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Friday, Oct. 7, 2011

Cesium surges in ash halt Kashiwa incinerator

Staff writer

An incinerator in Kashiwa, Chiba Prefecture, has been shut down following the discovery of high levels of radioactive cesium in incinerated ash, a city official said Thursday in the first such case since the March nuclear meltdowns in Fukushima Prefecture.

The Kashiwa Municipal Government has no plans to restart the Nanbu Clean Center in the foreseeable future, said Kazuhisa Yokozeni, an official in charge of the city's waste policy.

Kashiwa is a known hot spot where radiation readings are high following the leakage of radioactive substances from the damaged Fukushima No. 1 power plant.

Kashiwa stopped the operation at the Nanbu center, one of the city's two waste disposal facilities, on Sept. 7 after the city found in late June that its incinerated ash contained 70,800 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram — higher than the national limit of 8,000 becquerels for landfill.

The city decided to shut down the facility to coincide with its regular annual inspection in September.

According to the city, the reading for cesium is high not only because the waste contains contaminated leaves and branches but because the new incinerator at the Nanbu center has a high-tech function for incinerating waste at high temperatures.

"In that way, the amount of waste condenses to one-tenth, and thus the radioactive cesium increases by 10 times per kilogram," Yokozeni said.

After the incinerator was stopped, the city removed contaminated leaves and twigs from refuse to lower the radioactive levels. The remaining waste is now being sent to the other incinerator at the Hokubu Clean Center in north Kashiwa, he said. The Hokubu center has an old incinerator, so radiation readings are lower even if the same amount of waste is processed, he added.

The Hokubu center found that the level of radioactive cesium in incinerated ash was 9,000 becquerels per kilogram in late June, but the level dropped to 3,000 becquerels per kilogram after removing leaves and branches.

However, separating out the leaves and branches is causing another problem — a lack of space for storing the contaminated organic material.

The storage space in Kashiwa is close to full, and the city has yet to decide what to do with the tainted waste, Yokozeni said.

Neighboring cities are having similar problems.

Nagareyama, also in Chiba Prefecture, is separating contaminated leaves and twigs from refuse because the city found July 5 that the reading for cesium in incinerated ash was 28,100 becquerels per kilogram, officials said.

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The Japan Times

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