And the contract to "decontaminate" the entire city is soon to be awarded to one joint venture headed by one of the largest construction companies in Japan by the city's decon committee headed by Professor Tatsuhiko Kodama of Tokyo University.
Something doesn't sit very well with me.
The annual budget of Minami Soma City for the fiscal 2011 year (that ends on March 31) is total 50 billion yen, with the main budget of 28 billion yen, the supplementary budgets of 13 billion yen, and budget for government corporations 9 billion. Of the main budget, only 9 billion yen is from the city tax, and the national and prefectural subsidies (allocated according to the population) and the proceeds from municipal bond sales.
40 billion yen decontamination project is expected to last for 2 years, to be paid for over three years starting 2011 fiscal year. The amount of money for the next two years would eat up more than half of the main budget, but the city is not paying any of that any way. The cost will be borne by the national government, who will bill TEPCO, who then will bill the national government, who will then tax the citizens.
Endless money for big businesses and the well-connected small businesses and politicians who can facilitate the joint ventures.
From Asahi Shinbun (2/2/2012):
Minami Soma City in Fukushima Prefecture has decided to award a contract worth 40 billion yen to decontaminate the entire city's living space to one general contractor. The city has started the process to select the contractor, and will soon decide on one joint venture (JV) to award the 2-year contract to decontaminate the city. Of all the municipalities in Fukushima, this is the first case of a city-wide decontamination project instead of decontamination by districts within a city.
The "no-entry zone" and "planned evacuation zone" decontamination will be done by the national government. Outside these zones, municipalities will carry out decontamination of the locations that will exceed annual radiation exposure of 1 millisievert, and the cost will be borne by the national government. The contract will cover the area outside those zones in Minami Soma. 46,000 buildings including single-family residences, apartments, hospitals, factories and shops will be decontaminated in the areas of 1,433 hectares. Also included in the project will be 1,000 kilometers of roads, and forests within 20 meters from residences and buildings.
The unit cost as specified by the national government for decontaminating a single-family residence with the lot size of 400 square meters without washing the walls is 600,000 yen [US$7882]. For larger houses, the cost is calculated at 1,500 yen [US$20] per square meter. For roads, 2.4 million [US$31,500] yen per 1 kilometer if there are drains on both sides of the roads.
Minami Soma City has calculated the total cost to be 40 billion yen, including the radiation monitoring cost. It will allocate 2.2 billion yen from the fiscal 2011 budget, 19.6 billion yen for the fiscal 2012, and 18.2 billion from the fiscal 2013. The fiscal 2011 regular initial budget was 27.7 billion yen. The amounts in the next two fiscal years would be almost equivalent to the city's budget.
The city adopted the system to ask specific companies to submit proposals, and already asked 26 general contractors to submit proposals in December last year. One of the condition of the proposals is to include the local cooperative made up of construction firms and painting firms in the decontamination projects.
By the January 27 deadline, 6 joint ventures with top-tier and 2nd-tier general contractors as the heads of the ventures submitted their proposals to the city. The city's decontamination promotion committee headed by Professor Tatsuhiko Kodama of Tokyo University will evaluate the proposals and select one joint venture. The city wants decontamination to start in February.
As to selecting only one joint venture, the official in charge of decontamination in Minami Soma City explains, "In order to quickly proceed on decontamination, we think it is appropriate to select a large contractor for their technology and safety control. By having the same contractor for two years, the decontamination can be carried out in a flexible way and it will be easier to secure workers."
Big, national general contractors are indeed preferred over the local contractors when it comes to "recover and rebuild" Fukushima and other disaster-affected Tohoku because of supposed expertise and lower cost over the long run. I doubt that even they have accumulated enough "expertise" in "decontamination" since March 11, 2011, but it doesn't quite matter anyway.
What counts is having a big, national construction company well-connected with the national government come into town and hire subcontractors from the local, small contractors well-connected with the city politicians. Just like good old times in the bubbly days in the 1980s. From building nuclear power plants to city-wide decontamination, there is nothing that big, Japanese general contractors cannot do, given enough money.
And for selling nuclear reactors or melting furnaces and incinerators to process radioactive disaster debris, count on Hitachi. Or selling nuclear reactors or or leasing gamma cameras or selling household appliances for the temporary housing for the evacuees, count on Toshiba.
Teaming up with big businesses is a very familiar territory for any municipal government. The only odd thing about Minami Soma's decon business is that the committee to select the JV is headed by Professor Kodama, whose angry speech in the Diet criticizing the lack of response by the national government to the radiation contamination did trigger a response from the government.
Probably it wasn't quite a response that the professor was anticipating.
Just a friendly reminder of what the "decontamination" as defined by the Ministry of the Environment is: "It is like a cleaning job of stubborn dirt or stains", using scrubbing brushes, deck brushes, pressure washers, screw drivers, gloves, rubber boots, bags, rakes .... Oh and masks are optional.