Monday, May 22, 2017

Recycling Contaminated Soil in Fukushima

Fukushima's radioactive waste escapes efforts at containment and management.

Japan tried to incinerate Fukushima's waste,  as described by The Mainichi in September of 2011.[i]

In November of 2011, radioactive ash caused incinerators in Kashiwa (Chiba Prefecture) to shut down because of the challenges of storing the highly contaminated debris.[ii] Levels of contamination reached 70,800 Becquerels of cesium per kilogram (Bk/kg), as measured by radiation checks conducted at two incineration plants and one disposal facility.

The Mainichi reported in April of 2012 that Fukushima would begin burning 1 billion pounds of radioactive waste measuring 100,000 Bq/kg in the exclusion zone.[iii] Residents in Fukushima City promptly protested these plans.[iv]

In November of 2012, Japan announced plans to transport 13 million tons of debris 400 kilometers away from Fukushima to be ground up into mulch and burned, despite widespread citizen resistance across Japan.[v] It is not altogether clear why Japan has selected incineration given this practices does not eliminate or reduce radioactivity of waste and may spread radiation contamination in the atmosphere.[vi] Indeed, one study of incinerator ash from Fukushima contaminated debris estimated that 88 percent of the total radioactive cesium in the debris was at risk for elution and diffusion with wind and rain.[vii]

Now Japan is trying to recycle its nuclear waste:

Masatoshi Toda (2017, May 18). Ministry shows plan to recycle radioactive soil in Fukushima. The Asahi Shimbun,

MINAMI-SOMA, Fukushima Prefecture--In an apparent attempt to quell fears, the Environment Ministry on May 17 showed how it will recycle radioactive soil in construction projects to reduce the growing piles of widely abhorred contaminated debris.

In the demonstration to media representatives here, the ministry measured radioactivity levels of bags of soil collected in decontamination work around the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, and sorted the earth from other garbage.

Using soil with readings up to 3,000 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram, the ministry plans to create a 5-meter-tall mound measuring 20 meters by 80 meters. Such mounds could be used, for example, as foundations for seawalls and roads in Fukushima Prefecture and elsewhere.

Testing of the methods started on April 24. After confirming the safety, the ministry wants to promote the use of the recycled soil.
Pretty soon, everything will be nuclear waste, including us as humans. Killer Whales may already have reached that point of bioaccumulation of radionuclides, as modeled by Alva and Gobas for killer whales:
Juan Jose Alava and Frank Gobas. A Marine Food Web Bioaccumulation model for Cesium 137 in the Pacific Northwest,” Conference for Society for Environmental Toxciology & Chemistry (SETAC); 2014 Nov 9 – Nov 13; Vancouver, Canada. Available


[i]Rubble from Quake- and Tsunami-Hit Areas to be Disposed in Tokyo’ (29 September 2011) The Mainichi,, date accessed 30 September 2011.

[ii] ‘Radioactive Ash Causes Kashiwa Incinerators to Shut Down’(4 November 2011), Japan Today,, date accessed 5 November 2011.

[iii] ‘Storage Space to be Built at 2 Sites in Fukushima for Tsunami Debris’ (8 April 2012), The Mainichi,, date accessed 9 April 2012.

[iv] ‘Decontamination Work Begins in Fukushima Prefecture City Amid Concerns Over Incinerator Plans’ (27 July 2012), The Mainichi,, date accessed 29 July 2012.

[v] A. Zolbert (8 November 2012) ‘Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Recovery Still Underway’ KSDK News 2012,, date accessed 9 November 2012.

[vi] Institute for Energy and Environmental (May 2012) ‘Incineration of Radioactive and Mixed Waste’,, date accessed 9 November 2012.

[vii] Y. Iwahana, A. Ohbuchi, Y. Koike, M. Kitano, and T. Nakamura (2013) ‘Radioactive Nuclides in the Incinerator Ashes of Municipal Solid Waste Before and After the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant’, Annals of Science, 29.1, 61-66.

No comments:

Post a Comment