Monday, January 23, 2012

Ministry of the Environment Seems to Have Outsourced Telephone Answering on Disaster Debris

Citizens in Japan have been calling the Ministry of the Environment directly, asking questions about the Ministry's dubious policy of spreading disaster (and radioactive) debris from Miyagi and Iwate Prefectures throughout Japan to be burned and buried and recycled. To their puzzlement, people who answer the calls from the citizens at the Ministry don't seem to know much about anything.

It turns out that the first line of defense for the Ministry (so to speak) is manned by employees (or part-timers) of the private businesses contracted by the Ministry to answer calls on disaster debris processing. Going nowhere and not getting any meaningful answers, many people give up on this defense line and hang up. Those who persevere may have to go through another layer or two until they get to the Ministry's employees.

Clearly, some of the people answering the phones sound like they never managed to graduate from elementary schools. The following is a reconstituted dialogue between a citizen and a woman who answered the phone at the Ministry (based on these tweets from the same person, here and here):

The woman who answered the phone at the Ministry:
The Ministry is asking [the municipalities] to accept debris whose radioactivity is between 240 to 480 becquerels, so that the radioactivity will be no more than 8000 becquerels after the debris is burned.

Becquerel per kilogram is the unit of measurement, correct? So what happens if there are several tonnes of debris?

The woman at the Ministry:
That doesn't mean the number of becquerels will increase. I tell you there will be no change, no matter how many tonnes of debris there are.

480 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium in the disaster debris means 480,000 becquerels of radioactive cesium in one tonne.

500,000 tonnes of such radioactive debris will contain 240 billion becquerels of radioactive cesium.

(I guess a graduate of an elementary school wouldn't be able to handle numbers larger than thousands.)

When the citizens finally reach the low-level proper employees of the Ministry and ask, "Who do you outsource the telephone answering service to?"

The Ministry's answer is (of course) "We can't tell you that."

I do see one good thing out of this recent development though. The Ministry finally admits openly that the disaster debris from Miyagi and Iwate Prefectures is contaminated with radioactive materials. The Ministry's narrative, for that matter the government's narrative, has been that it is just disaster debris from the March 11 earthquake/tsunami, as if the nuclear accident never happened and no radioactive fallout fell on the debris.

Nevertheless, more prefectures and municipalities have chosen to continue to focus on the old narrative, and expressed their intention to accept, burn, bury, and or recycle the disaster debris. They are mostly prefectures that have mostly escaped contamination from the Fukushima fallout, including Akita Prefecture (that produces one of the premier rice), Gifu Prefecture (that says it is worried about fast breeder Monju accident), and Osaka Prefecture/Osaka City (whose mayor who looks like a boy wonder has national ambitions).

Governor of Kanagawa Kuroiwa, a former TV personality, is doing his utmost best to bring the debris to his prefecture. His main argument is "Because Tokyo is doing it."

If you read Japanese, there is a comprehensible coverage of the disaster/radioactive debris issues including technical information and information from waste management industry people, on this togetter thread (collection of tweets) that is continuously being updated and organized.

These days, ordinary citizens know much more than the government officials and subcontractors. But so far, the government apparently has nothing to fear from the citizens, and does whatever it wants to do.


Anonymous said...

Why the pretense, shouldn't this be outsourced to Chennai now ?

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

Ordinary Japanese could barely understand the Japanese spoken by Ministry officials. I don't think they will have any clue what the Indian phone operators are saying to them.

Anonymous said...

The Ministry of the Environment clearly "wwebsites as on the internet".

Anonymous said...

Little Canary said...

Government Officials has nothing to fear from uneducated japanese public.

They (Gov.) are the bosses of the Nuclear weapons program, yakuzzis-cops-Uyoku and the media in Japan, Korea and big part of Asia.

Tell me, why should be fearing to a bunch people who still waits for an explanation...Under the motto of "gambare Nippon!", ganbare what!?

You create the problem you guys Gambare!

Everydays that passes they play a big scale Kabuki to its citizens and the world.

Anonymous said...

Exactly's been working well for cable giant Comcast customer service for a number of years.

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