The New Year starts with resolutions. So we have 'The First Year of the Clean-up' (josen gannen 除染元年）. In theory at least, the Clean-up is underway. A special law came into force on 1 January and the Ministry of the Environment has set up a dedicated office in Fukushima City. The government will clean-up the 20 km zone and Iitate to the north-west, but the rest (about two thirds of the the prefecture) has to be cleaned by local authorities. The government has promised to pay for decontaminating areas over 1 mSv/year (that's 0.23 μSv/hour). (The official readings for Koriyama - 1 metre height at the city office - are currently in the region of 0.7 μSv/hour but readings vary a lot.)
The plan is to hose and brush down buildings, roofs and roads, remove soil from school playgrounds and parks or cover with 10 cm soil. Fields that have not been cultivated are to be sprayed with herbicide and deep ploughed, woods have to have fallen leaves and pine needles removed. But there's still a lot of research to be done and resuts of major tests haven't been published yet so most local authorities don't have plans in place.
The main obstacle is where to put the stuff. No one wants it in their back yard. Koriyama seems to have had more success than other areas. It decided to store the waste on municipal land in the area it came from, i.e. not even try to take it anywhere.
The waste has to be stored for three years until an Interim Storage Site is completed. (chukan chozo shisetsu 中間貯蔵施設）. This is a facility covering 3-5 square kilometres where the radioactive waste will be stored for 30 years whilst a permanent solution is worked out. The government seem to have decided that it should be built in Futaba (home to Fukushima Daiichi reactors 5 and 6) and the Prime Minister was here yesterday to put pressure on the Mayor of Futaba - who rejected the proposal. You can't blame him really. It's the kiss of death to any hopes of the inhabitants returning, even the end of the place as an administrative district. But the thing's got to be built somewhere.
Meanwhile Professor Kodama (who made that impassioned plea to the Diet in June shown on You-Tube) was on TV this morning. He's travelled all around Namie (about 6 kms from the reactor) and has produced a contamination map showing pockets of low radiation and suggesting that some areas might be habitable in future. He's very brave and committed. But then how do small areas function without connecting roads and other infrastructure? Another idea he has is for forests to be felled, the wood burned to produce electricity (the caesium removed by filters). Hope, certainly, but again, we're probably talking 30 years ahead.
Here's a link to a blog whose author had the presence of mind to photograph the programme!
TV Asahi 9 Jan 2012, Kodama in Namie
And now for something completely different. You know the new word Su-ma-ho (smart phone). How about this one: Su-ta-ba (スタバ). Get it? Not 'stabber' but Starbucks! So if someone says, Ikkai no sutaba de aoh (１階のスタバで会おう), they mean 'Let's meet at Starbucks on the ground floor'. I don't have any problem with even quite technical Japanese but really get stumped by these words!
Goodnight from Koriyama