Gov't faced with decontaminating millions of cubic meters of soil in 4 prefectures


An investigative commission for the Environment Ministry estimates the amount of radioactive soil that will have to be decontaminated in Fukushima and four surrounding prefectures could amount to 29 million cubic meters, which they say is enough to fill Tokyo Dome 23 times.

However, Yuichi Moriguchi, a professor of environmental systems engineering at the University of Tokyo, said that estimate was conservative. He was quoted by Fuji TV as saying the amount of radioactive soil is likely to be closer to 100 million cubic meters. That is enough to fill the 55,000-capacity Tokyo Dome, home of the Yomiuri Giants baseball team, 80 times.

The government is currently discussing its decontamination options. Experts believe that cesium can be removed almost completely if the first five centimeters of top soil are stripped. The 2,500-square-kilometer contaminated area is equal to roughly one-seventh of Fukushima Prefecture.

Woodland accounts for about 60 to 70% of the total area. The volume of soil to be stripped may be reduced to several tens of millions of cubic meters if mountainous areas away from residential districts are excluded. "I don't think that the whole (2,500-square-kilometer) area will have to be decontaminated," Moriguchi was quoted by Fuji TV as saying.

The central government remains at odds with the Fukushima prefectural government over where to store radioactive debris and waste.

Environment Minister Goshi Hosono, who is also the minister in charge of handling the nuclear crisis, has advocated the construction of a temporary storage facility for radioactive waste in Fukushima Prefecture, but that idea has been opposed by prefectural government officials. He reiterated Tuesday that the government will consult Fukushima officials before making a final decision.

Earlier this month, Hosono caused a stir when he said that contaminated debris and soil from Fukushima Prefecture should be disposed of outside the prefecture. He said that all of Japan needs to share Fukushima’s plight by providing sites for disposal of the debris.

An Environment Ministry panel, which met for the first time on Sept 14, will draft standards for removing radioactive materials by the end of November so that the removal work can start in earnest from January, Fuji reported.

Environment Ministry officials plan to present various calculations about the scope of decontamination and the volume of soil to be stripped, using Moriguchi's estimates as one reference.

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Why is the government charged with this? Shouldn't be the responsibility of TEPCO - Terrible Electric Power Co.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Why spread it around to other prefectures and contaminate areas that are considered "clean"? Best to keep it all in one place near the source.

7 ( +6 / -0 )

"The central government remains at odds with the Fukushima prefectural government over where to store radioactive debris and waste."

It's not the latter's option, particularly since they gave the power company the go ahead, despite flawed plans, to begin with and have taken so many kickbacks.

6 ( +5 / -0 )

Good points - why on earth is this the governments job and not TEPCOs? Is it because it is pretty much government run and owned?

Why on earth would they spread it around? Keep it where it is and leave the rest of Japan in peace!! I fear that they are going to spread it around and not tell us.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

No, other areas of Japan should not be taking this contaminated soil. What a ridiculous statement. It's like saying this poison isn't our fault so we should spread it around for everyone. What a moron. This is the environment minister!

What we need is an Honesty Minister that's going to have to make tough decisions. I for one do not want any product - let alone soil - from those contaminated prefectures reaching anywhere. I also think the burden of rebuilding is not every taxpayer's duty. How can you take money from the people that are working, and/or running businesses (even in those affected areas!) to pay for a crisis like this! I guess there is no emergency fund or international support is inadequate?

This disaster is spelling disaster for the rest of us. What a sad turn of events ... raise taxes, spread the irradiated food around the country, contaminated soil a burden for all. What is going on!?

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Geewiz, this sounds like a no end project. Fukushima is done forever!

Where are those TEPCO executives including Shimizu who wanted to run away from Nuke meltdowns? Why are they still getting paid for retirement bonus?

2 ( +4 / -2 )

All talk... no action.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

This latest news shows how nuclear power is safe, clean and economically efficient. Anyone who cannot see it must not be an economist or a technocrat (economics is an advanced form of brain disease). All joking aside, please see these articles/reports:

Japan’s Nuclear Disaster: Radiation Still Leaking, Recovery Still Years Away?

