. 27, a member pointed out, “The problem is what to do with tainted soil after use (in roads and other structures). If such soil is allowed to be dug over freely, it would be difficult to convince the upper limit of radiation levels (for soil reuse).”

A JAEA official presented the aforementioned estimate, saying, “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. Because the durable life of soil mounds is set at 70 years, a total of 170 years will be required to manage that soil — both when the soil is being used in mounds and after that.”

Discussions on the soil management period never went any further, and the strategic panel overseeing the working group on June 7 approved recycling such contaminated soil on condition that the maximum radiation levels of such soil be 8,000 becquerels and that the levels should be no more than 6,000 becquerels if the soil is covered with concrete and no more than 5,000 becquerels if the soil is planted with trees.

The Environment Ministry is set to begin a demonstration experiment possibly later this year, in which radiation levels will be measured in mounds using soil with different radioactivity concentrations at temporary storage sites in Fukushima Prefecture.

Working group chairman Sato, who also serves as a member of the strategic panel, admitted the existence of the 170-year estimate, but said, “We have discussed the matter but haven’t decided anything. We just presented our initial idea for reuse (of tainted soil) this time, and we will examine the feasibility of the plan later.”

Hiroshi Ono, who headed the Environment Ministry’s decontamination and interim storage planning team, said, “We have yet to decide what to do (with the tainted soil) in the end (after reuse), but the Environment Ministry will take responsibility for that.”

Another working group set up under the strategic panel, whose members primarily comprise those from the Japan Society of Civil Engineers, has presented a view, stating, “It will be in no way easy to secure the traceability (of recycled tainted soil).”

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20160627/p2a/00m/0na/010000c

June 28, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , | Leave a comment