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Cleanup Begins Near Japanese Nuclear Plant

Japan last week launched an effort to eliminate radioactive material from locations within the 12-mile restricted area around the Fukushima Daiichi atomic facility, the Asahi Shimbun reported (see GSN, Nov. 18).

The six-reactor power plant was damaged by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that left more than 20,000 people missing or dead in Japan. Radiation releases on a level not seen since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster forced the evacuation of about 80,000 residents from the 12-mile exclusion area ringing the site in Fukushima prefecture.

Detection equipment operated by 30 individuals, including private contractor personnel, gathered data on airborne radiation levels close to an Okuma municipal building roughly 2.5 miles from the plant. Okuma is one of 12 jurisdictions chosen for trial contaminant removal efforts within the exclusion ring and an outer caution area; a wider cleanup project is slated to begin in the first month of 2012 (see GSN, Sept. 30; Takashi Sugimoto, Asahi Shimbun I, Nov. 19).

Radioactive cesium has fallen on roughly 11,600 square miles of Japan's territory, or 8 percent of the country, the Japanese Science Ministry stated. The affected regions, which cover 13 Japanese prefectures, received in excess of 10,000 becquerels of cesium 134 and 137, according to the Asahi Shimbun (Hiroshi Ishizuka, Asahi Shimbun II, Nov. 21).

Ocean water has carried contaminants from the Fukushima facility to the international date line, located roughly 2,500 miles east of the island nation, the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology has determined (Takashi Sugimoto, Asahi Shimbun III, Nov. 22).

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