Contamination of Fukushima forests being studied

Kyodo

The Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, is investigating how badly the wooded areas of Fukushima Prefecture have been contaminated with radioactive fallout.

The government has been concentrating on how to decontaminate residential areas, but forests cover 70 percent of the prefecture and nothing has been done to remove fallout from the forests

“It is crucial for us to make clear the state of contamination (of forests) in considering how to decontaminate (the woodland) effectively,” said Shinji Kaneko, director of the institute’s forestry environment section.

The institute plans to release the results of its analysis of cedar tree samples from the villages of Kawauchi and Otama and the town of Tadami next month.

The findings are likely to help the government devise decontamination methods for the forests.

In August, the government acknowledged difficulties in removing soil and ground cover from the forests, due mostly to the volume of radioactive waste that would be generated by the effort.

“Huge volumes of soil and other (contaminated) items would be involved because the forests occupy a huge area.”

The government effectively shelved any approach to decontaminating forests when it said that removing both the contaminated soil and compost materials would strip the forests of important ecological functions, including water retention.