MIYAKO, IWATE PREF. – Workers on Wednesday began transporting quake and tsunami debris to Tokyo from the coastal city of Miyako, Iwate Prefecture.
About 30 tons of sorted debris was loaded onto train containers and moved by truck to Morioka Station, from where it will be transported to Tokyo by Japan Freight Railway Co., local authorities said.
The first train carrying the debris is scheduled to arrive in Tokyo on Thursday. Tokyo also plans to accept rubble from Miyagi Prefecture, another of the three hardest-hit prefectures. The operation will make Tokyo the first local government outside the disaster-ravaged northeast to accept March 11 debris.
“We can’t leave the debris as it is, so we thank the Tokyo Metropolitan Government for helping us,” Miyako Mayor Masanori Yamamoto said as he observed the work.
No other local government or municipality has stepped forward to officially accept such rubble due to fears of contamination by radioactive substances from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
There are concerns that delaying disposal of the debris from the quake-ravaged areas would prolong the reconstruction process. How Tokyo’s project turns out, despite opposition from some local residents, may be a litmus test to see if other local governments will follow suit.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government said it will measure and disclose the radiation levels of the debris before and after it is loaded onto containers, as well as before it is crushed by garbage-disposal businesses in Koto and Ota wards for incineration at a facility in Koto or used as landfill.
The metropolitan government plans to complete the disposal of a combined 11,000 tons of debris from Miyako by March. It has also expressed plans to accept and dispose of a combined 500,000 tons from both Iwate and Miyagi prefectures.
When the Iwate Prefectural Government measured the radiation levels of the debris from Miyako and the ash after it was incinerated, they were far below the central government’s tolerance limit of 8,000 becquerels per kilogram.
The Environment Ministry estimates that the disaster debris from the Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures totals 23 million tons. The debris has been collected and stored at multiple temporary storage sites.
Japan Freight Railway said it plans to transport 40 to 50 tons of debris a day to Tokyo.