Monday, January 7, 2013

NY Times on Japan's Slow and Flawed Decontamination: "Japan Seems to Want to Do It By Themselves", Says US Expert, "Japan's Soil Is Different", Says Japanese Official

That official is none other than Mr. Hidehiko Nishiyama, Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency spokesman in much of the early days of the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident, and was removed from the post after he was caught fooling around with a young female subordinate of his in the Ministry.

In the New York Times article by the Tokyo-based reporter Hiroko Tabuchi, Mr. Nishiyama says, of collaboration with foreign companies in decontaminating Fukushima Prefecture,

“Even if a method works overseas, the soil in Japan is different, for example,” said Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director at the environment ministry, who is in charge of the Fukushima cleanup. “And if we have foreigners roaming around Fukushima, they might scare the old grandmas and granddads there.”

Yes, I remember the Japanese snow was also different, thus ski wax made in France should not be allowed to be sold.

From New York Times (1/7/2013; part, emphasis is mine):

In Japan, a Painfully Slow Sweep


(Photo by Ko Sasaki for NYT)

NARAHA, Japan — The decontamination crews at a deserted elementary school here are at the forefront of what Japan says is the most ambitious radiological cleanup the world has seen, one that promised to draw on cutting-edge technology from across the globe.

But much of the work at the Naraha-Minami Elementary School, about 12 miles away from the ravaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, tells another story. For eight hours a day, construction workers blast buildings with water, cut grass and shovel dirt and foliage into big black plastic bags — which, with nowhere to go, dot Naraha’s landscape like funeral mounds.

More than a year and a half since the nuclear crisis, much of Japan’s post-Fukushima cleanup remains primitive, slapdash and bereft of the cleanup methods lauded by government scientists as effective in removing harmful radioactive cesium from the environment.

Local businesses that responded to a government call to research and develop decontamination methods have found themselves largely left out. American and other foreign companies with proven expertise in environmental remediation, invited to Japan in June to show off their technologies, have similarly found little scope to participate.

Recent reports in the local media of cleanup crews dumping contaminated soil and leaves into rivers has focused attention on the sloppiness of the cleanup.

“What’s happening on the ground is a disgrace,” said Masafumi Shiga, president of Shiga Toso, a refurbishing company based in Iwaki, Fukushima. The company developed a more effective and safer way to remove cesium from concrete without using water, which could repollute the environment. “We’ve been ready to help for ages, but they say they’ve got their own way of cleaning up,” he said.

Shiga Toso’s technology was tested and identified by government scientists as “fit to deploy immediately,” but it has been used only at two small locations, including a concrete drain at the Naraha-Minami school.

Instead, both the central and local governments have handed over much of the 1 trillion yen decontamination effort to Japan’s largest construction companies. The politically connected companies have little radiological cleanup expertise and critics say they have cut corners to employ primitive — even potentially hazardous — techniques.

... Also worrying, industry experts say, are cleanup methods used by the construction companies that create loose contamination that can become airborne or enter the water.

At many sites, contaminated runoff from cleanup projects is not fully recovered and is being released into the environment, multiple people involved in the decontamination work said.

In addition, there are no concrete plans about storing the vast amounts of contaminated soil and foliage the cleanup is generating, which the environment ministry estimates will amount to at least 29 million cubic meters, or more than a billion cubic feet.

The contaminated dirt lies in bags on roadsides, in abandoned fields and on the coastline, where experts say they are at risk from high waves or another tsunami.

This isn’t decontamination — it’s sweeping up dirt and leaves and absolutely irresponsible,” said Tomoya Yamauchi, an expert in radiation measurement at Kobe University who has been helping Fukushima communities test the effectiveness of various decontamination methods. “Japan has started up its big public works machine, and the cleanup has become an end in itself. It’s a way for the government to appear to be doing something for Fukushima.”

... The Japanese government also made an initial effort to contact foreign companies for decontamination support. It invited 32 companies from the United States that specialize in remediation technologies like strip-painting and waste minimization, to show off their expertise to Japanese government officials, experts and companies involved in the cleanup.

