September 22, 2014
More than half of the 74 municipalities in the Tohoku and Kanto regions that have planned decontamination of residences in areas where surveys of radioactive pollution are needed have yet to complete the work, a survey by the Mainichi Shimbun has found.
The survey showed that as of the end of June, 40 cities, towns and villages had yet to complete planned decontamination of homes, with at least 311,700 still needing work. In two municipalities — the Miyagi Prefecture town of Yamamoto and the Fukushima Prefecture town of Shinchi — residential decontamination had not begun at all.
Altogether, 104 municipalities in the eight prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, Saitama and Chiba have been designated by the environment minister as areas where surveys of radioactive pollution are needed. The Mainichi Shimbun questioned all of these municipalities on the progress of decontamination of houses, roads, farmland and forests, and received replies from all of them. The survey did not cover schools and other public facilities, where decontamination work has mostly been completed.
Of the 104 municipalities, 74 have made plans to decontaminate residents’ homes. Twenty-nine of those that have not yet completed this work are located in Fukushima Prefecture, which has a large number of houses subject to decontamination. At least 286,002 homes in these 29 municipalities still need to be decontaminated. Another four municipalities are located in Tochigi Prefecture, four more in Miyagi Prefecture, two in Ibaraki Prefecture and one in Gunma Prefecture. In these four prefectures, 25,719 residences remain to be cleaned.
When asked how many homes would be decontaminated in the future, three municipalities did not reply. One of them explained that data was still being compiled. The Miyagi Prefecture town of Yamamoto has planned decontamination of 1,495 homes, while the town of Shinchi in Fukushima Prefecture has planned to decontaminate 600 homes, but the work has yet to commence in either of the municipalities.
When questioned why work was not progressing, many municipalities cited a lack of temporary storage areas for radioactive waste.
“We are having extreme difficulty securing places to temporarily store contaminated soil,” a representative of the Fukushima Prefecture city of Iwaki said. The Tochigi Prefecture town of Nasu, meanwhile, stated that the process of gaining consent from the vast number of people involved in properties was taking a long time. Other municipalities reported similar difficulties in gaining consent from landowners.
In addition, five municipalities in Iwate, Ibaraki and Fukushima prefectures said that they had finished decontamination at all of the planned locations, but that there was a need for additional decontamination in spots where relatively high levels of radiation were detected, such as under the eaves of homes.
Commenting on progress, a representative of the Ministry of the Environment said, “Fukushima Prefecture has a lot of homes to deal with, but it is pretty much on pace to complete its projects by the end of fiscal 2015 or 2016. For other prefectures, if you use the number of houses as a base, then about 90 percent is completed.”
Kunihiro Yamada, a professor in environmental studies at Kyoto Seika University, pointed out, “The central government decides on the outline of decontamination methods through guidelines, but leaves the actual task to local bodies, which results in regional differences. There are cases in which hotspots and other problems remain even after the planned work is completed, but the government has yet to present any concrete guidelines for the future.”
A total of 70 municipalities had planned to decontaminate roads, but 41 of them had yet to finish the work. In addition, 28 out of 47 municipalities had yet to complete decontaminating farmland, and 36 out of 44 had yet to decontaminate forests.
September 22, 2014