Noda urges rest of nation to accept rubble from quake-stricken region

February 11, 2012

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has called on local governments across the nation to accept debris from quake-stricken northeastern Japan to help share the enormous burden of disposal work and move forward with the reconstruction process.

"Governments in the affected region have a limit to their ability of get rid of the wreckage on their own,” Noda said at a news conference on Feb. 10. “Municipalities across the nation must take in debris that is not dangerous in order to share the burden.”

Noda said the Tokyo metropolitan government as well as prefectural authorities in Yamagata and Shizuoka are cooperating with the disposal of mountains of rubble created by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

But most prefectures have been reluctant to cooperate, citing possible contamination as a result of the leakage of radioactive materials from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant and other health risks.

Noda said he instructed each of his ministers of state to call on local governments to cooperate.

The amount of debris left in Iwate Prefecture, one of the hardest hit by the events of March 11, totaled 4.35 million tons, about 11 times the annual volume the prefecture normally handles.

The figure for Miyagi Prefecture was even higher: It totaled the equivalent of 19 years worth of debris.

In Yamada, a town in Iwate Prefecture, a shipment of wreckage got under way to Shimada, a city in Shizuoka Prefecture, on Feb. 10.

Ten tons of wood waste that was turned into wood chips is expected to be delivered to the city by container trucks for eventual disposal. Data on radiation levels of the disposed wreckage will be made public.

If Shimada wins the consent of its citizens, a shipment of timber from destroyed homes in Yamada and Otsuchi, a town in Iwate Prefecture, will also get under way.

But a number of citizens in Shimada have expressed concern about potential contamination from the quake debris.

To allay public concerns, city officials measured the radioactivity around the container trucks immediately before they departed Yamada.

The readings stood at 0.06-0.07 microsievert per hour, compared with 0.08 microsievert recorded before the chips were loaded, well below the safety levels.

The officials are expected to check radiation levels before and after the work to process the chips for disposal.

The Tokyo metropolitan government has been accepting rubble since November, setting a limit at 11,000 tons.

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Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda at a news conference on Feb. 10 (Satoru Semba)

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda at a news conference on Feb. 10 (Satoru Semba)

  • Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda at a news conference on Feb. 10 (Satoru Semba)
  • Piles of wreckage remain at the former site of a public park in Yamada, Iwate Prefecture. (Ryota Goto)
  • A container truck leaves Yamada, Iwate Prefeture, on Feb. 10 to dispose of debris from the March 11 quake and tsunami. (Tomoaki Ito)

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