Friday 15 April 2011

More stable for now

No big aftershocks yesterday or today but there were a worrying couple of hours the other night after the big aftershock when the electricity failed at one of the reactors. But cooling is now continuing. Diesel electricity generators have been moved to higher ground as has an electricity generating vehicle. Let's hope the cord is long enough this time. One of the farcical elements of the first few days was that the electric cord for this vehicle wouldn't reach the reactors! Underlines the importance of carrying out training exercises. For a reassuring assessment of the risks, here's an update from the UK Scientific Advisor on the British Embassy in Tokyo's website.

So with the reactor under control and radiation levels in the air not causing serious risks, the problem for us is the economic damage, especially to farming, and to our business. Last week levels of caesium around here in Koriyama were high (2 to 3,000 bequerels per kg of soil) and tests were repeated. The results came out yesterday. Much the same as before but below the government's limit of 5,000 bq/kg. so preparations for rice planting are to go ahead. Whether the produce will be shipped is a different matter. If not, no boxes will be needed and we will suffer. (Vegetable seeds are to be sown and the seedlings tested again before they're planted out.) But on the same day that the new test results were announced the Ministry of Education announced that another radioactive element had been found in the soil.  In addition to iodine 131, caesium 134 and 137, :we have a new invisible enemy: Strontium 90 which accumulates in the bones. It has a high density and has been found over a wide area including near our shiitake packing factory.The announcement was made with the usual reassurance that it causes 'no risks to health' but as usual the facts alone are not reassuring. Not so much for us, but that it will make people think twice about buying food from here, thereby affecting the farmers and our sales.

The first meeting of the Recovery Committee took place today and the chairman is a man who was in charge of recovery after the Kobe earthquake. He certainly seems to have some positive ideas: build new houses on higher land; have offices and homes in apartment blocks with the homes on the upper floors out of reach of a tsumami; make artificial hills out of the debris which would serve as parks and evacuation points; and institute a national 'recovery tax' so all the nation can share the financial burden etc. There's also a plan to give (by the end of the month) 1 million yen to households which have lost their homes and to those who have been evacuated because of the reactor, up to and including the 30 km shelter area. This is good news indeed. But I wonder if our salesman, whose house is 30.5 km away will qualify?

Let me leave you with this. The Emporer and Empress are doing the rounds of the emergency shelters and will visit Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures soon. They're very sweet, the Empress in her slacks and white trainers. But Sadao was appalled that some people didn't sit up properly (seiza) when talking to the Emperor. What is the world coming to?

All the best

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