The New York Times published a report on the start of the Japanese government's attempt to "rehabilitate" the more than 8,000 square miles of fields, mountains, forests, office buildings, schools, roads, homes, businesses – everything – contaminated by the post-tsunami meltdowns of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors last March. An initial $13 billion has been allocated for the project, but how effective it will be is anyone's guess: the instruction manual for scrubbing down a radioactive country has yet to be written.
“We are all amateurs,” said a worker wiping down windows at an abandoned school. “Nobody really knows how to clean up radiation.”
The hope is that if the campaign is successful, 80,000 or more people displaced by the meltdowns may be able to return to their homes. Early eradication attempts have proved disappointing, however, in part because citizens have proved reluctant to allow tons of collected radioactive dirt to be stored in their communities. Another concern is that even if radioactivity can be cleaned from towns and villages, more radiation will be deposited there by the wind or rain or washed down from the surrounding hills.
There's also considerable anger over the fact that the $13 billion allocated for the cleanup so far is going to the same giant construction companies that built the nuclear plants in the first place. "It's a scam," one critic told the Times. "The Japanese nuclear industry is run so that the more you fail, the more money you receive."
Photo credit: Reuters