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Wildfires in Namie via Nuclear-News

Wildfire is raging in the highly radio-contaminated area in Namie, Fukushima prefecture. Japanese authorities are minimizing the radiation risk. It is time to provide information from civil movement point of view. We are publishing here the translation of an article by Suzuki Hiroki, a freelance journalist.

What is happening in Namie, the 74th month after the Fukushima Daiichi accident?

There is a wildfire in the forest in the “difficult-to-return zone” causing rising concerns about the secondary dispersion of radioactive substances.
“Is it safe?” Voices of rage from the townspeople towards the central and local governments that hurried the evacuation order lifting.

A forest fire broke out on 29 April in Namie Town, Fukushima Prefecture, where one month had passed since the evacuation orders were lifted from a large part of the town. Moreover, it happened in the “difficult-to-return zone” where radio-contamination is especially high even in Namie town. Strong winds and high concentrations of contamination have made it difficult to fight against the fire and the fire has not been extinguished as of the night of May 1. Although the evacuation orders have been lifted as “the environment for everyday life is sufficiently in order”, it has been made clear that Namie has a perpetual risk of secondary dispersion of radioactive materials in the future. The fact that there is no means to prevent internal irradiation of firefighters as well as of returning residents brought home again the “reality” of the nuclear power plant accident.

[…]

The radiation of the firefighters is unavoidable”.

“The secondary dispersion of radioactive materials is an alarming thing, but it has been expected. Judging that ‘the living environment is generally in order’, evacuation orders have been lifted, but once the wildfire starts, this is what happens. Did the government lift the evacuation orders after presenting these risks to the townspeople? I do not have any confidence in the central government nor in the local administration. They are good at appealing that everything is going well in this country. It was the same during the war. In that sense, it is a system of ‘self-responsibility’. I have no choice but to take care of myself”, said a man in his 40s, who was evacuated from the Hiwatari-Ushiwata administrative district. No active effort to announce the secondary dispersion of radioactive materials associated with forest fires was made by the town. It was delivered at last in the Mail magazine of the town at 10:00 a.m. on May 1. The following warning sentence was diffused: “Please do not approach carelessly, for it is dangerous”. It was not known to the townspeople for more than a full day because the fire report is dated Saturday evening. “The administration is difficult to move on Saturdays and Sundays,” said the General Affairs Disaster Security Division. On May 1 at 7:00 a.m., the same content was announced to the entire neighborhood by the disaster prevention radio, and “Notice of forest fire conditions” was published on the town homepage. However, there was no call for wearing a mask related to secondary dispersion of radioactive materials.

This council member says, “it is only a personal opinion, but it is natural to assume that radioactive cesium will scatter with smoke and ash, and the fire extinguishing activity should be carried out while measuring how much radioactive material there is in the one square meter. However, it is not realistic, and I have to say that it is not possible to prevent internal irradiation exposure after all.” Another council member also said, “the risk was not examined when the evacuation order was lifted. The danger has been proven by the forest fire this time.” He is ready to take the matter to the Town Council.

As for the irradiation risk of the fire brigade, the headquarters of the Futaba Regional Communities Area Union Fire Department admit that while they can make a point “not to carry out the contaminated materials from the area”, there is no means to prevent the exposure of the fire brigade member. They can only try to shorten the time of stay in the “difficult-to-return zone”, but in reality it takes time to reach the site, and it is difficult to reach it. We have to admit that the exposure is unavoidable.” I wonder if we can consider the situation as “nuclear accident is under control”?

[…]

Difficulty to monitor fine particles

There is no significant fluctuation in the airborne radioactivity measured by the monitoring posts installed inside and outside the town. The local media also actively convey the point. However, Mr. Yoichi Ozawa of the citizen’s group in Minamisoma City, “Fukuichi Environmental Radiation Monitoring Project”, pointed out that “radioactive particulates cannot be caught by a dosimeter or monitoring post.” In response to the forest fire, the above Project and the Citizen Radioactivity Monitoring Center “Chikurin-sha” (Hinode Town, Nishitama County, Tokyo) put several linen cloths in the town of Namie. It is thought that the secondary dispersion situation can be estimated by examining the adhesion of the fine particles that cause the internal irradiation.

The central government also faces a cautious posture about the secondary dispersion of the radioactive materials by combustion. On April 20, at the meeting with the residents of Iitate village the person in charge of the Cabinet Office asked the villagers “not to burn the field until the results of experimentation and analyses about how much radioactive materials scatter and adhere to crops etc. come out.” It is a reality that even the bureaucrats of the central government who rushed the evacuation order lifting are not able to affirm that it is safe.

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