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IAEA asks Japan to take realistic approach to treat contamination near nuke accident plant

October 15, 2011 - Tokyo

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has released a report, urging Japan to take a more focused and realistic approach in dealing with radioactive contamination in areas around the earthquake-cum-tsunami hit Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant, amid signs that the Japanese government is becoming overwhelmed by public demands for decontamination.

"They are encouraged to avoid over-conservatism which could not effectively contribute to the reduction of exposure doses," The Wall Streets Journal quoted the report produced by a 12-member team of experts dispatched by the IAEA, as saying.

The mission visited various decontamination projects undertaken by the government and local authorities over the past nine days.

The Japanese environment ministry had released an estimate last month that over 960 square miles, or 2,400 square kilometers, of land would have to be decontaminated to achieve an annual radiation exposure limit of five millisieverts. The government estimates this would cost more than 1 trillion pounds, or about 13 billion dollars. The majority of the area is sparsely populated woodland.

The ministry is under pressure to bring down the annual exposure limit even further, to one millisievert, a move that would increase the amount of decontamination work needing government funding.

However, the report said that a lack of available disposal sites for radioactive waste will "unduly limit and hamper successful remediation activities, thus potentially jeopardizing public health and safety."

The IAEA mission urged Japan to set more realistic goals and adopt decontamination methods that are easier to implement, like burying contaminated top soil underground rather than removing it altogether.

"We found there is room to optimize the process [of decontamination] in some areas, such as forests," Juan Carlos Lentijo, team leader and General Director for radiation protection at Spain's nuclear regulatory authority, has said.

"It is very important that the strategy should be optimized from the viewpoint of avoiding being overly cautious. It is important to balance the benefit you obtain with the burden you have to assume," he added.


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