This schoolyard in Iitate was decontaminated in January, 2012. Will it ever be deemed fit to use again?
HOW EFFECTIVE IS DECONTAMINATION ANYWAY?
Does the Japanese government have a clear plan for decontaminating Fukushima Prefecture? Are the aims they’ve stated really feasible? Is anyone really able to keep track of the changing standards and guidelines? Lately the ministries tasked with managing this work, as well as spokespersons from various corners, seem to be falling all over themselves acknowledging on the one hand that the work is falling short but insisting on the other that it’s been successful. How reliable is government information about decontamination, and is it possible to weed through the contradictions to find some real data on which to base decisions?
We’d like to argue that yes, it’s possible to find informative data. But as has been the case with so many aspects of the post-Fukushima infosphere, it’s necessary to know exactly where to look, and it helps to have your own data handy for comparison.
Safecast wanted to survey a few sites that had been decontaminated and compare our readings with official before-and-after readings taken by the government. It ended up being extremely time-consuming to locate appropriate sites and get our hands on detailed government data. In this long blog post, we cover as much ground as possible, literally and figuratively. We describe what we found out, and what we had to do to find it out, and come up with a few conclusions. We provide plenty of maps and links to original sources of information. Since it’s long (did we mention that already?) here’s a brief synopsis and jump links:
Part 1: GOALS and POLICIES: Many places in several prefectures fall under decontamination guidelines of some sort, many more in fact than most people realize. We explain how the government has divided land into different categories for decontamination, how it’s intended to work and what it’s intended to accomplish, and who has responsibility for various areas.
Part 2: FINDING INFORMATION: One of the biggest problems with the decontamination process so far has been communication. Technically speaking, the government provides information to the public openly about decontamination policies, practices, and progress, but as has often been the case, it takes a bit of sleuthing to find it. No wonder people get upset and feel uninformed and misled. We discuss these and other criticisms, look at some official publications, and make some recommendations for improvement.
Part 3: OUR COMPARISONS: Depending on the particular conditions of any site, it may or may not be worthwhile to spend a lot of time and money decontaminating it, since natural decay and weathering achieve the same ends very effectively in some cases. We surveyed two sites in Fukushima that had been decontaminated in late 2011- early 2012, and estimate what the levels would have been if they had not been decontaminated.
SOME CONCLUSIONS:Was all the decontamination worth it? The answer is, “In some cases at least.” We explain why, and what we might expect to see in the future.
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