|Field trip: Shoji Nishida, the mayor of Date, Fukushima Prefecture, briefs experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency on the decontamination of schoolyards on Monday. KYODO|
IAEA group praises cleanup effort
FUKUSHIMA — The head of an International Atomic Energy Agency team of experts on Tuesday hailed Japan’s efforts to ensure the safe handling and management of waste from the cleanup of radiation-tainted areas near the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
In talks with Fukushima Gov. Yuhei Sato, Juan Carlos Lentijo, general director for radiation protection at Spain’s nuclear regulatory authority, also said the 12-member team has had meaningful discussions with Japanese officials during their visit to advise on the decontamination work.
Meanwhile, Sato told Lentijo: “Decontamination is most important in order for our residents to resume their daily lives. It is the first time for Japan to conduct decontamination over such an extensive area, and taking this opportunity, I hope to ask for (the IAEA’s) continued support for Fukushima for many years to come.”
The IAEA team, which arrived in Japan on Friday, was scheduled to head to Tokyo later Tuesday after visiting the Fukushima No. 1 plant.
The experts will stay in Japan until Saturday and present a preliminary report to the government at the end of their mission.
Tuesday’s meeting coincided with the seven-month anniversary of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that crippled the Fukushima plant.
On Monday, the team inspected an elementary school where work has already been done to remove radioactive substances. They received explanations on the decontamination operation at the school in Date from Mayor Shoji Nishida.
The mayor told the team that the amount of radiation at the school has been reduced to one-tenth after the removal of surface soil from the schoolyard.
Asked by one of the team members whether the low-level radioactive waste from the decontamination work could be disposed of as ordinary waste, the mayor said the city is having difficulty handling such waste, which includes radioactive materials, as there is no legal framework that stipulates how to dispose of it.
The waste is currently stuffed in bags and temporarily stored in the back of the gymnasium.
The team also inspected the town of Ryozen, where households have been designated as government evacuation advisory sites due to high radiation contamination, and the village of Iitate, where demonstration decontamination experiments on farmland are being conducted.