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Originally posted by jarien21
I'd say it's not as effective as one may think...
Fukushima off-site clean-up success
The International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA's) General Conference in Vienna was given a full briefing from the Japanese authorities on the current status of the stricken power plant as well as actions being undertaken in the surrounding areas.
Eleven municipalities in the former restricted zone or planned evacuation area, within 20 km of the plant or where annual cumulative radiation dose is greater than 20 mSv, are designated Special Decontamination Areas, where decontamination work is being implemented by the government.
A further 100 municipalities in eight prefectures, where air dose rates are over 0.23 µSv per hour (equivalent to over 1 mSv per year) are classed as Intensive Decontamination Areas, where decontamination is being implemented by each municipality with funding and technical support from the national government.
Work has been completed to target levels in one municipality in the Special Decontamination Areas: Tamura, where decontamination of living areas, farmland, forest and roads was declared to be 100% complete in June 2013.
Over a period of just under a year, workers spent a total of 120,000 man days decontaminating nearly 230,000 square metres of buildings including 121 homes, 96 km of roads, 1.2 million square metres of farmland and nearly 2 million square metres of forests using a variety of techniques including pressure washing and topsoil removal.
Significant progress has also been made relative to targets in Naraha, with completion levels for living areas, farmland and forest ranging from 51% to 68%, and Kawauchi, where living areas and roads are 100% complete and forest is 69% complete. Naraha, Kawauchi and Okuma are on schedule to finish decontamination work within the current financial year which ends on 31 March 2014.
Can food grow in a nuclear wasteland?
By most accounts, the former Soviet nuclear test site of Semipalatinsk is unfit for life. Across roughly 7,000 square miles of barren Kazakhstan steppe, there are hardly any people. Even animals and birds, it seems, intuitively know they should stay away.
Decades-old craters pockmark the earth, remnants of the more than 450 nuclear explosions that took place here between 1949 and 1989. Broken vodka bottles scattered in the grass near "Ground Zero," the site of the area's first nuclear test, hint at the dread associated with Semipalatinsk: Vodka, some nearby residents believe, can guard against the effects of radiation exposure.
Visitors are warned to cover their shoes with protective plastic before stepping onto the soil, and to shield their faces with masks. But in this poisoned place, on a small patch of land near a few downtrodden trailers, there's an unexpected hint of vitality: bright yellow sunflowers, clustered together near rows of corn, and a barn full of plump sheep.
Here, scientists from Kazakhstan's Institute of Radiation Safety and Ecology, a governmental organization that studies the medical and biological interaction between radioactivity and the environment, have developed an experimental farm. Their goal is to measure the transference of radioactivity from contaminated soil into edible crops, and from those crops into the meat, milk, and eggs of the animals that eat them.
The farm is an attempt to answer a question with far-reaching implications: Can food grow in a nuclear wasteland? From Chernobyl to Fukushima, the question provokes both scientific interest and deep public anxiety. The researchers at Semipalatinsk, which is only slightly smaller than the state of Israel and has some of the world's worst nuclear contamination, want to quiet fears with data and inspire new agriculture, while also providing evidence that could jumpstart farming in other places exposed to radiation.
"This territory is very huge, and we think most of it is clean," said Zhanat Baigazinov, the head of the project's Farm Animal Radioecology Group. "But before we give it to farmers, we have to prove that it is safe." Seminpalatinsk's nuclear legacy began in 1947, when Lavrenti Beria, the political director of the Soviet Union's atomic bomb project, chose it as a site to experiment with nuclear weapons. Beria claimed the region was "uninhabited," but he was wrong: Roughly 700,000 people lived in nearby villages, cities, and nomadic communities.
Over the next four decades, hundreds of above- and below-ground nuclear tests contaminated the soil and poisoned residents, causing birth defects and increased rates of cancer that plague the area to this day. (Precise statistics about population change in Semipalatinsk during the nuclear-testing period are impossible to determine, in no small part because the test site officially did not exist. But it's safe to assume that most residents of nearby villages did not have the option to move far away.) After President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan's post-Soviet leader, closed Semipalatinsk in 1991, the government outlawed farming in the area.
