Radioactive sewage sludge sold as cement, radioactive teas sold unchecked. Now radioactive debris in the middle section of Fukushima Prefecture to be burned and buried like normal debris, because the radiation level is “low”, according to the Ministry of Environment.
The Ministry of Environment has just given an OK sign to 10 towns and villages in the middle section of Fukushima Prefecture called “Naka-dori” region to burn, bury, or recycle the debris from the disaster (earthquake/tsunami) contaminated with radioactive materials, because the air radiation levels in these cities and villages were less than that of the city in the “Aizu” region (western third of Fukushima) with the highest level of air radiation.
Does that make sense? I don’t know any more, but that’s what the Ministry is saying in its press release (original in Japanese). To roughly summarize:
1. Debris from the earthquake/tsunami in Fukushima’s “Hama-dori” (ocean 1/3) and “Naka-dori” (middle 1/3) have been stored in temporary storage depots, but now in ten towns and villages [they are all in the south-eastern corner of “Naka-dori”, the middle 1/3 of Fukushima, adjacent to “Hama-dori”, the ocean 1/3] they can be processed as regular debris.
However, just in case, they are to be processed within Fukushima Prefecture for the time being. As for shipping them and processing outside Fukushima, it is to be decided after the experts discuss in the meeting.
2. The reasons for resuming the processing in these 10 towns and villages:
1) These towns and villages have their air radiation levels less than that of “Aizu” region [western 1/3 of Fukushima Prefecture], considered least affected by the Fukushima I Nuke Plant accident in terms of radiation contamination. Specifically, their air radiation levels are the same as or less than that of Sakashita-machi in the Aizu region that has the highest air radiation level in Aizu and also has a large amount of the disaster debris.
2) Air radiation levels at the debris depots were not much different from the background air radiation. In some cases, the air radiation level at the depot was lower than the level in the town.
These 10 towns and villages have total of 6,155 tons of debris, which they can now burn, bury, or recycle.
The page 5 of the Ministry of Environment release shows the air radiation levels in those cities (I added the labels in English):
At the highest depot, the air radiation level at a distance of 1 meter from the debris was 0.31 microsievert/hour. That would be 2.7 millisieverts per year.
In a post-nuke disaster Japan, that is totally OK and acceptable.
The Ministry’s release does mention the “clearance level” in passing (in page 2), which is one-hundredth of the annual allowable radiation dosage of 1 millisievert. The clearance level therefore is 10 microsieverts per year, or 0.001 microsievert/hour. Debris at the depots in these towns and villages, needless to say, exceeds this clearance level by a big fat margin.
1. Why does the Ministry ignore the clearance level, which is specified by law? The debris exceed the clearance level.
I guess I know the answer to my own question. The Ministry of Education did it, and upped the radiation for kids to 20 millisieverts per year because “this is an emergency”, with a promise to keep the actual exposure as low as possible without saying how. If the Ministry of Education can do it, so can the Ministry of Environment! Everybody’s doing it!
(Hey that’s like the “foreclosuregate” in the US! All the banks do it – robo-signing, foreclosing without the clear title, issuing mortgage-backed securities without any mortgage in the pool – so what’s the big deal?)
2. How is it possible that the depots that have piles of debris with radioactive materials test lower in air radiation than background radiation? It just defies the common sense. You put the radioactive debris in one place, and the radiation measures lower?
3. Why is a town in Aizu region with the HIGHEST air radiation level chosen as a reference, instead of picking a town with the LOWEST radiation level, if the Ministry wants to ensure safety?
I think I know the answer to my own question No.3. If the Ministry had picked the town with the lowest radiation level in Aizu, none of the debris in the “Naka-dori” region could be burned, buried, or recycled.
4. What is the point of deciding by the air radiation level at the debris depot, to begin with?
These are some numbers from TEPCO’s latest contamination map of Fukushima I Nuke Plant. Notice that the air radiation level is much lower than the radiation on the debris themselves:
- Water transfer pipe: surface 130 millisieverts/hr, airborne 25 millisieverts/h
- Dropped rubble: surface 160 millisieverts/hr, airborne 40 millisieverts/hr
So these debris in these towns and villages could have much higher radiation if the radiation were measured on the surface.
But now the Ministry of Environment has given the permission for the debris to be burned without special filters or system to capture the radioactive materials, buried without consideration for groundwater or soil contamination, or recycled. Soon, the Ministry will allow the debris to be shipped outside Fukushima to be burned, buried, and recycled.
Share the pain. Share the radioactivity. Let everyone suffer the consequence of TEPCO’s and the government’s mismanagement and pollute the entire country. That seems to be the Japanese way.