Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Disaster Debris Wide-Area Disposal: US Military in Okinawa Uneasy Over Okinawa's Willingness to Accept and Burn?

From Stars and Stripes (3/27/2012; emphasis is mine):

Opposition grows on Okinawa to burning debris from quake
By Travis J. Tritten

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Radiation fears are raising public opposition to Okinawa’s plan to help burn tsunami and earthquake debris from disaster zones in northeastern Japan.

Despite government assurances, hundreds of residents — including some in the U.S. military community — signed a petition to stop Japan from shipping the debris here, claiming that disposing of the waste could spread radiation and diseases across the island.

The Tohoku region has been struggling with about 25 million tons of debris left after massive tsunamis ground up coastal communities in March 2011 and without help from other areas of Japan, it could take nearly 20 years for some disaster-stricken areas to complete the cleanup, according to the Japan Ministry of Environment. The Japanese government wants to ship 4 million tons, about 16 percent, of the debris in Miyagi and Iwate prefectures to other areas of the country for disposal, an effort scheduled for completion in 2014.

The ministry has said the waste that would be shipped in Okinawa would not come from Fukushima prefecture, home of the damaged nuclear plant, and could be burned in local incinerators that capture virtually 100 percent of any radioactive material.

“The debris to go outside the prefectures has either no [radioactive] cesium concentration detected or contains levels within the [government] safety standards,” said Noriyuki Matsui, spokesman for the ministry’s disaster waste task office. Matsui said high-performance incinerators can filter 99.9 percent of radioactive cesium from emissions and after the debris is incinerated and treated, the government estimates the amount of radiation in the condensed waste will be lower than that found naturally in the environment.

But Tracie Roberts, a Department of Defense teacher living on Okinawa, said she fears that burning the debris could pollute the island’s air and drinking water and cause cancer among the U.S. residents, who account for about 74 percent of military forces stationed in Japan.

“Our students and our children play outside,” Roberts said. “Sometimes we aren’t as informed as we should be about dangerous things until we are exposed. How will we know until it is too late what our level of concern should have been?”

A Facebook page has sprung up to support opponents and pass along information about Okinawa’s plans to dispose of the debris, and an online public petition to the prefecture government had drawn more than 600 signatures by Tuesday afternoon.

“It seems really, really risky to be sending this debris around to other parts of Japan that have not been affected” by the earthquake and the Fukushima nuclear disaster, said James Pankiewicz, an Okinawa bar owner who founded the Facebook page and started the petition drive.

Pankiewicz said many residents doubt the Japan government’s ability to safely monitor and contain radioactive waste that would be shipped out of the Tohoku region disaster zone, an area comprised of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures. The debris should instead be disposed within the prefectures where it was created, he said.

Over the weekend, the Air Force notified the U.S. consulate of the growing public concerns, according to the 18th Wing public affairs office at Kadena Air Base. The Marine Corps said Tuesday it is aware of the issue and referred questions to the Ministry of Environment.

U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Karen Kelley said Tuesday the United States has not discussed the issue with Japan but trusts the national and prefectural government will handle the debris safely under the country’s existing regulations.

The decision to burn the waste is now up to local governments on Okinawa.

Last week, the prefecture sent letters to 41 of its municipal governments asking if local incinerators could be used, according to a spokesman for the prefecture’s Waste Management Office.

Naha city and the municipality of Haebaru in southern Okinawa both said earlier this month they may be willing to burn the Tohoku debris if residents do not oppose the idea.

As of Monday, Naha had not made a final decision and was still grappling with some technical issues related to using the incinerators and growing public concerns over safety, said Seishu Ishikawa, chief of Naha city’s Waste Management Office.


Anonymous said...

For over 10 years, the Japanese government allowed the burning of highly-concentrated dioxin contaminated waste to be incinerated a few meters from Atsugi Naval Base in Kanagawa prefecture.

Anonymous said...

" the government estimates the amount of radiation in the condensed waste will be lower than that found naturally in the environment. "
but.... that's impossible

Anonymous said...

The US Embassy is obligated to call Japan's attention to its treaty obligations regarding the disposal of nuclear waste which include NOT imposing an unfair liability on future generations. By spreading this waste all over Japan, they are requiring future generations to monitor even wider areas for ground water, soil and food contamination. Even if there were a way to keep 100% of the contamination from getting into the air, you still need to dispose of the ash - which is highly radioactive. Spreading this debris is a clear violation of Japan's treaty obligations, and the US Embassy should be calling them on it.

Anonymous said...

burned in local incinerators that capture virtually 100 percent of any radioactive material.

So where IS this type of technology? Anyone know of the company who has developed this type equipment. THERE is the solution for ALL factories an coal plants. Its strange the world is not using it, the USA could certainly put this into place! So the writer of the article/press release..lets have some facts...WHAT is the technology being used? I want some of that company!

Darth311 said...

Prove to me that there are incineration plants that capture 100% of ANY radioactive material. Does it also 100% capture asbestos, and all the random toxic building materials and oils and gases that must be part of the debris?

Thought so. More "magical solution" propaganda.