Fighting radiation is now one of Minamisoma’s few growth industries. The city has set up a permanent office to coordinate decontamination with a budget this year alone of about $230 million.
Since last September, a crew of 650 men has labored around the local streets and countryside, cleaning schools, homes and farms. By the end of 2013, the operation will employ nearly 1,000 people – a large chunk of the town’s remaining able-bodied workforce.
Radiation levels in most areas of Fukushima have dropped by around 40 percent since the disaster began, according to central government estimates, but those figures are widely disbelieved.
Official monitoring posts almost invariably give lower readings than hand-held Geiger counters, the result of a deliberate strategy of misinformation, say critics. “They remove the ground under the posts, pour some clean sand, lay down concrete, plus a metal plate and put the monitoring post on top,” says Ito Nobuyoshi, a farmer who opted to stay behind in the heavily contaminated village of Iitate and record the impact of radiation on crops, animal life – and himself.
"The device ends up 1.5 meters from the ground.” Ito has become well known for monitoring the monitors, recording his observations online. He says the local municipality checks radiation in about 40 places, separately to government monitoring posts, collecting figures that are on average 20 percent higher. The readings are published in national newspapers.
“Of course this has a huge impact on data, radiation dose calculations and so on,” he says. “I asked the mayor, why don’t you protest to the central government? But the municipality isn't doing anything to fix this situation.” Our limited survey supports Ito’s observations.
On the day we visited, August 29, 2013, the monitoring post outside Iitate Village Office read 0.47 microsieverts p/h. Our device put radiation at the post at 1.07, nearly twice as high. A few meters away it was twice that figure again. The disagreement over real radiation levels is far from academic.
Local municipalities are desperate for evacuees to return and must decide on what basis, in terms of exposure to radiation, evacuation orders will be lifted. If they unilaterally declare their areas safe, evacuees could be forced to choose between returning home and losing vital monthly compensation from Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco), operator of the ruined Daiichi complex.
For the refugees, a worrying precedent has already been set in the municipality of Date, which lies outside the most contaminated areas. In December 2012, the local government lifted a “special evacuation” order imposed on 129 households because of a hotspot, arguing that radiation doses had fallen below 20 millisieverts per year (20 mSv/yr). Three months later the residents lost the $1000 a month they were receiving from Tepco for “psychological stress.” - See more at: japanfocus.org... 1iO.dpuf
Fukushima decontamination insufficent - Greenpeace
Tokyo - Japan's efforts to scour areas around Fukushima have been insufficient, pressure group Greenpeace said on Thursday, as the government considers letting some residents return to homes near the crippled nuclear plant.
The environmental group said tests it had carried out inside the original 20km no-go zone around the plant showed that high levels of radiation remain. Local and national officials are mulling lifting the exclusion order in parts of Tamura city, allowing people to return to homes they abandoned more than two and a half years ago. They cite lowered pollution levels in the wake of large cleaning operations.
A recent Greenpeace survey found that decontamination programmes have been effective for houses and many parts of major routes in the city.
The Environment Ministry has failed to use 76.6 percent, or 247.2 billion yen, of its budget to decontaminate radioactive areas around the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, the Board of Audit said.
Progress has been slow because opposition from local residents is making it difficult for the ministry to secure places to temporarily store the contaminated soil and debris collected in the work.
The ministry faces another problem: Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the stricken Fukushima plant, refuses to cover all the costs of the decontamination work as required under law.
The Board of Audit investigated the ministry’s budget of about 322.8 billion yen ($3.2 billion) for decontamination work for the period until March 2013, the end of fiscal 2012.
The results were released on Oct. 16.
In September, the Environment Ministry withdrew its plan to complete the decontamination work within fiscal 2013. The slow use of the budget made it clear that the goal was overly optimistic.
“We will make efforts for smooth progress of the decontamination work by obtaining the consent of local residents,” a ministry official said.
The ministry has been decontaminating areas known as “hinan-shiji kuiki,” from where residents were ordered to evacuate immediately after the March 2011 accident at the nuclear plant. The areas are located in 11 municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture.
By the end of July this year, only three of the municipalities-- Tamura, Naraha and Kawauchi--had obtained sufficient storage space for radioactive debris gathered in the decontamination process.