Tokyo plans to store, burn debris from disaster zone

by Takahiro Fukada

Staff Writer

To help quake- and tsuami-damaged areas rebuild, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government said Thursday it is offering to store about 500,000 tons of debris and waste from Iwate and Miyagi prefectures for three years.

The amount of debris in the disaster zones is so massive and regional disposal capacity so low that it is hampering with efforts to rebuild.

Tokyo intends to approve the plan with Iwate on Friday, while the agreement with Miyagi is pending.

Tokyo would become the first municipality outside Tohoku to accept disaster debris.

The metro government plans to transport the debris by train to private waste disposal facilities, which will separate it into burnable and nonburnable waste.

The burnable trash will be reduced to ashes and dumped into landfills in Tokyo Bay with the nonburnable waste, which will just be directly dumped as is, metro government officials said.

Some residents outside Tohoku are particularly sensitive about plans to move debris from the area because it might be tainted with nuclear fallout from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 power plant.

The metro government, however, said the contamination level of the debris that would be brought into Tokyo is so low that it can be safely processed and dumped without putting anyone’s health at risk.

Earlier this month, the Iwate Prefectural Government detected 133 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram in ash from waste incinerated in Miyako. That’s well below the government’s provisional standard of 8,000 becquerels per kilogram for ashes from incinerators.

A senior member of Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center, a noted antinuclear civic group, said this amount does not pose a public health risk.

“Even if (the radioactive materials) started leaking into the sea, the density will be extremely low,” said Michiaki Furukawa, a member of the Tokyo-based group’s board.

Tokyo also plans to check the radiation in any Tohoku waste destined for disposal at sea.

“We have judged that it can be safely processed” even if the same level of radiation (as found in Iwate) is detected, said Kazumi Arai, an official in the metropolitan government’s environmental bureau.

The debris from Iwate is scheduled to arrive in October, but no time line has been set for waste from Miyagi. The metro government requires no approval for the plan from the Tokyo Metropolitan Assemly.

The metro government has no plan to accept debris or waste from Fukushima Prefecture, metro officials said.

From late October to late November, the metro government plans to store 1,000 tons of furniture, broken machinery and other types of solid waste.

This debris is currently being stored in Miyako, Iwate Prefecture.

According to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the catastrophe on March 11 has generated about 4.4 million tons of debris and waste so far in Iwate Prefecture alone.

“(The devastated areas) will not be reconstructed unless mountains of disaster waste materials are swiftly processed,” Arai said.

“Since a massive amount of waste is being generated, we will provide assistance even from Tokyo,” he said.