Radiation-hit village may OK overnight stays

Kyodo

Residents of an evacuation zone within 20 km of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant may be allowed to stay at their homes overnight for three months starting April 26, government sources said Sunday.

At the end of December, 330 residents of 152 households in the village of Kawauchi in Fukushima Prefecture were still living in temporary housing since the power plant was tipped into meltdown by the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011.

They are currently allowed to visit their homes only in the daytime.

Decontamination work in the residential parts of the zone is almost complete, making overnight stays more feasible, the sources said.

The government will soon propose the plan to the village authorities and residents while looking at the possibility of lifting the evacuation order, although some remain concerned the radiation may still be high.

Meanwhile, the government has let residents in part of the city of Tamura, adjacent to Kawauchi, stay day and night since August 2013. On April 1, it will be the first area in the 20-km-radius hot zone to have its evacuation order lifted.

Machine shrinks biomass

JIJI

A team of researchers at Kinki University in Osaka Prefecture and a local machinery maker have developed a machine that can compress radiation-tainted plants, including trees, to one-tenth their original volume, sealing in the radioactive substances.

They hope to use the equipment, which is transportable, to help move the enormous amount of tainted plants being stored at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 power station to new temporary storage facilities expected to be built later.

The machine is based on technology for making biofuel from grass and trees. It compresses the plants so tightly that they can stably contain cesium and other radioactive materials for a long period of time, the team says.

The machine compresses contaminated plants under high temperatures.

By shrinking the bulky material, fewer trucks will be needed to transfer it to the new storage facilities, the university said.

The university plans to conduct a demonstration of the machine using uncontaminated plants in May in the town of Kawamata, Fukushima Prefecture.

The machine can process 300 kg of plants a day, but a larger version can do 10 tons.

Noting that there are 3 million tons of tainted biomass in Fukushima, Tamio Ida, a researcher at the university, said that 1,000 units of the larger machine would be able to dispose of it in just a year.