FUKUSHIMA -- Work to decontaminate homes and yards in a district here is not proceeding as hoped, as radiation levels persist and decontamination workers worried about their health stay away.
The city began decontamination work in the Onami district on Oct. 18. Located in the mountains in the eastern part of the city, it has been heavily affected by the Fukushima nuclear disaster, with radiation in rice over the nation's provisional limit of 500 becquerels per kilogram detected, leading to a ban on rice shipments.
Although monitoring of six homes where decontamination was carried out found an average drop of 70 percent in radiation in front of entrances and on gravel parking spots, there was only a 30 percent drop for roofs and a 25 percent drop for asphalt in the yard. Furthermore, there was only a 22 percent drop for second floor interiors.
The city has suggested that the low effect on the roofs may be due to radiation from the surrounding forests, where decontamination has not been carried out. As for the asphalt, radioactive material tends to stick to it and remain even after being washed, so the city has decided to try removing the top layer of the asphalt.
Originally, there was a plan to complete decontamination work on all 367 households in the district by the end of the year, but decontamination work is now expected to take much longer. Thirty-three companies were originally planned to take part, but due to fears about worker safety, most canceled and only two companies joined the work when it started in October. Since then contracts have been planned for 19 new companies, but the number is still 12 short of the original figure.
"Estimated costs for the decontamination work per home by companies differ from 800,000 yen to 1.7 million yen, so it has taken time to sort out contracts. Some companies have also shifted to reconstruction work," explained a city official.
A man in his 60s who lives in the area said, "I was hoping decontamination work would finish before the snow fell. There's been no explanation of why things have been put off, and I've become more distrustful."