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New radiation measurement method spreads confusion

22 June 2014

【Translated by The JapanTimes】Confusion is spreading among towns and cities tasked with radiation cleanup in the face of a new decontamination policy to be released by the Environment Ministry as early as this month.
The government has been decontaminating areas whose aerial radiation reading is 0.23 microsievert per hour or more, based on its policy of keeping annual radiation exposure for individuals at 1 millisievert or less. It arrived at the estimated dose of 0.23 microsievert per hour by assuming that an individual spends eight hours outdoors and 16 hours indoors.
Under the new policy, however, the government will determine decontamination needs by using radiation exposure data collected from individual dosimeters, which tend to be lower than the estimated dose, thus reducing the areas subject to government-mandated decontamination.
While some municipalities welcome the move, saying it will allow them to scale down decontamination efforts in areas where radiation levels are unlikely to go down significantly, others are worried that residents will be confused.
The Environment Ministry unveiled its plan to use the individual dosimeter data last month at its meetings with officials from the cities of Fukushima, Koriyama, Soma and Date. According to Date officials, the city measured the radiation exposure of its 52,000 citizens wearing dosimeters from July 2012 through June 2013. The results showed that per-year exposure levels for nearly 70 percent of residents, even in areas where aerial radiation levels exceeded 0.23 microsievert per hour, was less than 1 millisievert in total.
“We should break the spell of aerial radiation soon,” said a Date official, pinning hopes on the ministry plan.
An official of the city of Tamura, on the other hand, expressed shock, saying the city has been cleaning up contaminated areas based on aerial readings, and if the cleanup projects are scaled back as a result of a policy change, it would cause anxiety among residents. Tamura, therefore, will not change its decontamination plan, the official said.
Experts are similarly divided. Junichiro Tada, a member of the board of directors at nonprofit organization Radiation Safety Forum, said he agrees with the ministry. “We should change the way radiation doses are managed from an aerial radiation basis to an individual exposure basis,” he said. “That way, we will do away with ineffective decontamination work.”
But Keizo Ishii, director of the Research Center for Remediation Engineering of Living Environments Contaminated with Radioisotopes at Tohoku University, remains cautious.
“Many residents of Fukushima have deliberately stayed indoors since the nuclear disaster. If they start to go out like they used to before the quake, the individual radiation doses might go up and will not necessarily fall below the 1 millisievert threshold,” Ishii said. “As such, we should aim for continued use of aerial figures for decontamination.”
Sanae Sato, a 54-year-old homemaker from the city of Fukushima, said she wants standards that are easy to understand. “I hope the national, prefectural, municipal governments, as well as experts, will come to a consensus and create the same standards,” she said.

12 July 2014

Hirono town to produce photo album of all schoolchildren next year

The Hirono town office plans to produce an album of photos covering all primary, secondary and high school students numbering 675 early next year to chronicle their growth beyond the ordeal of the Great East Japan Earthquake and ensuing Fukushima nuclear power accident. The "Album of Bonds" will also carry essays from the children about their future dreams and other topics.
Many children have missed opportunities to have their photos included in school albums commemorating their graduation from elementary and junior high schools due to evacuation following the nuclear disaster. The planned A4-size album will exceed 675 pages if all the children send in their photos.
Album editors hope to collect four photos from each student, one photo per year from the disaster year of 2011 to this year. The album will have pages for writing dreams and comments dedicated to other students in the town. It will also contain photos of a get-together scheduled for Aug. 9 at Hirono Elementary School for reunions and exchanges with friends.
To be covered by the album are 301 primary school pupils, 159 secondary school students and 215 high schoolers. It is to be completed in February next year for distribution free of charge to all children desiring it.

(Translated by Kyodo News)

12 July 2014

Farming water supply to Minamisoma's Odaka district to be resumed in 2017

The central and Fukushima prefectural governments are set to resume the supply of dam water for agricultural use to the Odaka district of Minamisoma city in fiscal 2017. The supply of water from the Ogaki dam in the town of Namie has been suspended following the 2011 earthquake and subsequent Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power accident. Work to repair the damaged dam was launched in full swing from fiscal 2014 that started last April. The national and local governments are seeking to launch decontamination work on the dam proper in October.
Odaka is designated as an evacuation area to escape the effects of radiation from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant. The city office is aiming to have residents return to the district in April 2016. Dam restoration and resumption of agricultural water supply are expected to go a long way toward helping local people resume farming.
The dam has stopped water supply due to damage from the disaster and its location in a no-go zone. According to the prefectural government, 1,613 farming families used to receive dam water to irrigate a combined total of 1,531 hectares of farmland in the Odaka district before the disaster. Resumption of water supply from the dam will be the first case among 10 dams for agricultural water in the no-go zone.
Monitoring of surface water samples from the dam has found that radioactive cesium levels are below the lower detectable limit, according to a local office of the agriculture ministry. The prefectural government intends to use only surface water for agricultural use, and take no water when the level of dam water declines or when water becomes turbid due to heavy rain.

(Translated by Kyodo News)

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