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TOKYO: Japan’s government will clamp down on contractors cleaning up radioactive material around the ruined Fukushima nuclear plant, officials said yesterday, following disclosures of sloppy decontamination work.
The Environment Ministry hired the nation’s leading contractors to cleanse towns and villages near the tsunami-hit Fukushima Daiichi power plant, starting with four relatively uncontaminated areas. But the Asahi Shimbun daily reported last week that dirty soil, leaves and water have been dumped directly into rivers. The paper cited workers as saying they were told to sweep only around radiation monitoring sites.
Senior Vice Environment Minister Shinji Inoue visited Fukushima yesterday and apologised to local residents. The head of the ministry’s special office in Fukushima admitted on Monday that the authority had confirmed at least two cases in which dirty water was allowed to escape directly into the environment during decontamination work. Water used to hose down buildings is supposed to be collected and sent for purification before it is released, while soil and leaves should be collected for storage. The government has drawn up guidelines for workers, but the Asahi report quoted some as saying the decontamination project is so vast and painstaking that they would not finish in time if they followed the rules.
“The ministry ordered the contractors to investigate the situation and submit a report by Friday,” said a ministry official, adding the government will draw up measures to deal with the problem over the following week.
The decontamination work is largely being carried out by four companies on contracts worth millions of dollars each.