Must read article about how nuclear power is on the way out! in depth research from Worldwatch Inst.

By the way, I was at a conference at Rikkyo University a few years ago and the long winded speaker, Professor Osamu Abe who is one if the "leading" "experts" at Rikkyo and in Japan in "environmental education" blathered on for several minutes putting the audience to sleep, and pre-empting his guest, Lester Brown, founder of Worldwatch. Brown gave an interesting speech scolding the researchers that Japan should do more to develop geothermal energy (some progress being made there, see Eric Johnstone in the JTIMES recently). Now, I have my problems with Brown and WW, too liberal and apolitical, but the man was barely given 20 minutes to speak after flying all the way from the Netherlands! And when he spoke his microphone didn't work. I have met Professor Abe and he is a blithering idiot. He asked me after I finished my degree in environmental studies if I was "going back to America"? I said no and asked how I could find work in the field in Japan. He told me to look in the Japan Times!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

This is really looking like theatre of the absurd.......................

I what the hell are they going to do pray tell, dig up roads, yards, tear down all buildings, throw in all cars bicycles, shud we toss in all our personal effects.............And what they run it through some miracle FILTER LOL & it comes out clean WTF!

Earth to Japanese IDIOTS mentioned above in the article, MOVE THE PEOPLE OUT, leave whats left behind alone, DONE!

What the hell is wrong with these morons, dont they realize they have ways to steal from us for decades because of these disasters & they talk about decontamination of everything in 1/7 of a prefecture OMFG!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

The whole idea of removing 100 million cubic meters of soil would be almost impossible. I agree with GW how do you clean the tree covered mountains, roads, houses. Any way it 's still all talk like always. Someone has to take charge of the situation and will have to make hard choices that are not going to make the Fukushima Government happy.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The contamination musst stay in Fukushima, noone in their right minds would even consider spreading radioactive contaminents to the rest of the country. Its going to have to be encased and buried within its contaminated bounderies Better the goverment to oversee the cleansing as I do not think anyone in Japan would trust TEPCO to handle the proccess

1 ( +1 / -0 )

use all the stripped soil and other debris to make an artifical island to help protect an in service nuclear plant.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Entombment- use a few of the tunnels in Japan that lead to nowhere - put the material in the tunnels and then seal the tunnels with metal doors weld shut and on the top of which large amounts of concrete should be poured. Problem solved!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@farmboy - don't think bioremediation works at the atomic level, it has no effect on isotope degradation and subsequent release of radiation. In addition, heavy metals such as the isotopes involved are not readily absorbed or captured by organisms. Finally, how do you get rid of the organisms which have ingested any of the radioactive substances, when they are still radioactive?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

There is another way to remove cesium from soil :-

"AIST researchers were able to extract 88 pct of cesium deposits on soil after mixing the polluted soil with the water solution of low-concentrated diluted sulfuric acid and heated the mixed water at 95 degrees Celsius. When the water temperature was raised to 200 degrees in the high-pressure environment, the extraction rate improved to almost 100 pct. The extracted cesium was recovered almost entirely from the water with addition of a pigment called Prussian blue, which traps the radioactive material, AIST said. Because the acid has very low concentration, it does not harm the soil. The water solution can be used repeatedly, it noted"

So "if" it can be scaled up you should be able to remove the cesium from the soil but it's not going to be easy

1 ( +2 / -1 )

@ Joepineapples,

First that is IF we accept those findings as accurate, but to make a long story short, such a method on a large scale os beyond impossible.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I fear they will start to spread it around Japan as a symbol of misguided solidarity. The sensible thing imo would be to store it in the vicinity of the Fukushima Daiichi, since that area will be closed off for a long time anyway.

But I fear that politics is not always sensible....

