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Friday, Nov. 25, 2011

Miyagi debris from tsunami Tokyo-bound

Onagawa joins Iwate's Miyako rubble transfer

Staff writer

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government announced Thursday the capital's incineration facilities will help store, dump and burn up disaster debris from Onagawa, Miyagi Prefecture, next year.

Onagawa is the second municipality after Miyako, Iwate Prefecture, to receive help from the capital.

The overwhelming amount of debris is interfering with rebuilding efforts in areas damaged by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, but Tokyo's attempts to help are raising public concerns about radiation contamination. Much of the debris was likely tainted by fallout from the Fukushima No. 1 power plant in adjacent Fukushima Prefecture, which was hit by multiple reactor meltdowns triggered by the disasters.

According to the metro government, the amount of cesium in a kilogram of ash from incinerated disaster debris is well below the government's provisional limit of 8,000 becquerels and about the same as that now being found in disposal facilities across the capital.

According to the agreement, the metro government will receive 100,000 tons of burnable waste from Onagawa by March 2013.

The debris will be burned by all 20 public disposal facilities in Tokyo's 23 wards, as well as several of the 17 facilities in the Tama region, metro officials said.

The Environment Ministry estimates that about 444,000 tons of debris were generated by tsunami in Onagawa, one of the most devastated municipalities in Miyagi Prefecture.

"We really appreciate Tokyo from the bottom of our heart" for accepting the disaster debris, Onagawa Mayor Yoshiaki Suda said after signing the agreement with Tokyo.

"About two-thirds of the houses in Onagawa were destroyed by the tsunami. . . . The amount of disaster debris is equal to about 115 years of our usual trash, and it's just impossible to dispose of it all just by ourselves.

"Every time we see mountains of debris, we remember the disaster. The debris is becoming a hurdle, both physically and psychologically, to reconstruction. . . . But this agreement will be the first step forward in rebuilding this disaster-ravaged town," Suda said.

The first batch of disaster debris from Onagawa will be brought in by train early next month to waste facilities in Shinagawa and Ota wards for incineration experiments.

Afterward, the metro government plans to hold briefing sessions with residents before importing the trash full bore in March.

Before shipping the debris to Tokyo, the Miyagi government will conduct two rounds of radiation testing on it.

According to metro officials, the Onagawa debris will be mixed in with ordinary Tokyo trash at a ratio of 1-to-10.

The resulting ash will be dumped into landfills in Tokyo Bay, while ash generated by Tama region facilities will be recycled into cement, they said. Radiation tests will be held at the landfills once a week.

The metro government said 2,300 becquerels of cesium per kilogram were detected in ash from Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, in September.

The monitored figure is about the same as that detected at Tokyo's disposal facilities, it said.

According to the Environment Ministry, as of Nov. 15, more than 22 million tons of debris were sitting in Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima prefectures.

However, due to radiation fears, no municipality aside from Tokyo had officially agreed to take any of the debris as of Thursday.

"There is between 15 to 18 million tons of debris in Miyagi Prefecture, and we need to (clear this out) within three years. . . . We have been reaching out to other prefectures (to accept the disaster waste), but sadly we are struggling" to find municipalities outside the Tohoku region willing to accept the trash, Tamotsu Koizumi, an official of the Miyagi Prefectural Government, told the press.

Tokyo began accepting disaster debris from Miyako in Iwate Prefecture on Nov. 3, and plans to receive a total of 11,000 tons from the city over the next 2½ years.

The metro government plans to accept 500,000 tons of debris and waste in total from Iwate and Miyagi prefectures by the end of fiscal 2013.

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The Japan Times

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