Forestry Agency to log and ship Fukushima trees in trial starting this fall

JIJI, Kyodo

The Forestry Agency said Monday that it will resume felling and shipping trees in Fukushima Prefecture this fall on a trial basis.

Following the triple meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March 2011, logging was suspended in 12 municipalities in the prefecture.

But radiation levels appear to have declined enough to resume logging in some areas, the agency said.

For fiscal 2017, the agency plans to cut and ship trees in national forests in the town of Hirono and the village of Kawauchi.

The agency, which will pick contractors for the work later, said a local company has already expressed an interest.

Logged trees will be shipped after radiation checks. In the current fiscal year ending next March, the agency will also thin forests in the village of Katsurao and remove surplus trees in the town of Naraha, although they will not be shipped.

Forests in areas for which evacuation orders were issued following the nuclear meltdowns have become excessively overgrown as they have not been touched for six years. Work to thin forests is necessary as underbrush needed to maintain soil does not grow due to sunlight being blocked.

In order to prevent wood with contamination levels higher than national standards from going on sale, the agency intends to ship only trees logged in forests with radiation levels below 0.5 microsievert per hour.

Tepco plans to build a new incinerator to dispose of radioactive logs that have piled up in the premises, company officials said.

The logs amassed to about 78,000 cubic meters after the company felled trees to clear land in order to build containment tanks for contaminated water. Construction materials such as mortar was used to cover the soil to isolate radioactive materials.

The new incinerator is slated to begin burning logs in fiscal 2020 through March 2021 and the ashes will be moved to storage warehouses by fiscal 2026, according to the company.

The nuclear plant has an incinerator to burn protective gear worn by workers but the fast-growing pile of logs prompted the company to seek a new facility, which would be able to burn 95 tons of waste per day, they said.

Tepco plans to build four new warehouses to store debris and waste from the decommissioning of the nuclear plant in addition to the eight already in place, officials said.