Disaster Debris Wide-Area Disposal: US Military in Okinawa Uneasy Over Okinawa's Willingness to Accept and Burn?
From Stars and Stripes (3/27/2012; emphasis is mine):
Opposition grows on Okinawa to burning debris from quake“Our students and our children play outside,” Roberts said. “Sometimes we aren’t as informed as we should be about dangerous things until we are exposed. How will we know until it is too late what our level of concern should have been?”
By Travis J. Tritten
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Radiation fears are raising public opposition to Okinawa’s plan to help burn tsunami and earthquake debris from disaster zones in northeastern Japan.
Despite government assurances, hundreds of residents — including some in the U.S. military community — signed a petition to stop Japan from shipping the debris here, claiming that disposing of the waste could spread radiation and diseases across the island.
The Tohoku region has been struggling with about 25 million tons of debris left after massive tsunamis ground up coastal communities in March 2011 and without help from other areas of Japan, it could take nearly 20 years for some disaster-stricken areas to complete the cleanup, according to the Japan Ministry of Environment. The Japanese government wants to ship 4 million tons, about 16 percent, of the debris in Miyagi and Iwate prefectures to other areas of the country for disposal, an effort scheduled for completion in 2014.
The ministry has said the waste that would be shipped in Okinawa would not come from Fukushima prefecture, home of the damaged nuclear plant, and could be burned in local incinerators that capture virtually 100 percent of any radioactive material.
“The debris to go outside the prefectures has either no [radioactive] cesium concentration detected or contains levels within the [government] safety standards,” said Noriyuki Matsui, spokesman for the ministry’s disaster waste task office. Matsui said high-performance incinerators can filter 99.9 percent of radioactive cesium from emissions and after the debris is incinerated and treated, the government estimates the amount of radiation in the condensed waste will be lower than that found naturally in the environment.
But Tracie Roberts, a Department of Defense teacher living on Okinawa, said she fears that burning the debris could pollute the island’s air and drinking water and cause cancer among the U.S. residents, who account for about 74 percent of military forces stationed in Japan.
A Facebook page has sprung up to support opponents and pass along information about Okinawa’s plans to dispose of the debris, and an online public petition to the prefecture government had drawn more than 600 signatures by Tuesday afternoon.
“It seems really, really risky to be sending this debris around to other parts of Japan that have not been affected” by the earthquake and the Fukushima nuclear disaster, said James Pankiewicz, an Okinawa bar owner who founded the Facebook page and started the petition drive.
Pankiewicz said many residents doubt the Japan government’s ability to safely monitor and contain radioactive waste that would be shipped out of the Tohoku region disaster zone, an area comprised of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures. The debris should instead be disposed within the prefectures where it was created, he said.
Over the weekend, the Air Force notified the U.S. consulate of the growing public concerns, according to the 18th Wing public affairs office at Kadena Air Base. The Marine Corps said Tuesday it is aware of the issue and referred questions to the Ministry of Environment.
U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Karen Kelley said Tuesday the United States has not discussed the issue with Japan but trusts the national and prefectural government will handle the debris safely under the country’s existing regulations.
The decision to burn the waste is now up to local governments on Okinawa.
Last week, the prefecture sent letters to 41 of its municipal governments asking if local incinerators could be used, according to a spokesman for the prefecture’s Waste Management Office.
Naha city and the municipality of Haebaru in southern Okinawa both said earlier this month they may be willing to burn the Tohoku debris if residents do not oppose the idea.As of Monday, Naha had not made a final decision and was still grappling with some technical issues related to using the incinerators and growing public concerns over safety, said Seishu Ishikawa, chief of Naha city’s Waste Management Office.
and concerns over unit four's spent fuel pool continue to be voiced ...
Title: In light of further nuclear risks, economic growth should not be priority
Author: By Takao Yamada, Expert Senior Writer
Date: April 2, 2012
Author: By Takao Yamada, Expert Senior Writer
Date: April 2, 2012
[...] One of the biggest issues that we face is the possibility that the spent nuclear fuel pool of the No. 4 reactor at the stricken Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant will collapse. This is something that experts from both within and outside Japan have pointed out since the massive quake struck. [...] not only independent experts, but also sources within the government say that it’s a grave concern.The storage pool in the No. 4 reactor building has a total of 1,535 fuel rods, or 460 tons of nuclear fuel, in it. The 7-story building itself has suffered great damage, with the storage pool barely intact on the building’s third and fourth floors. The roof has been blown away. If the storage pool breaks and runs dry, the nuclear fuel inside will overheat and explode, causing a massive amount of radioactive substances to spread over a wide area. Both the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and French nuclear energy company Areva have warned about this risk.A report released in February by the Independent Investigation Commission on the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Accident stated that the storage pool of the plant’s No. 4 reactor has clearly been shown to be “the weakest link” in the parallel, chain-reaction crises of the nuclear disaster. The worse-case scenario drawn up by the government includes not only the collapse of the No. 4 reactor pool, but the disintegration of spent fuel rods from all the plant’s other reactors. If this were to happen, residents in the Tokyo metropolitan area would be forced to evacuate.Former Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Sumio Mabuchi, who was appointed to the post of then Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s advisor on the nuclear disaster immediately after its outbreak, proposed the injection of concrete from below the No. 4 reactor to the bottom of the storage pool, Chernobyl-style. [...]“Because sea water was being pumped into the reactor, the soundness of the structure (concrete corrosion and deterioration) was questionable. There also were doubts about the calculations made on earthquake resistance as well,” said one government source familiar with what took place at the time. “[...] fuel rod removal will take three years. Will the structure remain standing for that long? Burying the reactor in a concrete grave is like building a dam, and therefore expensive. I think that it was because TEPCO’s general shareholders’ meeting was coming up (in June 2011) that the company tried to keep expenses low.” [...]Earthquakes in the neighborhood of level-5 on the seismic intensity scale continue to occur even now in the Tohoku and Kanto regions. We cannot accept the absurd condescension of those who fear the worse-case scenario, labeling them as “overreacting.” We have no time to humor the senseless thinking that instead, those who downplay the risks for the sake of economic growth are “realistic.”