Japan’s Latest Nuclear Crisis: Getting Rid of the Radioactive Debris
Jun 4 2012, 8:14 AM ET
Disposing the more than 20 million tons of rubble caused by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami is proving to be a difficult problem for Japan, not least because much of the rubble has been irradiated by the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
It’s still not clear why the Japanese government has decided against a policy of containing, rather than dispersing, the radioactive debris.
Containment would also mean solidifying the already-worrisome invisible border between “contaminated” and “un-contaminated” areas, with the former unfairly stigmatized. [...] Maybe that’s part of the “wide area incineration” motivation: rather than dooming an entire region to long-term “contaminated” status, it makes every region in Japan share the burden of the radiation taboo. If everyone is “contaminated,” then, in a relative sense, no one is.
While the government insists on the necessity of removing rubble from the earthquake region as quickly as possible, critics point out that the government plan calls for 80 percent of the debris to be burned locally, and say that transporting only 20 percent of the feared waste to incinerators around the country makes little sense. After all, if the goal is to remove debris from the area, why is the vast majority of it staying there?
Part of what makes it difficult to gauge the actual necessity of “wide area incineration” is the government’s massive PR campaign to promote the idea. In what Japanese newspapers called an unusual move, the Ministry of the Environment budgeted more than $17 million to promote wide area incineration. The government’s solicitation for a campaign of billboards, newspaper ads, and TV spots explains, “Due to the challenges of promoting ‘wide area incineration,’ there is a need to gain the understanding and support of the populace concerning the necessity and urgency of ‘wide area incineration.’”
Even Some Tokyo Debris Over Limit, ~250 km from Fukushima Daiichi
Because garbage incinerators inevitably serve as collecting grounds for radiation spread across large areas, in some cases, the limit of 8000 bq/kg has been surpassed even in facilities processing local garbage in Tokyo, according to the Ministry of the Environment. Such stories have exacerbated fears that incinerating debris from areas even closer to Fukushima could produce potentially hazardous irradiated ash.
Published: June 4th, 2012 at 2:24 pm ET