In our Japan Livability Map September 2011, we showed that the only remaining nuclear-free land in Japan is the Okinawa archipelago. It may be a tempting relocation strategy for expats who want to stay in Japan in safe conditions, and some Japanese have already made the move from Tokyo to save their children, as can be read in this WSJ article  and this one too. Recently, Shinsuke Shimada, a prominent show-business local figure embroidered in a mafia scandal is rumored to have moved in his holiday house there permanently. As a side note, Okinawa is famous in Japan as a refuge for law enforcement fugitives… There are two main issues to consider for expats looking down south, which are directly linked with the same in the rest of Japan:

1. Contaminated food

Okinawa is a tropical area so a lot of food is imported from mainland Japan. Although the main provider is relatively safe Kyushu island, itself being subtropical, some produce has to come from more temperate, albeit “hotter” parts of Japan. Besides, the free flow of food implies that some tainted ingredients will inevitably be mixed in factories all over the nation, like some great red wines are sometimes illegally cut with lower quality wines that producers need to get rid of, without most people noticing. Unless your diet is exclusively based on mango, goat liver noodle soup, bitter goya salad, “sea grapes” seaweed, premium local beef, Awamori (vodka-like local “sake”), etc., chances are that you’ll still ingest some irradiated food on the long-term. Ask yourself questions like how can you keep forever your kids from eating tainted ice-cream in a tropical island?

Expats usually enjoy a high living standard and candidates to Okinawa relocation will most probably need to resign from their current position and set up a low-profitability, high-risk business as local unemployment is high, level of living low and the economic sectors very focused and much less developed than in mainland. The lower living standard means that purchasing expensive, nuclear-free, imported food will become impossible for these new-comers. More about these consequences in issue no. 2 below.

2. Nuclear waste

Governments like to place dangerous sites away from the capital city where their offices and families reside. For instance, in Japan, the MOX reprocessing plant is as far north as possible on the main island, in Rokkasho village of the Aomori prefecture. Okinawa used to not be Japanese, it is a source of constant trouble for the Japanese government between the US army bases and Chinese spying missions and challenges, it is relatively sparsely populated, its participation in GNP is modest and most of all, it is as far as one can get from Tokyo. All these reasons should make it very tempting for politicians to choose it as a perfect nuclear waste deposit site. So if you flee from a contaminated land, there is a high chance that you’d be settling in a future contaminated one. However if you read issue no. 1 above, you know that you will mostly likely be too poor by that time to evacuate back home.

As a matter of fact, the government just settled for an operation planning with waste deposits (undisclosed sites) starting this January, as can be read in the Yomiuri Shimbun article below. More interestingly, the Japanese article from Ryukyu Shimpo hereafter simply confirm our hypothesis of a deposit in Okinawan most beautiful islands. It just makes sense that, as nuclear power plants are the main income source in rural Japan, that nuclear power waste sites will be sought after by the same.

We leave out of the discussion possible threats of a Chinese invasion / bombing in Okinawa and other unhealthy issues such as agent orange spread around and buried by the American army, as well as their unofficial, hidden nuclear weapons and hazardous materials in their bases, nor will we delve into rapes and fights by their personnel. Anyway, the main island of Okinawa where these issues exist, is an uninteresting concrete sprawl, so we are only considering the true smaller gems of the archipelago in this post.

As a conclusion, relocating in Okinawa is a medium-term viable strategy at best and candidates should be able to rely on their Embassy and wealthy relatives to organize and fund a repatriation when the archipelago will not be nuclear-free anymore and their own financial resources will have dried up in the settling process.

The Yomiuri Shimbun article is reproduced below :

Apart from the ludicrously inefficient  “usual practice to remove soil up to a depth of five centimeters”, the main highlight is the following (bold characters by SurvivalJapan), as decontamination means here waste spread kick-off date:

“The Environment Ministry will draw up plans based on a law concerning special measures on dealing with environmental contamination by radioactive substances as early as the end of November and start full-scale decontamination in January.”

28 million cubic meters of ‘hot’ soil in Fukushima / Ministry aims to set storage site guidelines

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Up to 28 million cubic meters of soil contaminated by radioactive substances may have to be removed in Fukushima Prefecture, according to the Environment Ministry.

In a simulation, the ministry worked out nine patterns according to the rates of exposure to and decontamination of radioactive materials in soil, mainly in forests.

The ministry found if all the areas which were exposed to 5 millisieverts or more per year were to be decontaminated, 27.97 million cubic meters of contaminated soil would have to be removed. The calculation covered 13 percent of the prefecture’s area.

These figures indicate the size of the temporary facilities that will be needed to store the soil, and the capacity of intermediate storage facilities where the soil will be taken later.

The assumptions were made using three categories according to yearly radiation doses in soil–20 millisieverts or more; 5 millisieverts or more; and 5 millisieverts or more plus some areas with contamination of from 1 to 5 millisieverts.

The three categories were divided further according to possible decontamination rates in forests–100 percent, 50 percent and 10 percent. The resulting nine patterns were broken down further to include “houses and gardens,” “schools and child care centers” and “farmland.”

