The Ministry of the Environment deleted some of its remarks made in closed-door meetings on reuse of contaminated soil stemming from the Fukushima nuclear disaster from the minutes of the meetings, it has been learned.
When the ministry posted the minutes on its website, it said it had "fully disclosed" them. The deleted remarks could be taken to mean that the ministry induced the discussions. The remarks led the meetings to decide on a policy of reusing contaminated soil containing up to 8,000 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram. An expert on information disclosure lashed out at the ministry's handling of the minutes, saying, "It is extremely heinous because it constitutes the concealment of the decision-making process."
The meetings were called the "working group to discuss safety assessments of impacts of radiation." The meetings were attended by about 20 people, including radiation experts, officials of the Environment Ministry and the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) and others. The meetings were held six times from January to May in 2016.
The meetings discussed the reuse of radioactively contaminated soil generated when areas affected by the Fukushima nuclear crisis were decontaminated.
Initially, the meetings themselves were unpublicized. But because requests for information disclosure on the meetings were filed one after another, the Environment Ministry posted the minutes and relevant data on its website in August. As a matter of clerical procedures, the ministry said at that time that everything was disclosed.
The minutes that were disclosed contain "draft minutes" that were prepared before becoming official documents, but the Mainichi Shimbun obtained an "original draft" that was prepared even before then. Comparing the disclosed minutes with the original draft, the Mainichi found multiple cases of remarks being deleted or changed. According to the original draft, an Environment Ministry official said at the fourth meeting on Feb. 24, "With the assessments of soil with 8,000 becquerels, there have been cases in which the annual radiation dose slightly exceeds 1 millisievert in times of disasters and the like. But it will be good if it stays within 1 millisievert." But the remark was deleted from the disclosed minutes.
Soil contaminated with radiation exceeding 8,000 becquerels is handled as "designated waste," but discussions were held on reusing of contaminated soil containing 8,000 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram during a series of meetings. In the Feb. 24 meeting, the JAEA showed an estimate that workers engaged in recovery work on a breakwater made of contaminated soil of 8,000 becquerels that has collapsed in a disaster would be exposed to radiation exceeding 1 millisievert per year -- the maximum dose allowed for ordinary people. Based on the estimate, there was a possibility of the upper limit for reusing contaminated soil being lowered, but the Environment Ministry official's remark promoted experts and others to call for s review to make a new estimate, with one attendee saying, "If it collapses, it will be mixed with other soil and diluted."
A fresh estimate that the annual radiation dose will stay at 1 millisievert or lower was later officially presented, and the Environment Ministry officially decided in June on a policy of reusing contaminated soil containing up to 8,000 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram.