Japan Government Apologizes to Fukushima Residents Over Botched Radiation Clean Up

Senior Vice Environment Minister Shinji Inoue visited Fukushima on Wednesday and apologized to local residents, following disclosures of sloppy decontamination work.

Inoue said the government will clamp down on contractors cleaning up radioactive material around the ruined Fukushima nuclear plant.

The Environment Ministry hired the nation’s leading contractors to cleanse towns and villages near the tsunami-hit Fukushima Daiichi power plant, starting with four relatively uncontaminated areas.

But the Asahi Shimbun reported last week that dirty soil, leaves and water have been dumped directly into rivers. The paper cited workers as saying they were told to sweep only around radiation monitoring sites.

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A Confused Nuclear Cleanup Starts in Japan

As 500 workers in hazmat suits and respirator masks fanned out to decontaminate this village 20 miles from the ravaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors, their confusion was apparent.

Dig five centimeters or 10 centimeters deep here?” a site supervisor asked his colleagues, pointing to a patch of radioactive topsoil to be removed. He then gestured across the village square toward the community center. “Isn’t that going to be demolished? Shall we decontaminate it or not?”

A day laborer wiping down windows at an abandoned school nearby shrugged at the work crew’s haphazard approach. “We are all amateurs,” he said. “Nobody really knows how to clean up radiation.”

Read the rest of the story: After Fukushima Disaster, a Confused Effort at Cleanup.

Japan: Radioactive cleanup to be covered by state

The government will be responsible for removing radioactive materials from all areas with levels exceeding 1 millisievert per year — stricter than the 5 millisieverts initially considered — according to an Environment Ministry preliminary report that stops short of saying where the waste will be temporarily, or permanently, stored.

The changed threshold came after many local governments lashed out, prompting Environment Minister Goshi Hosono to repeatedly say the central government will expand the areas it takes responsibility for.

Under the plan, the government will aim to halve radiation levels by August 2013 from August 2011 in areas whose contamination runs between 1 and 20 millisieverts per year.

Read the rest of the story: Radioactive cleanup to be covered by state.