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Japan looks to giant washer to clean Fukushima debris
by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) Dec 2, 2011

Japan is looking to launder tsunami debris in a giant washing machine to get rid of radiation from the Fukushima nuclear accident, a researcher said Friday.

In a scheme they hope will result in finally being able to dispose of contaminated waste left by the waves that crushed towns on the country's northeast coast, a cleaning plant will be built near the Fukushima Daiichi power station.

Shredded waste -- including the remains of houses and cars destroyed by the tsunami -- will be put inside a huge water-filled drum where steel attachments will scrub away radioactive particles, the researcher told AFP.

The plan is a joint scheme between Tokyo-based construction company Toda Corp. and the Japan Atomic Energy Agency.

"We, as a general contractor, have experience of cleaning soil and hope that we will eventually be able to decontaminate soil as well as debris," said a research at Toda Corp, who asked not to be named.

He said researchers will experiment with pure water and detergents to find the best way to decontaminate the waste and hope to be able to recycle the water using a series of filters.

In an initial test they will use a tub 120 centimetres (four feet) long and plan to install multiple washing drums three times larger than that once the project fully launches, he said.

Large areas around the Fukushima plant have been left contaminated with radiation since the tsunami of March 11 knocked out its cooling systems and sent reactors into meltdown.

The world's worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl has not directly claimed any lives, but has left tens of thousands of people displaced and rendered whole towns uninhabitable, possibly for decades.

The radiation that has leaked from the crippled reactors has contaminated the waste left behind by the tsunami, complicating the clean-up operation.

The Japanese government and plant operator Tokyo Electric Power have pledged to bring the reactors to a state of cold shutdown by the end of the year.

Government planners have said radiation-contaminated debris could be stored in a facility in Fukushima prefecture for at least 30 years until its final destination is determined.

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