The year 2011 saw Japan hit by the Great East Japan Earthquake and a resultant accident at the Tokyo Electric Power Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Five years on from that unprecedented national misfortune, decontamination work in many areas has been completed through the steady service of a huge number of workers, but some areas have yet to be fully decontaminated. The following paragraphs outline Taisei Corporation's activities to provide cooperation for the objective of restoring disaster victims' lives to a pre-earthquake level, based on an understanding that decontamination work first and foremost is the initial step of rebuilding Fukushima.
Why Taisei Corporation is Taking on Wide-Area and Large-Scale Decontamination Work that Is Unprecedented in the World
The government investigated the state of contamination in over 100 local municipalities in eight prefectures designated as "Decontamination Special Areas" and "Intensive Contamination Survey Areas" due to the 2011 Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant accident. This was followed by policymakers establishing a decontamination work implementation plan stipulating target areas, as well as decontamination operators and methods.
Based on this plan, the Japanese government and local municipalities have been engaging in decontamination activities.
Under these circumstances, Taisei Corporation was commissioned to implement decontamination work as a representative of a joint venture.
A decontamination project represents a long series of extremely laborious tasks. In housing decontamination work, for example, a worker must manually wipe the roof and wall, removing highlyradioactive fallen leaves in gutters, on a house-by-house basis. In woodland areas, where heavy equipment cannot be used, workers mostly manually lop off branches, mow grass, and remove fallen leaves and other residual matter. In farmland areas, they not only remove topsoil and replace it with new soil, but also mix it with soil improvement materials before plowing the land.
To engage in these tasks in an extremely wide range of areas as quickly as possible, while giving top priority to safety, requires the project operator to be equipped with the ability to manage a large number of workers at each site. This is where good use is made of Taisei Corporation's experience developed to date by implementing large-scale work projects, experience unique to general contractors.
Flexibly Address Circumstances That Differ from General Sites and Help Rebuild Disaster Victims' Lives as Soon as Possible
General contractors have superior knowhow to manage over several thousand outdoor workers. However, work management at decontamination work sites differs from general construction sites in some respects.
Differences concern, for example, managing levels of invisible radiation. At Taisei Corporation, we strictly manage radiation levels. Specifically, in addition to ensuring that all workers carry a dosimeter, we centrally manage the attendance of individual workers, as well as daily and cumulative radiation exposure levels.
Moreover, considering the results of radiation monitoring by the Ministry of the Environment, we take measures such as altering where each worker works according to radiation exposure.
Compared to general construction projects, decontamination work is also characterized by the fact that many of the workers involved have no previous experience of construction. Although heavy equipment and specialized devices are used, it is necessary to employ a labor-intensive approach involving predominantly manual processes, which also makes workers with no experience a valuable workforce. Because safety and sanitation control and training workers demand more care than in general construction projects, we ensure that a safety officer is assigned to individual work sites to rigorously communicate work procedures to workers. In addition, by providing basic safety training repeatedly, we ensure safety and sanitation levels are improved. Moreover, to help inexperienced workers gain knowledge easily, we inventively use photos and illustrations to visualize frequent cases of accidents.
These activities have caused the decontamination work to progress steadily with work having been completed in some of the target areas, but not in all of them. For disaster evacuees, decontamination itself is not the goal, but the start of a process for rebuilding lives.
Taisei Corporation will continue to pursue the project steadily to help them achieve their goals as soon as possible.
Morning meetings are held at individual work sites
Introduction of Our Own Technology
Eco Press Pack
Decontamination work results in the gathering of large volumes of flammable material such as highly radioactive tree branches and fallen leaves and grass, which are put into large-size sandbags called Flexible Containers before being stored at provisional storage places.
In an effort to efficiently use storage space, Taisei Corporation uses the Eco Press Pack, (flammable matter special compressing bag), a product developed jointly with Nippi, Inc., and Nakamoto Packs Co., Ltd. This product compresses a large volume of flammable material, such as grass gathered in decontamination work, into a size one third or half of the original size. Using the Eco Press Pack has also allowed us to avoid malodors from flammable material, while enjoying cost-saving benefits for transportation.
- From Fukushima
Careful Work That Considers the Feelings of Local Residents
Currently, we are engaged in decontamination work for Iitate-mura, Fukushima where all local residents are still in evacuation centers.
We have been working to gain their confidence as much as possible by having, prior to launching work, our staff pay courtesy visits to local area representatives and property owners, while distributing flyers showing photos of the faces of decontamination workers in the area. In addition to conducting voluntary patrols to maintain security, we have carried out, for the benefit of the local community, an aluminum can-gathering program in which I worked together with our workers to collect cans. This was followed by wheel chairs being gifted to the local community.
Difficulties involved in decontamination work lie in the fact that a large portion of it is conducted on other persons' premises. Workers must enter not only public properties, such as municipality offices and roads, but also private housing and farmland to work, meaning it is essential for them to have close communication with local residents. On occasion, local residents make individual requests to our staff such as one for not cutting a certain tree that is full of memories for their family members. The feelings of those individual residents must be well heeded by our staff engaging in the work. In Fukushima, there is a local dialect word "madei" meaning "carefully." Local residents often use this word to ask our staff to perform work carefully without rushing. While this work handles radioactive materials that are invisible, staff members make conscious efforts to continue doing work carefully, bearing those requests in mind. For us, the happiest moment comes when a word of thanks is given by local residents. Although Iitate-mura residents' original goal of returning to their homes within five years after the disaster failed to be achieved, they will likely see evacuation instructions terminated in 2017. To enable local residents to return to their homes with peace of mind, we will be sure to have our staff engage in work carefully without becoming complacent.