For reasons known only to themselves at this point, the Ministry of the Environment continues to push for the wide-area disposal of the disaster debris in Miyagi and Iwate which also happens to be radioactive. A ministry official, Mr. Hiroshi Nakamura, manager of the waste disposal and recycle section at the local Kyushu branch of the Ministry of the Environment, held a meeting in Kumamoto City in Kumamoto Prefecture in Kyushu, one of the furthest prefectures from Fukushima I Nuke Plant in Japan mainland.
Questions and (non-)answers from the meeting, and additional Q&A between Asahi and the Ministry after the meeting, as reported by Asahi Shinbun Kumamoto local version (4/27/2012; emphasis is mine, my comment in blue):
(In the meeting)
Q: がれきの焼却灰が埋め立て後、地下水に影響を与えることはないか After the ashes from burning the debris are buried, will there be any effect on the groundwater?
A: (Mr. Nakamura): 計算上は安全 According to our calculation, it is safe.
Q: がれきの運搬費用はいくらか How much does it cost to transport the debris to Kumamoto?
A: 資料がない We don't have any information.
To the 20 questions that the Kumamoto prefectural government had prepared for the meeting,
A: 被災地は早期のがれき処理を望んでいる。詳しくはホームページを見て The disaster-affected areas want quick disposal of disaster debris. For details, please visit the website of the Ministry of the Environment.
(Asahi (Kumamoto) questions to the Ministry of the Environment after the meeting; absolutely brilliant non-answer after another)
Ｑ 国はがれきの処理を３年間で終わらせる計画。期間を延長すれば、被災地で全量を処理できるのでは？ The national government plan is to dispose the debris in 3 years. If you extend the time-frame, wouldn't it be possible to process all the debris in the disaster area?
Ａ 被災地では仮設焼却炉を約３０カ所に整備しているが、処理が追いつかない。処理が長期間に及べば、企業誘致などの経済活動にも支障をきたし、復興の妨げにもなる。 There are 30 temporary incinerators being built in the disaster area, but still not enough capacity to process. If the debris processing takes longer, the economic activities such as inviting businesses to the disaster areas will be hampered, which will delay the recovery.
Ｑ 被災地から遠く離れた九州で処理する必要があるのか？ Why is it necessary to dispose the debris in Kyushu, far away from the disaster area?
Ａ 岩手、宮城両県は計約４００万トンについて広域処理を希望している。一方、受け入れのめどが立っているのは約１００万トン。地元では仮設の焼却炉で対応しているうえ、隣県での受け入れにも限界がある。焼却炉の増設よりも既存施設を使わせてもらったほうがコストも安い。 Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures want 4 million tonnes to be disposed in wide-area disposal. Of that, only 1 million tonnes may be accepted. In the disaster areas they are building temporary incinerators, and there are limits to how much the neighboring prefectures can take. It will save money if the existing facilities are used, instead of building new incinerators. [Existing facilities are not made to handle low-level radioactive waste; they are made for burning household garbage.]
Ｑ 熊本までがれきを運搬する費用は？ How much does it cost to transport the debris to Kumamoto?
Ａ 受け入れ量や距離、交通手段によって異なるので即答できない。 I cannot answer right away because it depends on the amount of the debris, distance, and method of transportation.
Ｑ 焼却灰の放射線濃度は１キロあたり８千ベクレル以下であれば安全と言うが、受け入れ総量が多ければ放射線量が多くなるはず。総量の基準は？ You say it is safe if the radioactivity density of the ashes is less than 8,000 becquerels/kg. But if the total amount of debris is larger, the total radioactivity will be higher. Is there any standard for the total amount of radioactive materials?
Ａ そのような声はあるが、基準はない。日本人が日常生活で大気や宇宙から浴びる年間の放射線量は世界平均の２．４ミリシーベルトに対し、１．４８ミリシーベルト。仮に最終処分場の作業員が１日８時間の労働時間のうち、半分を８千ベクレルの焼却灰のそばで作業したとしても被曝（ひ・ばく）線量は最高で年間０．７８ミリシーベルトだ。これを足しても世界の自然放射線量の平均より低い。灰を５０センチ以上の土で埋めれば放射線をほぼ１００％遮蔽（しゃ・へい）でき、住民への影響もない。 People ask us that, but there is no standard. The annual radiation exposure in Japan in daily life from the environment and from cosmic rays is 1.48 millisievert, compared to the world average of 2.4 millisieverts. [No. These numbers include internal radiation.] If a worker in the final disposal site spent half of his 8 work-hours per day near the ashes with 8,000 becquerels/kg, the maximum annual radiation exposure would be 0.78 millisievert. If you add that [to the national average of 1.48 millisievert], the radiation exposure would be still lower than the world average. [And therefore it is OK?] If you cover the ashes with 50 centimeters or more of dirt, the radiation would be almost 100 percent blocked, and there would be no effect on the residents nearby.
Ｑ 熊本は地下水が豊富。焼却灰が地下水などに漏れだすおそれは？Kumamoto has a lot of groundwater. Any possibility of the ashes contaminating the groundwater?
Ａ 基準以下の焼却灰は通常の埋め立て処理ができる。処分場は汚染水が土中にしみ出さない構造だが、焼却灰が水と接触しないような埋め方をしてもらい、付近のモニタリングを徹底していけば問題はない。 If [the radioactivity of] the ashes is less than the safety standard, you can bury as normal waste. [That's what the Ministry has arbitrarily decided, with no scientific basis.] The disposal site is built so as to not allow the contaminated water to leak into the soil. As long as the ashes are buried to avoid contact with water, and monitoring is done properly, there will be no problem. [And what if they aren't, and it isn't?]
Ｑ 仮に実害が出たら国はどう責任をとるのか？ If a real damage occurs, how will the national government take responsibility?
The radiation of the debris for wide-area disposal is minute or not detected. We've been telling people there is no damage. Of course, we will do our best to inform people so that there is no baseless rumor. [Meaning the government won't take any responsibility other than disseminating information to prevent baseless rumors.]
Such trust-inspiring answers. Kumamoto is hardly contaminated from the Fukushima I Nuke Plant accident at all. And the government wants to bring the debris whose burned ashes may contain 8,000 becquerels/kg of radioactive ashes.
So what is the true purpose of this exercise?