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Thursday, 11 August 2011

Schools in Fukushima clearing radioactive dirt, but nowhere to dump it

photoPart of the school grounds at the Kashima Elementary School in Minami-Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, exposed a hole dug to a depth of 1.5 meters on Aug. 10. Surface soil removed will be buried in the hole by the end of the summer vacation. (Kengo Hiyoshi)
Nearly 600 schools and other child-related facilities in Fukushima Prefecture have started or soon will start removing ground soil contaminated by radioactive fallout at their facilities, an Asahi Shimbun survey shows.
In total, 584 public-run elementary schools, junior high schools, special-needs schools, kindergartens and day-care centers, or about half of all facilities in such categories in Fukushima Prefecture, are on board.
The Asahi Shimbun found that 97 percent of the schools expect to complete the work by the end of the summer break. It is estimated that 180,000 cubic meters of soil must be removed, but no plans have been drawn up for disposing of the dirt.
The problem arose because of radioactive fallout from the quake-crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
The newspaper contacted all 59 municipal governments in Fukushima Prefecture to find out how the 1,160 public-run schools and other facilities in the above-cited categories planned to deal with the problem.
It learned that 584 schools in 25 municipalities had started removing ground soil or planned to do so. Of that figure, 299 had completed the task by Aug. 10 and 268 expected to be finished by the end of August when the summer vacation is over. Seventeen schools said they planned to have soil removed but had yet to draw up a schedule.
A combined 97.1 percent of the schools expected to finish the task before the start of the second (autumn to winter) semester.
The municipal governments are fully behind the project. Officials are keen to prevent more children from moving outside the prefecture. They also are anticipating the day when children, who were evacuated with their families, return to their home schools for the second semester.

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