The Mainichi Daily News report on the President’s Science Adviser John Holdren’s trip to the crippled Fukushima Daiichi power plant includes this interesting nugget:
The United States and Japan will work together in researching new technology to remove radioactive materials from large areas around the crisis-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, a visiting senior U.S. official said Sunday.
As thousands of square kilometers require decontamination before evacuated people can return home, an “extremely expensive” task, research is needed to do so efficiently, effectively and economically, John Holdren, assistant to the president for science and technology, said in an interview with Kyodo News.
Holdren, who visited the Tokyo Electric Power Co. plant on Saturday, the highest U.S. official to have done so since the crisis erupted in March, said he discussed the matter as “one of the areas of further cooperative research” with Japanese officials during his visit to the country.
What makes this interesting (at least to me) is that there has been comparatively little research into technologies that can decontaminate various environments following a radiological incident. The most widely used techniques usually involve a brute-force approach of carting away topsoil, covering over contaminated areas, or demolition. All useful in terms of cleaning up shuttered nuclear weapons facilities or decommissioned nuclear reactor sites, but less useful in terms of urban (or even suburban) areas that are likely to be contaminated following a large release from a nuclear power plant or dirty bomb.
Instead of investing money every year in the operation of detector systems of varying usefulness, could a better investment be in technologies and techniques to clean-up an urban environment following a radiological incident (regardless of cause)?
This is essentially deterrence through denial–convincing would be radiological terrorists that there is no reason to attempt a dirty bomb or nuclear power plant attack because the goal of large scale radioactive contamination and resulting fear/economic damage would fail.