Minami Soma City, where the mayor of the town went on Youtube a few days after the March 11 earthquake and pleaded for food and water, has started to decontaminate the city on its own without the national or prefectural government assistance.
From Yomiuri Shinbun (8/8/2011):
On August 8, Minami Soma City in Fukushima Prefecture started the decontamination effort to remove radioactive materials released from the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident. The decontamination will be carried out city-wide except for the no-entry zone. The decontamination work started on August 8 at Kashima Elementary School in Kashima district of the city.
The goal of the city-wide decontamination is to lower the radiation level in anticipation for the elimination of the emergency evacuation-ready zone. The surface soil of the school yards at elementary and junior high schools and kindergartens will be removed, and the walls and the roofs of the school buildings will be washed, using the pressure washers.
鹿島小学校では、この日午前８時から市内の建設業者が重機３台を使って校庭の表土を約５センチ削り取る作業を開始。削った土は、校庭に掘った穴に 埋める。同市は、当面の除染にかかる費用９億６０００万円を今年度補正予算に組み込み、８～９月を強化月間としている。公立の小中学校と幼稚園、保育園、 児童館など、９月末までに警戒区域を除く市内３５施設で順次実施する予定。
At Kashima Elementary School, a construction company in the city started to remove about 5 centimeters of the surface soil in the school yard, using 3 power shovels. The removed soil will be buried in a hole that has been dug in the yard. The city has allocated 900 million yen (US$11.6 million/8.17 million euro) in the supplementary budget for this fiscal year, and designated August and September as "Decontamination month". By the end of September, the city plans to carry out decontamination at all 35 public elementary and junior high schools, kindergartens, nursery schools, and children's centers except for those located inside the no-entry zone.
(Private kindergartens and nursery schools are not included?)
Minami Soma City has everything - planned evacuation zone, emergency evacuation-ready zone (these two are about to be phased out), no-entry zone. The city has already send the notice to residents who have evacuated from the city to return.
I have my doubts about Minami Soma's decontamination efforts, and here are some of them:
First, where will the radioactive dirt and sludge go? If Fukushima City is any indication, it will be "temporarily" buried in somebody's backyard without that somebody being notified. Burying in the hole in the school yard cannot be the permanent solution.
Second, how low will the radiation go? Again, if Fukushima City's result, and Minami Soma's very own result, is any indication, the radiation may go down by half. But then what? Having the air radiation level from 2 microsieverts/hour to 1 microsieverts/hour for example may be great on paper, but it is far from the level Minami Soma residents with small children should feel safe returning to the city.
Third, as Professor Kodama said, to turn radiation contamination in one number - air radiation in microsievert/hour - misses the real picture of contamination. Iodine goes to thyroid, cesium goes to bladder, strontium goes to the bone. Even for the internal radiation, the effective dose for the entire body may not mean much.
And lastly, who is going to train the ordinary residents into part-time radiation workers? Professor Kodama's Radioisotope Center is supposedly helping Minami Soma City, but if you look at the decontamination manual issued by Minami Soma, it is no different than what Fukushima Prefecture has issued for residents. Not much protection beyond masks and gloves to deal with radiation.
Without the bigger, systematic plan that includes the final processing and disposal of radioactive materials, any decontamination effort may simply displace radiation from one place to another.