I have recommended for us as citizens to monitor radioactivity also in our relatively spared areas, especially near incinerators and mountain spots where wild garbage dumps spoil forests (Cf. Mid-October Status & Editorial in SurvivalJapan). It turns out that the government seems to be candid about its intention to pollute forests with radioactive waste as reported by Yomiuri Shimbun, a mainstream news media which article is reproduced hereafter. The same newspaper also mentions, in a different article, the risk of internal contamination by radioactive pollen from cedars (cryptomeria or in Japanese “sugi”). Many people are allergic to these during pollination – the risk here is much more serious. When yellow dust was found in the rain in the no man’s land, I surmised it was sulfur (Cf. Typhoon Roke Aftermath In Fukushima in SurvivalJapan) created by nuclear reaction on-going at Fukushima while some other people proposed uranium, plutonium compounds or simply pollen from China. If pollen it was, one can imagine how far cedar pollen could fly within Japan. Fortunately, dominant winds usually spare our areas from the no man’s land fallout – but facial masks remain highly recommended during pollination even outside the no man’s land (Cf. Of Gloves And Masks in SurvivalJapan). Although now symbolic in Japan, sugi was introduced after WWII to replace forests burnt by American bombings and as an effort to promote wood industry. The article about sugi pollen is also reproduced below, however there is no “harmless” level, contrary to what Satoshi Yoshida, an expert on radiation ecology and a senior researcher at the Research Center for Radiation Protection of the National Institute of Radiological Sciences (again some Orwellian Newspeak), states in the article. Radioactive particles which gets into the human body are harmful in minute quantities which do not compare to external exposure effects of the same dose. In some regions within the no man’s land, local people have decided to fall whole forests with the aim to protect forest workers from cesium supposedly concentrated in tree leaves and burn the wood. However it may be true that these forests are dangerous places, the solution offered by human beings is as usual worse than the original problem. Radioactive forests will remain a hot topic.

Forests to be used to store radioactive soil / Agency to let local govts open temporary sites

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The Forestry Agency has decided to allow local governments to use plots of land in state-owned forests to temporarily store soil and rice straw contaminated with radioactive substances from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Local governments will be responsible for preparing the land for the temporary storage sites, while the central government will shoulder the cost using its reserve fund for reconstruction.

Many local governments affected by the March 11 disaster are having difficulty securing storage sites for contaminated soil and other matter.

Providing land in the state-owned forests may help resolve this problem.

The sites will store soil removed in the process of decontamination and rice straw contaminated with radioactive materials.

Local governments may ask to be allowed to store sludge from the water supply and sewage systems, as well as ash produced by incinerating it.

In principle, the temporary storage sites will be built in forests within the jurisdictions of local governments that have collected contaminated soil.

If there are no state-owned forests with the jurisdiction of a local government, it will decide what to do in consultation with other local governments.

The sites will be located tens or even hundreds of meters from residential areas.

If a forest is near a water source, local governments will be required to consult with governments downstream before building temporary storage sites.

Contaminated soil and other matter will be encased in waterproof materials. If the quantity to be stored is large, the contaminated material will be placed inside concrete containers or surrounded by concrete walls.

As the sites are defined as temporary storage facilities, contaminated matter will not be buried.

According to an Environment Ministry estimate, up to 28 million cubic meters of contaminated soil in Fukushima Prefecture should be removed as it is assumed to have a radiation dosage of 5 millisieverts or higher per year.

If the soil is evenly piled up one meter high, the total area would be about 65 square kilometers, equivalent to half the area inside Tokyo’s Yamanote loop railway line.

The central government has asked municipal governments to secure temporary storage sites until proper storage facilities have been completed.

After local residents strongly opposed plans to store contaminated soil in school yards or playgrounds, Iitatemura and Nihonmatsu, both in Fukushima Prefecture, asked the Forestry Agency to come up with other methods.

The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry has found that about 7,200 tons of rice straw have been stored in farmers’ warehouses and other places in eight prefectures, including Hokkaido, Miyagi and Fukushima, as it could not be disposed of.

The sludge from the water supply and sewage systems and the ash, which cannot be disposed of due to radiation contamination, totaled about 130,000 tons as of September in Tokyo and 14 other prefectures.

It has yet to be decided how to secure sites to store the sludge.

(Oct. 24, 2011)

Govt to check Fukushima pollen / Cedar pollen may carry cesium on the wind, but at ‘harmless’ levels

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The Forestry Agency will start checking for radioactive substances in cedar pollen in Fukushima Prefecture as early as next month in response to the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, the agency said.

There is very little data in Japan or elsewhere in the world about pollen from plants grown in areas with high levels of radiation. If high levels of pollen-borne radiation are found, the Environment Ministry plans to release the data at the end of this year together with its forecast of the expected amount of cedar pollen to be dispersed in the air next spring.

The agency plans to pick male cedar flowers in the no-entry zone and check them for radioactive cesium, it said.

“As it will be the first such survey, we honestly don’t know how much we will find. We’d like to obtain objective figures by making an accurate survey,” an official of the agency said.

According to the agency and the Fukushima prefectural government, the prefecture has about 184,500 hectares of national and private cedar forests, accounting for about 20 percent of the total forests in the prefecture.

The agency has yet to decide the size of the areas to be surveyed, it said.

According to the Social Welfare and Public Health Bureau of the Tokyo metropolitan government, the wind sometimes carries cedar pollen more than 200 kilometers.

“It depends on the velocity and direction of the wind. Pollen is said to fly from dozens to hundreds of kilometers. When a survey was conducted by helicopter, pollen was found as high as 5,000 meters in the air. It is highly likely that pollen from Fukushima Prefecture reaches the Tokyo metropolitan area,” said Norio Sahashi, a visiting science professor at Toho University and an authority on pollen.

But specialists say people do not have to worry too much about the effect of the pollen on human bodies.

“Even if pollen from radiation-contaminated areas does contain radioactive cesium, the amount people will take in is expected to be very limited. From the standpoint of radiation exposure, the amount is at a level that can be ignored,” said Satoshi Yoshida, an expert on radiation ecology and a senior researcher at the Research Center for Radiation Protection of the National Institute of Radiological Sciences.

Yoichiro Omomo, special advisor at the Institute for Environmental Sciences, said, “Those who are allergic to cedar pollen do not need to worry too much as long as they take ordinary measures.”

In late March, many inquiries were received by the Meteorological Agency and local governments about a yellowish residue found in gardens and elsewhere in the Kanto region.

Many residents apparently feared the residue was a radioactive substance from the crippled nuclear power plant, but it turned out to be pollen from the Kanto region.

The Environment Ministry began receiving inquiries from some local governments about whether radioactive substances will be contained in next spring’s pollen, prompted by local residents’ concerns on the subject.

(Oct. 24, 2011)

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