Enenews (3/25/2012) has a post featuring the recent video by A. Gundersen of Fairewinds Associates telling the viewers how he collected soil samples in Tokyo on his recent trip there and found them to be "radioactive wastes" by the US standard.
There is a screen capture from the video at Enenews, showing the result of the soil analysis.
For the Sample NO.1 (Shibuya-ku), the table shows:
cesium-134: 137 pCi/g or 5.069 Bq/g, (or 5069 Bq/kg)
cesium-137: 167 pCi/g or 6.179 Bq/g, (or 6179 Bq/kg)
(cesium total: 11,248 Bq/kg)
cobalt-60: 40 pCi/g or 1.48 Bq/g, (or 1480 Bq/kg)
1 picocurie (pCi) is 0.037 becquerel (Bq).
Now these numbers are way out of line from anything I've seen in the radioactivity measurements of the soil done in Tokyo metropolitan areas for radioactive cesium (no info about cobalt-60, as the nuclide has never been measured by the authorities), unless you measure the rooftop sediments or the dirt near the gutters or the side of the road. So I watched the video.
Mr. Gundersen says when he saw some dirt he just took it, but looking at where he collected the samples they are all locations that tend to accumulate and concentrate radioactive materials - at the root of a big tree, dirt in between the pavements, moss or dirt on the side of the road, etc. In the video he is seen scooping the dirt with a plastic spoon, so I assume it was either loose soil on the very top surface, probably no more than 1 or 2 centimeters or sediments or moss in the crack or on the surface of the pavements.
That makes sense, as these locations tend to concentrate radioactive materials, as we know know after one year.
So, what are the measurements done in Tokyo metropolitan areas in a more standardized way?
Journalist Kouta Kinoshita and his group of volunteers have done an extensive, systematic soil tests in Tokyo metropolitan areas. Let's see what their test results say. They didn't test cobalt-60, so I can only compare cesium-134 and cesium-137.
From Kinoshita's group's test results of the soil samples taken in Tokyo metropolitan areas, three of the locations that might be similar to Gundersen's; their samples were taken from the surface to 5 centimeters deep (standard practice), and none was taken from the rooftops or in between the pavements:
cesium-134: 136 Bq/kgChiyoda-ku:
cesium-137: 182 Bq/kg
cesium-134: 323 Bq/kgZushi (near Kamakura, Kanagawa):
cesium-137: 416 Bq/kg
The detection limit is 1 Bq/kg. Pre-Fukushima Shinjuku-ku in Tokyo had 1.5 Bq/kg of cesium-137 in soil (in 2009).
Mr. Gundersen says in his video,
How would you like it if you went to pick your flowers and were kneeling in radioactive waste? That is what is happening in Tokyo now.
That's a rather threatening imagery, although I don't think you go pick your flowers in between the pavements or in the roadside sediments.
The clearance level of radioactive waste in Japan is 1 Bq/gram, or 1000 Bq/kg. Below that level, radioactive waste is not considered radioactive, and can be disposed of as industrial waste.
You may ask "Why is the Ministry of the Environment saying it's OK to bury anything with 8000 Bq/kg of radioactive cesium?" The answer is easy: the clearance level only applies to rad waste inside a nuclear facility (nuclear plant, medical or industrial facility that uses radioactive materials). Once radioactive materials escape into the environment, there was no law or regulation that stipulates how they should be treated. So the Japanese government hastily crafted and passed a law allowing the burying of anything with 8000 Bq/kg of radioactive cesium and below.