Japan’s unmanageable problem of radioactive trash

Mission Impossible. What Future Fukushima?  The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 11, Issue 39, No. 1. September 30, 2013. Critics say Japan’s government is engaged in a vast, duplicitous and fruitless campaign to decontaminate Fukushima Prefecture. David McNeill and Miguel Quintana in Fukushima, Japan

“……The differences over what constitutes “acceptable” radiation levels will inevitably complicate policy over the return of evacuees. Local leaders like Kanno and Sakurai set limits lower than central government requirements. “The government says we don’t need to get radiation down to 1millisievert a year but that’s not how we see it,” says Sakurai. The central government, however, is sticking to its guns on its original limit. “In principle, the threshold of 20 millisieverts remains valid,” says Matsumoto Shintaro, of the Cabinet Office’s Support Team for Residents Affected by Nuclear Incidents. “But the lifting of evacuation orders won’t be decided on the basis of radiation doses alone. It will also depend on the status of each municipality’s infrastructure, whether the community is able to function, and the understanding of residents.

The government plans to define a specific policy by the end of 2013.” The Fukushima cleanup, however, faces another, perhaps insurmountable challenge: securing sites to store contaminated soil, leaves and sludge. Many landowners balk at hosting “interim” dumps – in principle for three years – until the central government builds a mid-term storage facility. Local governments throughout Japan have refused to accept the toxic waste, meaning it will probably stay in Fukushima for good.

The waste is stored under blue tarpaulins across much of the prefecture, sometimes close to schools and homes. Makita Kunihiro, who heads Minamisoma’s decontamination office, accepts that storage is the biggest difficulty it faces. “We need 19 sites according to our estimates, and we have seven.” The city’s contracts with landowners are usually signed for a minimum of three years, but Ito says the timeframe is simply not believable. “Nobody believes that temporary storage will be for only 3 years.” – See more at:http://japanfocus.org/-David-McNeill/4000#sthash.RH288s36.dpuf

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