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Piles of tainted tree bark, woodchips left at Fukushima lumbermills.

SENDAI, Dec. 21 Kyodo

At least 16,000 tons of radiation-contaminated tree bark and woodchips are piled up at lumbermills in Fukushima Prefecture, left unattended in storage in the aftermath of the nuclear crisis at a Tokyo Electric Power Co. plant, a local industry group said Wednesday.

The prefectural wood-industry association Fukushimaken Mokuren's roughly 200 member firms are in the process of requesting TEPCO by the year-end to compensate for such storage and disposal costs, which, unlike those for quake rubble, are not covered by state subsidies, it said.

The companies have stopped the shipment of bark and woodchips produced in the process of lumbering and used for compost or floors of livestock barns after radiation above the state-set limit was measured in the group's voluntary monitoring begun in August, it said.

Against the limit of 400 becquerels per kilogram of leaf mold, the levels on bark and woodchips averaged at 400 to 500 becquerels, including more than 1,000 becquerels in some areas, while no detectable level of radioactivity was measured on debarked timbers, it said.

The association had asked TEPCO to burn the tainted materials at its coal-fired thermal power plants, but the utility has rejected it on the grounds such use could cause its facilities to malfunction, it said.

Industrial waste disposal businesses have also refused to process the materials over fears radioactive substances would concentrate at incinerators, it added.

Some timber companies are trying to ship the by-products by rinsing them off and reducing the level of radioactivity, but no one has dared to buy them, it also said.

As lumbering produces about 4,000 tons of bark per month in the prefecture, some companies have begun to switch to imported timbers instead of local products for their business so as not to increase tainted tips any more, it said.
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Publication:Japan Energy Scan
Date:Dec 27, 2011
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