JAPAN | Residents get together to decontaminate city after discovery of radiation hotspots

Posted on July 12, 2011

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JAPAN | MAINICHI | 12 July 2011

Radioactive pool water is decontaminated at Tominari Elementary School in Date, using tanks containing zeolite absorbents. (Mainichi)

Radioactive pool water is decontaminated at Tominari Elementary School in Date, using tanks containing zeolite absorbents. (Mainichi)

FUKUSHIMA — Residents in the Fukushima Prefecture city of Date have banded together to decontaminate the city after the discovery of radiation hotspots that led to 113 households being placed under special evacuation recommendations.

Their move comes in response to fears that that the government system placing only certain households in the city under evacuation recommendations could create rifts in the local community.

The city of Date covers an area of about 265 square kilometers. In the wake of the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, many areas besides the city’s radiation hotspots have shown high radiation levels, prompting the municipality to hammer out its own decontamination measures.

On June 27 a decontamination project team was formed, with Shunichi Tanaka of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission serving as an advisor and the Japan Atomic Energy Agency in Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture, providing technical support.

From the beginning of this month, work to decontaminate Tominari Elementary School, which has a roll of 60 pupils, began. Water in the school’s outdoor pool contained cesium with a radioactivity of 100 to 600 becquerels per kilogram, but the water was purified using zeolite absorbents, reducing the radiation to 20 becquerels per kilogram — below the safety limit of 50 becquerels per kilogram set for seaside bathing spots. At the same time, officials confirmed that using electric planers to shave the surface of asphalt, cutting the grass on slopes and removing surface soil could reduce radiation to one-tenth of the original level.

The Date Municipal Assembly passed a supplementary budget including about 400 million yen for decontamination countermeasures, but due to limited funds the city started seeking volunteers on July 11. On July 16 and 17, the city will mobilize a large team of people to cut grass and remove surface soil. It hopes to open the school’s pool on July 18.

“By having the cheerful voices of children return, we hope this will create a foothold for the city to recover,” Date Mayor Shoji Nishida said.

About 200 people are needed to carry out the work on July 16 and 17. Volunteers can register at http://www.fukushima.coop/ (Japanese language only).

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