The ministry calculated that the largest amount of contaminated soil was 28.08 million cubic meters in the case of 100 percent decontamination in forests in the category of 5 millisieverts or more plus some areas with contamination of from 1 to 5 millisieverts.

The smallest amount was 5.08 million cubic meters if 10 percent decontamination is carried out in forests with radiation doses of 20 millisieverts or more.

In the breakdown of areas with yearly radiation doses of 5 millisieverts or more, it was found 1.02 million cubic meters of soil should be removed from houses and gardens, 560,000 cubic meters from schools and child care centers and 17.42 million cubic meters from farmland.

The total amount of contaminated soil with a yearly radiation dose of 5 millisieverts or more is 27.97 million cubic meters in the case of 100 percent decontamination in forests that cover an area of 1,777 square kilometers.

The figures will be submitted Tuesday to a ministry study group that decides on the nation’s decontamination policy.

The ministry made its calculation based on an aerial survey by the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry and a land use survey by the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry.

A senior Environment Ministry official said, “The standard we basically agreed on at a study meeting is decontamination in areas with yearly radiation doses of 5 millisieverts or more.”

Even though forests occupy about 70 percent of contaminated areas in the prefecture, the ministry does not believe it will be necessary to remove all contaminated soil, as long as the government restricts the entry of residents in mountainous areas and recovers cut branches and fallen leaves, according to the official.

The usual practice is to remove soil up to a depth of five centimeters. However, a senior official said this depends on the location of the contaminated soil.

The Environment Ministry will draw up plans based on a law concerning special measures on dealing with environmental contamination by radioactive substances as early as the end of November and start full-scale decontamination in January.

But the government still has not procured sufficient storage sites for contaminated soil, which has been temporarily buried in school yards or piled on vacant lots.

According to the central government, contaminated soil should be collected at temporary storage sites by local governments. The government recommends placing impermeable sheets under the soil at locations far from living areas.

The government also has no prospect of setting up intermediate storage facilities. Shortly before he stepped down, former Prime Minister Naoto Kan called on the Fukushima Gov. Yuhei Sato to set up facilities in the prefecture. The request was rejected.

Contaminated soil must be removed as soon as possible to allow evacuees to return to their houses within no-entry and evacuation zones.

(Sep. 26, 2011)
The article from Ryukyu Shimpo is reproduced hereafter in Japanese with an automated Google translation to get a broad feeling about its content:

県内 今後も候補地に 放射性廃棄物処分場2011年9月25日

   吉岡斉氏      清水修二氏

高レベル放射性廃棄物の最終処分場の建設が、八重山の離島で模索されたことについて、原子力政策に詳しい識者は「日本原燃が沖縄を調査しても意外ではな い」と指摘。今後も沖縄が建設候補地に挙がる可能性は「否定できない」としているが、インフラ整備や住民の反発などで実現は困難との見方を示している。
一方、著書で「いずれ離島のような人口希薄な過疎農村を選定して深地層処分することを政府当局は想定しているのだろう」と指摘してきた清水修二福島大副 学長は「国内でいろんな場所を探している中の一つだと思う」と前置き。その上で「地上1キロ平方メートルあれば、廃棄物を埋蔵できるので、国のエネルギー 庁は人が住まないような離島は社会的立地条件が良い所と考えているのは間違いない」と断言した。
ただ「沖縄は基地がある上に核のごみまでかという反発が強いだろう」と現実的ではないとの見方を示した。「いずれにしても場所の選定はオープンにすべき だが、原発を続けて再処理燃料を処分する話では、一歩も前に進まない。原発を継続しないことを明確にしなければ議論にならない」とも話した。

Google Translates:
The construction of landfills in the high-level radioactive waste, it has been sought for in the Yaeyama islands, experts familiar with nuclear energy policy is “surprising, even if there is no research to Okinawa Japan Nuclear Fuel,” he said. Potential candidates up to the construction of the future of Okinawa is “undeniable” is trying to achieve, such as infrastructure development and opposition from residents has shown the difficulties and perspective.
Vice President, Kyushu University, Hitoshi Yoshioka, serve on committees of the Prime Minister’s Office verified Fukushima nuclear power plant accident investigation is “to say that the base of plutonium waste, no doubt high-level radioactive waste,” he said. Okinawa is about a candidate “or not at the level of consultation,” the recognition of.
Future, the candidate must go up to the Okinawa “ports and roads, as it requires the employee’s residential facilities such as construction of small islands is difficult. Miyako and Okinawa, Iriomote Island is needed, such as size” said so on.
Meanwhile, in his book “The government authorities that deep geological repository to select a sparsely populated rural depopulation of the island, such as one would expect that,” Vice President Shuji Shimizu 福島大 has been pointed out, “The National I think one of the many places you are looking for, “the preface. On it, “If one kilometers square meters land, the waste can be buried, such as the Agency of the country deserted islands who think that is where social definitely have a good location,” asserted that .
But “strong opposition from Okinawa that I would refuse to have nuclear base on the” realistic and showed no perspective. “Selecting a location in either case but should be open, talk to dispose of the fuel reprocessing continues to nuclear power plants, moving ahead even one step. Not debate should make it clear that not to continue with nuclear power” with said.

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