Opinions on the trip’s effectiveness vary among participants, but in the six months since, not a single foreign company has been employed in Japan’s cleanup, according to the trip’s participants and Japan’s Environment Ministry.

Japan has a rich history in nuclear energy, but as you know, the U.S. has a much more diverse experience in dealing with the cleanup of very complicated nuclear processing facilities. We’ve been cleaning it up since World War II,” said Casey Bunker, a director at RJ Lee, a scientific consulting company based in Pennsylvania that took part in the visit.

“There was a little of, ‘Hey, bring your tools over and show us how it works.’ But they ultimately wanted to do it themselves, to fix things themselves,” Mr. Bunker said. “There didn’t seem to be a lot of interest in a consultative relationship moving forward.”

Japanese officials said adapting overseas technologies presented a particular challenge.

Even if a method works overseas, the soil in Japan is different, for example,” said Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director at the environment ministry, who is in charge of the Fukushima cleanup. “And if we have foreigners roaming around Fukushima, they might scare the old grandmas and granddads there.”

Some local residents are losing faith in the decontamination effort.

I thought Japan was a technologically advanced country. I thought we’d be able to clean up better than this,” said Yoshiko Suganami, a legal worker who was forced to abandon her home and office over two miles from the Fukushima Daiichi plant. “It’s clear the decontamination drive isn’t really about us any more.”

(Full article at the link)


Anonymous said...

Nice writeup.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, maybe the soil is different. What seems to be uniform the world over, though, is greed and stupidity in the reigning class.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and of course, let's not scare anyone with foreigners running around. An invisible radiation threat is so much less scary.

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

I tweeted part of the article in Japanese. Some of the reactions from the Japanese are interesting and disgusting at the same time. Yes indeed, they'd rather have Kajima, Taisei and inept TEPCO, Toshiba to do the "decontamination" because if you let the American and European nuclear specialist companies in, they will take advantage of the situation to make money. They are part of the evil military-industrial complex! they say.

Uh... Kajima and Taisei are making out like a bandit for effectively doing nothing, but it's quite OK, because they are Japanese companies.

Anonymous said...

The only uniqueness about Japan is that the Japanese believe they are unique. Rather than collaborating with hairy foreigners, Japan risks contaminating its own country undendlessly.And aren't all those grandmas and grandads in temporary housing somewhere?

Scott said...

Holy crap. They're seriously pulling the Japan is different card? The incompetence knows no bounds. At this pace we may never see any opportunity for cleanup even if a technology is developed and shared from outside of Japan. This is truly hard to read. :(

Anonymous said...

The issue with Japan is that they are technologically advanced, but mentally lightyears behind.

I believe they could do renewable energy 100 times better than Germany from a technological standpoint, except that politically and sociologically it is a million times less likely to happen at all. Perhaps now a billion times with Abe and pals back in charge.

Anonymous said...

This is about language and culture. If the american companies would assign a Japan national to serve as their interface, or establish an office in tokyo staffed by Japanese locals, then they would get to play.

Anonymous said...

“Even if a method works overseas, the soil in Japan is different, for example,” said Hidoiochi Nibuiatama, deputy director at the environment incompetency, who is in charge of the Fukushima farce. “And if we have foreigners roaming around Fukushima, they might rape our women and drop atomic bombs there.”

Anonymous said...

SURE "the soil in Japan is different," Hidehiko Nishiyama. ITS ALL RADIOACTIVE WASTE!

Anonymous said...

In France we're commonly say the first victim of war is truth. And nuclear matters never did split weapons and energy fields.
Poor first victim.
The second one is democracy, the third is human rights... (You may complete the list at your will).

griffon said...

Different, um, yes. But manmade radiation fallout is the great equalizer. It doesn't care about how uniquely perceived Japanese soil is compared to gaijin soil. Radiation, besides not being discriminatory, doesn't lie or money grub either. Whether sooner or later, it will just help you die. Take heed Oh Land of The Rising Radionuclide.

Anonymous said...

The methods for cleaning you could clean up in the summer of 2011, but not now.
Highly doubt that foreigners reached great results.
What would clear the need to remove part of the soil.
  throughout. otherwise it will not work.

