Fallout decontamination efforts falling short

'Cleaned' Fukushima municipalities find radiation failing to drop


Decontamination efforts in Fukushima are failing in some areas, prompting increasing calls from radiation-tainted municipalities for a second round of government-sponsored cleaning work.

Although many residential areas tainted by the meltdown-stricken Fukushima No. 1 power plant have supposedly completed decontamination work, some haven’t seen their dosage level drop below the central government’s long-term goal of 1 millisievert per year.

Some concerned municipalities are even conducting their own field surveys to ferret out radioactive substances ejected by the heavily damaged plant, which in March 2011 became ground zero for Japan’s worst nuclear complex disaster. Three of the six-reactor Tokyo Electric Power Co. facility suffered core meltdowns.

In the village of Kawauchi, some 480 of the 1,061 houses in the emergency evacuation advisory zone still had atmospheric radiation doses over 1 millisievert following decontamination.

So the village started doing its own surveys in April.

Village officials used a gamma camera to identify radioactive areas and had surveyed 130 houses by mid-June.

The gadget’s readout, which displays radiation levels in different colors, helped them determine where accumulations of dangerous substances remain.

“Radioactive substances often may not be removed from the soil below eaves, moss and U-shaped gutters,” Kawauchi official Shinichi Endo said.

The village plans to finish the survey before winter, compile the results by next April and ask the central government for a second round of decontamination.

In the town of Hirono, where most of the 1,908 households have supposedly been decontaminated, many are finding the radiation levels haven’t changed at all.

After conducting joint inspections in February with some of the companies hired to do the decontamination, the town found that fallout had been missed in such places as rain gutters.

Now Hirono as well is seeking financial help to do field surveys and relaunch its decontamination.

“The ministry is now focusing on the first round of decontamination work,” said Senior Vice Environment Minister Shinji Inoue.

If radiation levels don’t drop enough in the first round, more decontamination may have to be considered, he said, suggesting a second round might be offered after the program is reviewed this summer.

But since the ministry hasn’t explicitly promised to do such work again, municipalities are increasingly concerned about the future of the decontamination process.

  • Starviking

    It seems pretty clear that this article needs a bit more clarity: are the areas of excess atmospheric radiation blanketing the 480 houses mentioned, or are they just for parts of the houses – and therefore less risk to the inhabitants?