Thursday, 21 April 2011

News Round-up

There haven't been any big aftershocks for a while. I was woken two nights ago and there are two or three that you notice in a day, but only force 2 or 3. You stop for a moment, take stock, then carry on. Over a week ago now the prime minister called for an end to the period of restraint (jishuku mudo) as it was damaging the economy so people were out enjoying themselves in Koriyama last Friday night and generally there are more people out and about. Things are getting back to normal.

I haven't talked about the reactor for a while so here's a round-up of the news. Nothing special, just what's on the television. The main problem seems to be managing the very large quantites of heavily contaminated water. In Unit 2 the water is being moved to a waste disposal unit at the rate of 10 tons/hour (56 tons so far). The trouble is there is 67,000 tons to be moved from Units 1 to 3. They need to get the water out of the turbine halls so that the pumps and cooling systems can be restarted. A little robot has been sent in to photograph the inside of the turbine halls. There was also old footage of the turbine halls before the earthquake: several sets of double doors, lots of pipes and equipment, very complicated set up. Like our homes, the earthquake turned everything upside down so it's a mess inside. Not to mention the rubble from the damaged buildings. Very high levels of radiation within the plant are hampering repair work.

A new facility is to be set up by June to treat contaminated water courtesy of the French company Avera whose delightful lady CEO has visited twice and in between fielding questions at the airport in the most accessible and charming way has pulled off this deal. What a role model. The idea of the CEO of an energy company being a woman is incredible here.

Sorry for that aside. The other big news is that the government (Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano) has announced that from midnight tonight (in two hours time) the 20 km zone around the reactor will be a no-go zone with a 100,000 yen fine for illegal entry. 27,000 households are affected. The TV showed traffic jams of people returning to their homes to pick up belongings although there is also a plan to allow one member of each household to visit the area over the next few months under supervision.

We continue to follow the soil contamination issue closely. A colleague was telling me that there is lots of data on rice growing and it's been shown that only 1% of any radiation in the soil ends up in the finished rice. Rapeseed, for some reason, absorbs no radiation at all. But he was saying there is no data for other fruit and vegetables. Farmers will have to grow the crop and get it tested before deciding whether it can go to market. Which makes it very difficult for us to estimate our sales. Cartons for fruit and vegetables account for about 10% of our annual sales and are concentrated in the three months of June, July and August with another peak in October for fruit. The main crops are tomatoes, cucumbers and french beans, Fukushima being the top bean (ingen) producing region in the country. Then there is fruit. Fukushima peaches are second only to those of Yamanashi. Apples, nashi pears and cherries are important crops too. They are in flower at the moment. I hear growers are uncertain as to whether to hire people to do the time consuming work of  pinching out the flowers when they don't know if they'll be able to sell the fruit.

Another interesting piece on the news this morning was an answer to the question, 'Is radiation catching?' Apparently some children evacuated outside the prefecture are being teased. The answer, we are told, is that  if you get radiation on  your body or on your clothes you can wash it off. And even if it gets inside you, it's not catching! That's nice to know.

It's Easter this weekend, isn't it? This is a non-Christian country and I wouldn't have known except friend Joan in Hong Kong kindly sent me a box of English goodies which included some miniature eggs.
Happy holidays to you all.

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