Workers cleaning up the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant have allegedly dumped contaminated soil and leaves into rivers. In violation of Environment Ministry regulations, they have also let water used to spray the facility’s buildings run off into the surrounding environment, according to local newspaper Asahi Shimbun.
From Dec. 11 to 18, Asahi reporters watched the dubious decontamination work, taking photographs and recording supervisors’ instructions to cleanup crews. In a report Friday, the paper revealed that workers were instructed to ignore the Japanese Environment Ministry’s regulations on how to properly dispose of radioactive materials.
Following the report, Fukushima Gov. Yuhei Sato called on the Environment Ministry to investigate cleanup operations and to compile a report for the government.
“If the reports are true, it would be extremely regrettable,” Sato said at a press conference Friday, according to Asahi. “I hope everyone involved will clearly understand how important decontamination is to the people of Fukushima.”
Residents in the surrounding Fukushima Prefecture await decontamination to return to their homes.
Following the nuclear facility’s meltdown in March 2011, the government was criticized for delaying the evacuation of some local residents.
Attorney Yoshitaro Nomura represents a group of residents seeking compensation from facility owner TEPCO, which has admitted it could have done more to improve safety procedures at the Fukushima plant before the magnitude-9.0 earthquake rocked Japan. Nomura commented on the government’s role in the crisis.
“What did the administration do in the wake of the Fukushima crisis? The government delayed giving evacuation orders. Now it is giving priority to economic recovery over the health of residents,” Nomura told Greenpeace earlier last week.
The Japanese government had received data collected by U.S. scientists shortly after the disaster struck, but did not act on it efficiently, according to the Greenpeace report.
Assembly chairman for the town of Namie, Japan, Kazuhiro Yoshida, told Greenpeace, “It is outrageous that the government did not inform us about the radioactive data at that time.”
Japan’s government will tackle the progressing cleanup under great scrutiny.
We were told to clean up only those areas around a measurement site.
—Fukushima cleanup worker.
Some people have called on the government to use the 650 billion yen (US$7.4 billion) allocated for cleanup to help Fukushima evacuees in other ways.
The ministry provided contracts to large construction companies to do the cleanup work, stipulating that leaves and soil potentially contaminated with radiation should be put in bags. Water must also be collected properly, according to the ministry’s guidelines.
Violating these guidelines carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of 10 million yen (US$115,000), Asahi reported.
The ministry also required that radiation be measured before and after cleanup work. Workers told the paper that they could only take measurements in limited areas.
A worker told Asahi, “We were told to clean up only those areas around a measurement site.”
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