Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Radioactive Ashes: IAEA Says Japanese Government's Approach to Bury 8,000 Bq/Kg Ashes in Conventional Landfills In Line With International Practices

As residents in municipalities are speaking up against receiving disaster debris contaminated with radioactive materials, the municipalities are quite happy ignoring the residents, citing the Ministry of the Environment's assurance that everything is under control and safe.

One of the authorities that the Ministry relies on in practically ordering the wide-area (all over Japan) processing of the disaster debris (see this document if you read Japanese) is the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA.

In this document (page 3) that haughtily "advises" the municipalities not to refuse the Ministry's "request" to accept, burn, bury and recycle the radioactive disaster debris, the Ministry of the Environment says the following:


A mission from the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) has found the policy of burying the ashes with radioactivity of 8,000 becquerels/kg or less in the controlled final landfill sites without further treatment perfectly in line with the established international methodology...

Has IAEA actually said that? So I looked up the IAEA's final report titled "Remediation of Large Contaminated Areas Off-site the Fukushima Daiichi NNP". The report was published on November 15, 2011, on the IAEA mission in Japan from October 7 to 15, 2011:

Guidelines have been issued for the management of incinerator ash and sewage sludge depending on their activity level. For example, incinerator ash having activity levels of 8000 Bq/kg or less is to be disposed of at conventional controlled type landfills without any further conditioning. The Team finds this approach to be fully aligned with established international practices.

So I am asking the readers with knowledge and expertise in the matter: Is it part of the established international practices to bury the radioactive ashes with 8,000 becquerels per kilogram of radioactive cesium in regular landfills near you without any precaution to shield the radioactivity? If so, where are the sites that practice this form of radioactive waste disposal?

My wild guess is that the IAEA report was written by the Japanese government, just like the previous one on the cause of the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident (tsumani did it) which were identical to the Japanese government's position and to the presentation done in Washington DC in May 26, 2011 by Naoto Sekimura, one of the prominent Tokyo University professors in nuclear science, whose constant appearance on NHK in the early days of the accident served the purpose of assuring the (ignorant) public that everything was under control, there was no immediate danger outside the area right near the plant.

There's hardly any mention of the severe contamination that will likely result on the incinerators and furnaces where the radioactive debris will be burned, either in the Ministry of the Environment's document or the IAEA document.


Hélios said...

Perhaps you might send a mail to Arnie Gundersen to ask about you said in your post ?

Anonymous said...

No wonder, since the IAEA chief is Japanese. There might be some game behind. I wish Baradei still on the helm.

Dennis Riches said...

I tried to publicize this issue of IAEA complicity on my blog when the report first came out.
It has been obvious for a while that the IAEA is of no help to people who object to the disaster response of the Japanese government.

Anonymous said...

Trying to make a cogent summary of U.S. regulations would be detrimental to my health. Here is a link that will take you to the state-to-state information.

New documentary @ Sundance that will be of interest to all here

Yosaku said...

My two cents:

Soil is a relatively effective radiation barrier depending on its composition and, most importantly, its depth.

In the US, landfills generally put down a 6 inch covering of soil on the working face of the landfill at the end of each day. This is done primarily to prevent the wind and animals (i.e., birds) from disturbing the refuse, but it would also offer some radiological protection.

Then, when the landfill (or certain sections of it) has reached capacity, it is capped. The cap normally consists of a few feet of vegetative soil, then a clay and/or synthetic layer. This is designed to capture gas generated by decomposition and to keep water from entering the landfill and generating excess leachate, but again, would also be quite effective at confining radiation.

I'm not sure about landfills in Japan, but assuming that they are similar to those in the US, I would think that disposal of contaminated incinerator ash in these facilities would be reasonable.

Anonymous said...

Looking at the actual case of radioactive cesium leaking into the water from a landfill in Chiba that buried the highly radioactive ashes, the prospect of confining radioactive materials is at best doubtful. It's how a landfill is actually built and how it's managed in Japan. It's pretty on paper, in the document submitted to the local municipalities. In reality, just ask the nearby residents.

Yosaku said...


If true, that would be very interesting. Do you have any additional information? My (limited) experience with landfills in Japan is that they are generally reliable. Are you sure this was a landfill and not a temporary storage or dumping site?

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