As it get closer preparations are being stepped up to try to mitigate any damage from debris that includes cars and trucks and building material.
For the last few days people have gathered at the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology at the University of Hawaii, Manoa to learn the latest about debris' movement and possible final destinations at a workshop.
Speaker:Dr Nikolai Maximenko, senior researcher, International Pacific Research Center, University of Hawaii
MAXIMENKO: Until recently we only had information from our modelIing that suggested debris had already spread between Japan and Hawaii and its moving eastward towards US West Coast and in September with the help from Russian sail training ship Pallada we've got confirmation that debris is still in water, not much came down and they found a small fishing boat registered to Fukushima Prefecture and they started seeing debris 250 miles from Midway Island.
COUTTS: How do you know that's it, that they haven't taken different streams across the Pacific, in different directions, how do you know that it's just this one dump?
MAXIMENKO: We do not know that for sure, but they will continuously seeing characteristic pieces of debris, such as home appliances, lumber, wood from broken houses, TV sets, refrigerators. They were continuously seen it merely starting from Midway Island to coastal areas of Japan.
COUTTS: Well the Russian ship that you mentioned has fished some of the stuff out of the ocean and actually tried to trace its owners. Have you got hold of any of that garbage yourself, have you got any of it at this conference that your examining?
MAXIMENKO: No, no, we do not have anything and in addition, other than the fishing boat. We only have anecdotal information, not even photograph, so we continue looking for future opportunities to run a dedicated expedition to explore composition and concentration and location of debris.
COUTTS: Alright, so because you're only looking at this one particular sighting by the Russian ship, you either a workshop now to mitigate any damage the debris might impact somewhere along the coastal. How can you do that? What kind of mitigation is there available to you?
MAXIMENKO: From our knowledge, based on trajectories of real drift in buoys which are kind of scientific marine debris, and also from our model, we derived pathways that tsumani debris might be using when moving from tsunami area in Japan towards Midway Island.
Now, when we know this pathway, we are organising monitoring and exploring of that area. We are thinking how to send a ship along that line, along that pathway and how to may be send an aircraft to get reconnaissance of the composition of debris that is coming towards our island.
COUTTS: Who did you invite to the workshops?
MAXIMENKO: Invited to the workshop representatives from federal and state agencies and also from private companies involved in clean up at sea and on the coastline.
COUTTS: And what are they telling you? What are their interest in this?
MAXIMENKO: This was just the beginning and together we hope to find ways how to start doing something practical, together we came to understanding that we are almost late to mitigate impact on Midway Island. It's already winter, it is really difficult to do anything in winter at high sea and the earliest when big ship can go there and try to collect some debris will be April, and unfortunately we are afraid that tsunami debris will hit Midway before that.
COUTTS: Just going back on that point, why is it exactly that you need to mitigate at all? What's the problem with the debris just washing up on the shore and collecting it then and disposing of it?
MAXIMENKO: There are many, many aspects why we don't want tsunami debris on our shores and particularly on Midway Islands and northwest Hawaiian islands.
Midway Island is a very special area. It's essentially for many animals, such as albatrosses, seals. It's also the western edge of Hawaiian nation monument which is protected by law, so now we're thinking how we can actually enforce this protection against this natural disaster.
COUTTS: The Japanese government or the allegations against the Japanese government that they've been less than honest about the extent and the truthful impact that the tsunami and the nuclear meltdown has had in Japan and therefore on the rest of the coastline. Is this something that you're also worried about and why your particularly interested in not allowing any of this garbage to land?
MAXIMENKO: I do not know about those accusations and actually I do not have the feeling that they were not completely honest, because I do not remember any other example when government was so open within a different kind of information. As to connection between radiation and debris, soon after tsunami, there was international expedition based on private funding obtained by (indecipheral) with participation from University of Hawaii and other universities who were allowed to get into the area and they did take samples and yesterday, we Henrietta Delawar she presented result of their study and she suggested, she substantiated a statement why we do not expect radiactive debris.