Reuters ran an article recently on the scale of cleanup from the meltdowns at Fukushima. Here’s the first few paragraphs:
Nearly six months after the world’s worst nuclear crisis in 25 years at the Fukushima nuclear plant, Japan faces the task of cleaning up a sprawling area of radioactivity that could cost tens of billions of dollars, and thousands may not be able to return home for years, if ever.
Fuel core meltdowns at the facility in March, triggered by a huge earthquake and tsunami, released radioactive material into the air which mixed with rain and snow and covered dozens of towns as well as farmland and woods, mainly along the northeast coast of Honshu.
Tokyo has been slow to provide a plan for rehabilitation, leading some residents near the plant, who have been exposed to high levels of radioactive caesium in homes and food, to start their own cleanup instead of waiting for the government to act.
“I was worried about the radiation exposure impact on children and felt that I had to do something to reduce the radiation levels,” said Hideaki Takita, a 37-year-old resident of Koriyama city, about 60 km west of the plant, who has been cleaning houses.
Takita and other volunteers use their weekends to scrape off layers of dirt in yards, wash walls and windows and bury or store the radioactive waste in the corners of properties in an effort to reduce radiation levels in the air.
“We are trying to bring the levels down for families who want to but can’t evacuate, since they might feel slightly better,” he said.
Reuters said this about what the cleanup might cost:
The accident at the Fukushima plant, about 240 km (150 miles) northeast of Tokyo, is likely to have released about 15 percent of the radiation that went into the air in the 1986 Chernobyl accident, Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said.
But that is still more than seven times the amount of radiation produced by Three Mile Island accident in the United States in 1979, and includes caesium 137, which has a half life of 30 years.
“The technology for decommissioning and cleaning up plants has been studied for a while, but we hardly have any experience in decontaminating materials that were released into the environment,” said Tetsuo Iguchi, a Nagoya University professor.
“Fukushima is mountainous and such large-scale and highly concentrated contamination has not taken place on earth before in an area like this. How things will go is unpredictable.”
The area in need of cleanup could be 1,000 to 4,000 square km, about 0.3 to 1 percent of Japan’s total land area, and cost several trillion to more than 10 trillion yen ($130 billion), double what it took to build six nuclear reactors at Fukushima Daiichi plant, some experts say.