3 ( +5 / -2 )

This disaster is spelling disaster for the rest of us. What a sad turn of events ... raise taxes, spread the irradiated food around the country, contaminated soil a burden for all. What is going on!?

jforce -- this just dawned on you? Folks who understand how Japan operates knew this sort of scenario was inevitable from the very beginning of this whole nuclear catastrophe. It is classic Japan Inc. -- a knee-jerk reaction based on a complete lack of knowing any other way to deal with a crisis. This is only month seven of at least a decade-long debacle.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Environment Minister Goshi Hosono said that, "all of Japan needs to share Fukushima’s plight by providing sites for disposal of the debris."

It just gets more and more absurd everyday. Yeah .... let's have thousands die of radiation induced cancer instead of hundreds. Great solution to the problem.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I think decontamination of the four Prefectures should come along with the decontamination in the Kanto regions as well.

Excerpt: Japan's environment ministry says that the disposal of radioactive ashes from household garbage is not going well in Tokyo and surrounding areas, partly due to residents' objections.

Following the nuclear accident in Fukushima, waste facilities in the Tohoku, Kanto and Koshin-etsu regions showed that ashes in garbage from private homes contained radioactive cesium.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The people of Fukushima profited for a long, long time from having this nuclear plant in their prefecture now that the Dai Ichi plant etc...are a burden, they want to spread it around to the rest of Japan?? I think many, many people are going to be up in arms about this, time to say no more Fukushimas! No more Tokyo Electric nuclear power plants, and time to change over to geo thermal, solar, wind etc..ASAP!!!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I see the future - ohhhhh - i see barges loaded to the brim with dirt heading out on a moon lit night. floating past hokkaido 500km northeast and the i here a mechanized sound with a beep. Dumping tons of tons of debris into the ocean just like garbage is dumped into he ocean.

then few years later children with birth defects, kids with 3 eyes and four hands walking around.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Well, I volunteer to take 20 liters, which I'll spread in my garden - that's enough to fill the equivalent of seven standard soft drink cans. If people are dying or know someone who is, an urn can contain the equivalent of a liter of soda. Some people abandon cars on the road - doing so while filling it with soil from Tohoko could dispose of enough radioactive material to fill a good-sized bathtub. Why, if all the nooks and crannies are found and tabulated, that is enough to hold multiple Tokyo Domes - and more!

There is nothing to worry about - we haven't even begun to calculate inner-cranial space available in those in charge.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

My wife and i have been trying to decide whether or not to stay in japan beyond this year. Looks like the environment minister just made the decision for us.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Everyone should Pay close attention to this statement, if this is done;:

“Hosono caused a stir when he said that contaminated debris and soil from Fukushima Prefecture should be disposed of outside the prefecture. He said that all of Japan needs to share Fukushima’s plight by providing sites for disposal of the debris."

” Each place this soil is displayed it has a high chance of getting into the Water system, and when it gets into enough areas all of Japan Water will “WILL BE Contaminated meaning that everyone in Japan will be infected with this, Now Do We want this throughout the country, or shall we pay some country that has a Desert to store and house this in some constructed bunker where it can be observed and make sure there is no leakages of the contamination into the earth to destroy any water system! This I dear of Hosono should be the furthest from anyone’s mind! Radiation Kills!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Just give up on at least the 5km radius around the plant and make that the dumping ground for all the waste. Why are the govt still giving hope to those households?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Facilites to store contaminated soil to be built

Excerpt: The environment ministry says it will build facilities to temporarily store radioactive contaminated soil in Tokyo and 7 prefectures in eastern and northern Japan.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The video shows the high levels of radiation on the train to Narita!

What are the plans to clean up Tokyo I wonder?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Bioremediation is a viable option because plants concentrate the radioactive elements and they are mostly water so the volume can be easily reduced and the elements concentrated until put the elements in permanent containment. The radiation from the major source of radioactive elements is not penetrative (its mostly cesium) so an inch of lead will easily protect people. What can you do with soil- its mostly silica?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Sadly there is a recent precedent. The waste from the nuclear facility on the border between Tottori and Okayama was a sore wrangling point for many years.

Eventually they came to a very Japanese solution. The soil was mixed up and made into bricks which were then sold and used mainly for park walls etc., all around the country.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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