One down, tens of thousands to go. And since wind and rain spread radiation easily, even this yard may need to be dug up again.
The work is part of a monumental task: a costly and uncertain effort by Japan to try to make radiation-contaminated communities inhabitable again. Some contractors are experimenting with chemicals; others stick with shovels and high-pressure water. One government expert says it’s mostly trial and error.
The radiation leak has slowed considerably at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, nearly one year after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami sent three of its reactors into meltdown. Work continues toward a permanent shutdown, but the Japanese government declared the plant stable in December, setting the stage for the next phase: decontaminating the area so that at least some of the 100,000 evacuated residents can return.