JAPAN | Minami-Soma to clean hot spots in city

Posted on August 8, 2011

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JAPAN | YOMIURI SHIMBUN | 9 August 2011

MINAMI-SOMA, Fukushima–The government of Minami-Soma has revealed a plan to decontaminate all radiation-polluted areas of the city in cooperation with a University of Tokyo laboratory, with the exception of places inside the no-entry zone.

The joint project will be conducted with the university’s Radioisotope Center, the municipal government said. It will exclude the no-entry zone, which lies within a 20-kilometer radius from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The project will be most intensively carried out in central parts of the city in August and September, leaving forests and other lower-priority locations to be decontaminated later.

The national government is considering dissolving the emergency evacuation preparation zone, which lies outside the 20-kilometer radius. However, it is feared that evacuees from Minami-Soma could stay away if the zone is dissolved while radiation levels there are still high.

With this in mind, the Minami-Soma government has decided to put together a supplementary budget for the decontamination project, municipal officials said.

“Because the central government hasn’t made progress on decontamination, the city government will do what it can on its own,” Mayor Katsunobu Sakurai said.

According to the city government, radioactive contamination in the city will be measured from the sky by using helicopters and other means. The city government will then map the contamination–showing which buildings and soil have high levels of radiation–and implement specialist cleaning in highly radioactive areas, based on advice from the center’s experts.

In an example of the kind of location that would be subject to specialist decontamination, 33 microsieverts of radiation per hour have been detected in a drain at a kindergarten inside the evacuation preparation area.

In places with relatively low radiation levels, the city government plans to use high-pressure sprays to wash the walls of primary and middle schools, kindergartens and other public facilities. It plans to replace surface soil in schoolyards.

The Minami-Soma government will clean private houses and yards with cooperation from nonprofit organizations and volunteers.

Decontamination will be urgently implemented in August and September. The city government is assigning lower priority to forests and other places, and plans to clean these areas gradually after work in residential areas is finished.

The Minami-Soma government has earmarked 960 million yen in this fiscal year’s supplementary budget for the initial costs of decontamination.

The city government said it would later consider whether to demand money to finance the measures from the central government and Tokyo Electric Power Co.

About 33,600 citizens have left Minami-Soma since the March 11 disaster, dropping the city’s population to about 37,900.

Center Director Tatsuhiko Kodama said, “I hope residents will do what they can to play a leading role in decontamination, so the city will become a place to which people can return without fear.”

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