Parts of a flexible container bag buried under the couple’s home are seen at the top of this photo taken in Fukushima on Oct. 21, 2015.
FUKUSHIMA — A couple unknowingly built a new home in Fukushima on top of bags containing radioactive soil because they received an inaccurate waste storage sketch created by the Fukushima Municipal Government, it has been learned.
The couple has been unable to remove four flexible container bags of radioactive soil found buried under their home, as doing so could leave their house leaning. They say the city has not apologized.
“Far from admitting responsibility and apologizing, they haven’t even tried to examine the site. They have also been reluctant to release information, and have acted extremely insincerely,” a statement from the pair said.
The couple initially received a Fukushima Municipal Government sketch showing buried waste on a plot of land they purchased, but it contained no dimensions. About 66,000 similar sketches without dimensions have already been distributed, and it is possible that similar incidents could occur in the future as the storage of waste collected in the wake of the meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant becomes prolonged.
In five Fukushima prefectural municipalities, including the city of Fukushima, contaminated soil collected during decontamination work has mostly been stored onsite, while other local bodies have stored it at interim storage facilities. The city of Fukushima is the only one of the five municipalities to have handed landowners waste storage sketches without any dimensions. Those provided by the other four municipalities show dimensions. When land changes hands, the diagrams are normally handed from the previous landowner to the new one.
In November 2013, a man in Fukushima bought a 300-square-meter plot of decontaminated land, and received a “monitoring chart” from the previous landowner with a diagram showing where radioactive soil was buried, along with radiation measurements taken before and after the decontamination. Based on the diagram, the man built a new home, avoiding the northeast of the plot of land where the waste was shown to be buried.
However, when the city came to dig up the buried waste in October 2015, it was found that six flexible container bags with a total capacity of six cubic meters lay under the northeast part of the new home. Four of them could not be removed due to fears of the home being left leaning.
When the man made an official information request for documents on decontamination in May this year, he was given a diagram containing dimensions. This showed that the waste was buried several dozen centimeters closer to the southwest, nearer the center of the plot of land. The man says the actual burial spot was even further toward the center.
A Fukushima Municipal Government official said the purpose of the diagram without dimensions was to display the amount of radiation, and that the burial spot it showed was only a rough indication. The municipal government said the basis of the diagram with dimensions, on the other hand, was different, being used to record the burial spot of waste under the Act on Special Measures Concerning the Handling of Radioactive Pollution.
A city official commented that the decontaminated soil was supposed to be removed quickly and the officials had not expected it to be there until the time a land transaction was made and a home built. The city is considering replacing about 26,000 diagrams that are due to be distributed with ones that show dimensions. It is also considering publicly informing people that the diagrams that have been issued without dimensions are not accurate indications of where waste is buried.
This photo shows the diagram with dimensions, left, and the one without. The No. 3 marking on the second diagram is where radiation levels were measured.