Despite the angry residents shouting down the national minister and local politicians at the JR Kyoto Station the other day, Mayor of Kyoto City Daisaku Kadokawa has already made up his mind. He has sent his official letter to the Ministry of the Environment, saying the city is ready to accept the disaster debris after conducting the burn tests at the city's 3 incineration plants.
The mayor seems quite willing to throw the 650 billion yen per year tourism industry in Kyoto City down the drain in exchange for a few billion yen subsidy from the national government. I do hear that Kyoto City is in a dire financial condition, despite all the money tourists from all over the world drop in the city.
The governor of Kyoto was quite satisfied with the government answer that the government would compensate Kyoto for damages from "baseless rumors". I guess the mayor is also quite satisfied with the answer.
Fukushima-origin cesium-134 has been detected in the fly ashes of the incineration plants in Kyoto City, and people like Professor Hayakawa of Gunma University (who is all for wide-area disposal and burning of disaster debris) are using the data to tell people who oppose wide-area debris disposal, "See, Kyoto is already contaminated". This is so disingenuous. Yes, cesium-134 is highly likely from Fukushima. But radioactive cesium get concentrated once burned, and the Ministry of the Environment says the concentration is 33 times in fly ashes. So, in the case of Kyoto City, with maximum cesium-134 at 9 becquerels/kg and cesium-137 at 14 becquerels/kg in the fly ashes (total cesium 23 becquerels/kg), the amount of cesium in a kilogram of garbage would be 0.7 becquerel.
Besides, since it is from the garbage, the contamination may be from the contaminated food items from Tohoku and Kanto. In 2010, the level of cesium-137 of the grass land soil in Fushimi-ku, Kyoto City was 1.8 becquerel/kg.
And what levels of radioactivity are we talking about on the disaster debris? Depending on the locations, they are anything from ND to over 1000 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium according to the Ministry of the Environment, not even considering other nuclides, and that's before burning. The Ministry of the Environment says the max levels of contamination of the debris for wide-area disposal is 480 becquerels/kg before burning. Even if Kyoto City gets 100 becquerels/kg debris, that's more than 100 times the contamination that Kyoto has.
From Kyoto Shinbun (4/5/2012):
京都市、震災がれき 3施設で試験焼却 検証後判断
Kyoto City to test burn the disaster debris at 3 of its incineration facilities, and decide [whether to accept the debris] after the review of the test result
In order to accept the disaster debris from Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures from the March 11, 2011 earthquake/tsunami, Kyoto City responded to the Ministry of the Environment in writing that it will conduct the test burn of the debris at its incineration facilities (Clean Centers) in the northeast (Shizuichi, Sakyo-ku), north (Umegahata, Ukyo-ku), and south (Yoko Oji, Fushimi-ku), and will accept the debris after reviewing the test result. The East Clean Center in Fushimi-ku will be closed by the end of this fiscal year, and it won't be used for test burn.
According to the city's plan, a committee of experts in radiation medicine and radiation safety management will be set up. The committee will examine the appropriateness of the standard set by the Kansai Wide Area Association (made of prefectures in Kansai Area) of 100 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium in the debris before burning, 2,000 becquerels/kg in the ashes, and study the protective measures during transportation of the debris for the test burning and the effect on the surrounding areas.
The debris will then be burned at the three Clean Centers, and the air radiation levels will be measured to make sure the levels are safe. The ashes will be buried in the huge landfill on Osaka Bay ("Phoenix"). The city will also evaluate the effect of transporting the ashes.
The city will conduct meetings for the residents around the Clean Centers, and the test result will be made public. The official in charge in the city says, "Many Kyoto residents support early recovery [of Tohoku]. We will do our best to persuade them."
It sounds all too familiar. Oh yes, the repeat of Shimada City. The city will do whatever it wants, no matter how the residents are against it. Meetings are for the formality, a facade, and the city will simply tell the residents what's already decided, which is to accept the debris and burn in their neighborhoods.
Kyoto City is in the basin, and the incineration plants surrounds the city. Smart move, mayor, for few bucks.
I wonder Mr. Iyer, who wrote for NY Times telling the readers "Now's the season!" to visit Kyoto, knows about this. I guess he does, and he will probably excoriate those foreign tourists who will stay away from Kyoto for such a trivial nuisance like potential radiation contamination.
Many tourist destinations and residential areas are close to these Clean Centers. Kyoto International Convention Center is located 3 km southeast of the North Clean Center. The South Clean Center is located in Fushimi, one of the most famous places for sake brewing in Japan. Brewers are located about 2 kilometers northeast of the South Clean Center. (Information from one of my Japanese readers who is very upset about the whole issue).
Here's the map showing the Clean Centers in Kyoto City. They're going to do the test burn in the Centers in red circles:
What kind of country is this, willing to defile its ancient city steeped in history and culture that dates back more than 1,200 years that even the US decided not to bomb (although it did consider nuking the city...)?
Even if Kyoto City's mayor wants to burn, why would the national government even ask Kyoto City to burn the disaster debris that got contaminated with radioactive materials, arsenic, petrochemicals, and other toxins?
Kyoto is one of my favorite cities. I've visited countless times. This is just mind-boggling.