Anonymous said...

While more effective strip painting costs a lot more than soap and water and it is more labor intensive than spraying soapy water you have to apply it, let it dry for hours, then remove it (sometimes multiple times). It uses specialized polymer "paint" that without a major capital expenditure probably isn't produced in the volume necessary to support a regional clean up effort. I'm sure the people in charge don't want to spend any money outside of their network of connected people in Japan. Squirt a little water rake a little leaves and you're good as new is their motto.

I would imagine many Japanese accept the “Japan is unique” excuse without question but I wouldn't see the harm in testing other options from outside Japan. How do you really know until you try? I'm sure this has more to do with keeping the situation and it’s money in Japanese hands. Then again they can always point to the AREVA water treatment fiasco as money wasted on foreign high-tech promises. The company that provided the US component of the AREVA system (Kurion) promised all sorts of fantasies about their product that never came true.

The truth is strip painting is only actually feasible on a relatively small scale and it doesn't work well on some surfaces it is primarily designed to decontaminate metal and sealed concrete around nuclear facilities. Doing an entire town would take incredible effort and expense if you didn’t do the entire town people in the untreated sections would complain. It’s easier and cheaper to convince everybody that decontamination is as simple as a heavy spring-cleaning.

The fact is the US nuclear clean up record is pretty horrible if you look behind the curtain of "official" statements you'll find a history of sliding standards and untold/under told stories. If you have the money cleaning up an acre or two isn't that hard but cleaning thousands or tens of thousands of acres of varying terrain becomes a fantasy. It is very telling that most of the major cold war nuclear production sites the DOE claims to have cleaned up aren't released for full 24/7 residential use. They all become "nature preserves" to limit the public's exposure time. These areas are "ok" for a day trip but disturbing the soil below a certain depth is unwise (and illegal but burrowing animals and insects don't know that).

Fernald is an example they had a long history of contamination but the clean up was completed 12 years ahead of schedule and 7.8 billion dollars below the original cost estimate. This is because the DOE decided to lower the cleanup standards from residential to "parkland" and allow contamination below a certain soil depth in some areas.

The report that Energy Department and Fluor Daniel Fernald officials are considering revamping or even eliminating the site's vitrification project is the latest in a cascade of problems that have been reported since The Enquirer first broke the story on Feb. 11. Company officials have repeatedly denied or downplayed Enquirer reports detailing the project's troubles

Anonymous said...

uhm .. please do tell us all how this "decomintation(*)" works?
do you have to wear a special suit with magnets at elbow joints and knees, wash your hair with ocean-salt water and then execute an intrinsic series of dance moves in the immediate vicinity of the geiger-source to make it "o away" .. or what?
please do tell, because i'm buying bags of "gardeners dirt" for my salad and tomatoes.
(for those that dont get it? life is sad and second if u can make radioactivity not register for a specific time frame, thus making it undetectable, it can be resold happily as "gardeners dirt" under the law.
thirdly, life is still sad and since the above is not possible, please do tell how this decontamination(*) works. just asking polity because i dont want to get into any monetary debts during my state approved education that can only be remedied by selling your educated soul to the nuclear military-industry complex : )

Anonymous said...

The Shiga Toso approach (strippable paint) at the first glance doesn't seem that innovative.

Anyway, these who are interested in a detailed description of the various actual decontamination approaches of the various companies trying to get a slice of the money offered by the J govt, please take a look into this illustrative document:

Anonymous said...

Pretty hilarious considering the decontamination issue is mostly a fraud to begin with. Very hard to decontaminate and the way they are going about it is mainly just to spread the radiation around and make money for yakuza companies and their buddies. No wonder the Jew York Times is upset they can't get their cut of the action.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it is just a matter of getting "their cut" in the action. Besides, I don't think no one else other than the Japanese gen cons who wants to go in and rake in radioactive dead leaves by hand.

Mike said...

Chicanery and racism in the service of corruption, while destroying citizens' health and the environment. Congratulations Mr. Nishiyama, you've scored a perfect "10" on the evil meter.

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