Anonymous said...

The US embassy will do nothing as it doesn't want to endanger "US-Japan relations."

Anonymous said...

I put that question to Mr. Mochizuki of The Fukukshima Diary website, that is, how do we know the filters block radioactive effluent? He said there is no official published data to examine, so it is just based on the government assurances (and we all trust government). Further, according to him insiders in the incineration industry have said the filters do not block radiation properly. Since the government cannot provide published data on effects, we can say with hundred percent certainty that they are lying about safety.

Anonymous said...

@ Anon 5:48AM
Enough with Iori Mochizuki, he is struggling to get attention but spamming this blog here is not the right way to do it. You must be aware people following the triple disaster Japan suffered and it's consequences are checking his site, unfortunately it has nothing to offer. Let not distract Laprimavera and his readers please.

Feldwebel Wolfenstool said...

I bet Okinawaynians are way down on the Japanese social peck order.

Anonymous said...

Enough of the FD bashing...do you know who is the enemy? It's not him.


Nice factsheet article here on incineration in America:


"Incineration does not destroy metals or reduce radioactivity of wastes. Radioactive waste incinerators, when equipped with well-maintained, high efficiency filters, can capture all but a small fraction of the radioactive isotopes and metals fed into them. The fraction that does escape, however, tends to be in the form of small particles that are more readily absorbed by living organisms than larger particles...But they generally also create toxic by-products, known as "products of incomplete combustion" or (PICs). PICs can be more toxic per unit weight than the original wastes. The total quantity and toxicity of PICs from incinerators is highly uncertain(1). The most widely-studied toxic PICs are known as dioxins."

"Official risk assessments generally predict accidental releases that are less than the annual regulatory limits, but actual releases have not been well documented. For a DOE mixed waste incinerator that was never operated, one assessment indicated that an explosion involving plutonium-contaminated waste could release 10 trillion times more plutonium than the DOE's predicted annual emissions."

Anonymous said...

FD should stop posting half-truth crap because the translator cannot translate. If you ask that site for info, stay there and don't come here.

Anonymous said...

Seriously? we're bashing blogs that cover this disaster? shame on you.
Any news is worthwhile. Where it came from is irrelevant. Quit your bitching.

Anonymous said...

By all means, anon at 11:14AM, go there and stay there. Sites like that do more harm than good for propagating false information.

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

Ministry of the Environment DID conduct tests to see the effectiveness of bag filters in capturing cesium, and published them. Here's one of them, done in Fukushima by National Institute of Environmental Studies. http://www.env.go.jp/jishin/attach/haikihyouka_kentokai/09-mat_2.pdf

Industry experts say bag filters are not designed for capturing radioactive particles. It is very hard to retrofit scrubbers in the existing incineration plants.

What's more worrisome to some experts is nanoparticles that will go through filters.

Also, the Ministry's study shows radioactive cesium has been found in the runoff water from the final disposal sites, and in the water discharged from incineration plants.

Anonymous said...

I've read on some Japanese news sites that not only Okinawa is willing to burn the contaminated debris, but also a major Okinawa concrete company is planning to use the ashes for buildings.

It would not surprise me if they are already planning to use such radioactive ashes for construction materials, specifically for new facilities and runways that US is currently negotiating with the JP and Okinawa governments.

The fact of Okinawa politics is that in general they have deep hatred toward American troops and anything related to America. They almost always embrace policies that would negatively affect the U.S. base there, now even to the point of intentionally harming not only the US service men/womenn but also Okinawa children and the beautiful natural environment, one of its attractions.

This may not make sense to overseas observers, but it makes every sense to the Okinawans, that's how deep they've cultivated the US hatred in their blood over years. It may look lunatic to outsiders, but as a Japanese, I sense that they are thinking 'it's a perfect revenge time.'

I say it's time for US to review its security agreement with Japan and seriously start moving all US troops out of Japan where the entire land is now polluted. We need to protect our young servicemen/women and their families. We've seen enough times that the Japanese are not interested in protecting their own, but we do.

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

@anon at 3:09PM, the backdoor push through cement companies and paper mills that burn the debris has been already successful in Iwate Prefecture, and they are using the ashes to cement. The government and the industry are quite OK with that, because the radioactivity in the ashes gets "diluted" by mixing with clean ingredients.

Saitama Prefecture is eager to follow suit with several cement companies in the prefecture ready to help the recovery of Tohoku by burning the debris.

Anonymous said...

We're from the government, and we're here to help.........

Anonymous said...

Fukushima Diary can Fuck Off. I have lived in Japan for 14 years and my wife is Japanese. We have 4 young children and we're trying to leave Tokyo. Anyhow, every time I show my wife the FD website, there are many inconsistencies with the source/translations. I feel like he is out for fame and he mixes up stories so that he can get more donations. Fuck you Mochizuki!!!!

Anonymous said...

@anon at 4:29AM, from what I've seen, that person simply doesn't have good English capability. It often results in mistranslation, which often tends to be sensational even when the original is not. But non-Japanese speakers wouldn't know it, would they?

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