Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Decontamination, continued (part 2 of 5)

At the Sugano family home, the decontamination continues.  The local government has hired private companies to decontaminate the homes they have deemed radioactive hotspots and have evacuated.  After identifying the areas of high radiation, the teams remove the topsoil, cut down trees and clear shrubs and leaves.

Decontamination procedures continue at the Sugano family home

Speaking with Mr. Sugano, it was shocking to learn that the company tasked with decontaminating his home has no expertise in the field of radioactive decontamination.  The company is simply a small construction company that "knows how to move dirt" and many of the people working for them are part-time contract workers who have received no special training.

Among the men working there was a 26 year old young man from Hokkaido (in the north of Japan).  After having studied abroad in Australia, he was fluent in English, but said he took on this job because, like so many young people, he was having trouble finding work.  At the Sugano home, he was put in charge of cleaning gutters and roof tops, which are some of the most contaminated areas due to the way that rain water collects.

One of the awnings at the Sugano family home measures 5.4 microsieverts

When I asked him if he was worried about his health, he told me he wouldn't allow himself to think about the risk or else he wouldn't be able to do the work.  He did, though, share with me that because of his level of radiation exposure, he is worried about fathering children in the future.

An untrained 26 year old young man cleans contaminated rain gutters and roofs

After living in this contaminated house for three months after the nuclear meltdown, the Sugano children, aged 9, 5 and 4 were eventually evacuated in June of last year.  But their grandmother has been left behind to care for the property and the family pets, as animals could not be taken along when the children were evacuated.  Not only did the children lose their home and their pets, but their family has been split apart, too.

The family dog was outside last year after the meltdown.  When her fur was measured, it was found to have 5 microsieverts of radiation/ hour. 

After the meltdown, the Sugano family dog's fur measured 5 microsieverts

This week, the decontamination at the Sugano house continues.  But after witnessing the incompetent techniques used by the untrained construction company, Mr and Mrs, Sugano doubt if they'll ever be able to return there with their children.  Mrs. Sugano is quick to point out that the company started by removing contaminated dirt from around the house and then power-washing the roof, thereby re-contaminating the ground they had just cleaned.  She added, "It's common sense: when you take a shower, you start by shampooing your head.  How could they get it this wrong?"

With the completion of decontamination only days away, radiation levels at one of the hotspots near the house remained at 15.2 microsieverts.  Looking at the meter, Mrs. Sugano just shook her head and said, "The word 'decontamination' is meaningless".

Decontamination is nearly finished, but at least one hot spot on the Sugano family property remains at 15.2 microsieverts



louis said...



Anonymous said...


sierdzio said...

Ian, thank you again for your beautiful work out there.

Would be nice if people will settle for some healthy and positive solution there, but it seems unlikely.

Ian Thomas Ash said...


Thank you for reading.

Unfortunately, as long as the economy (money) is put before citizens (life), there will not be a solution (change).