The government plan would take any contaminated soil under the 8000 bq/kg hazardous waste limit and use it to build roads. Jiji calls this level “relatively low” but the levels of 5000-8000 bq/kg are anything but.
One of the systemic problems with the radioactive contamination monitoring processes in Japan is that most standards and almost all of the monitoring is strictly for gamma radiation. This ignores any beta or alpha emitting radioactive contamination in the soil that would also contribute to human exposures. Both of these can cause even more severe exposure impacts through inhalation or ingestion than gamma radiation. Most of the remaining alpha and beta radiation are also long lived isotopes meaning they won’t die off any time soon.
The methods required to turn this radioactive waste into road dirt would include transferring it out of the current storage bags and trucking it to various road sites. This, along with spreading the materials to build road bases would redistribute the dirt and dust to the air allowing it to spread. Road workers and nearby residents could inhale the dust, causing internal contamination. Dusts settling on water, agricultural fields or gardens could contaminate food and water.
The government plan states that the radioactive soil would be used for the base layer of the road with cleaner dirt above and whatever paving materials that would be used. Contaminated materials would still leach out as roads decay, collapse during earthquake, wash out in flooding or otherwise fail over time.
Image: Collapsed road after Kyushu earthquake in Japan, Credit AFP
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