Tuesday 12 April 2011

One Month Today

Dear Friends,
Well, the earthquake celebrated its anniversary in style. I was awoken this morning with a force 3, a gentle rumble. Just before 2 pm there was a sharp jolt and then at 5.20 pm came the big one. This was a full scale, long-lasting shake You don't stop to think. We all headed for the exit. Out into the yard in the rain, the radioactive rain we've all been trying to avoid. We stood out there for about five minutes before venturing back inside. Half an hour later we all ran out again. Not such a big one, but you get nervous. There have been repeated shocks and the building continues to sway.

At the reactor the aftershock cut off power to Units 1 to 3 and they had to use fire engine pumps but the electricity was reconnected after 50 minutes. A TV programme at the weekend told us that at Three Mile Island cold shutdown (100'C) was reached after 5 days and the evacuation order lifted after 10 days. Fukushima Daiichi will take from several months to a year to reach this stage, we were told. Then it would take 3 - 4 years to clean up, 10 years to close and 50 years for it to die.

On the face of it things appear to be improving. Radiation levels are falling all the time. At the Koriyama city office it's 1.88 (microsieverts/hour) and at Big Palette conference centre 15 minutes drive from here only 0.98. Hey that's the same as Cornwall! And there's no trace of radioactive material in our water.

So why has Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano announced today that people in Iidatemura are to be evacuated? I guess the people in Tokyo are worried about long term effects. Iidatemura had a high of 50 mcsv/hr on 15 March but now it's down to 5. Fukushima city had 5 for a while but they weren't evacuated. It seems like the wrong decision at the wrong time.

Meanwhile the Americans announced the basis for their 80 km evacuation advisory given on 16 March. They admit now it was based on incomplete data on a hypothesis of fuel at No 2 reactor being completely destroyed and radioactive material dispersed for 16 hours. It turns out the Japanese government order of 20 km evacuation and 20 - 30 km shelter was appropriate in the circumstances. These are difficult decisions to make I know but I wish they were more holistic. Evacuating can be more traumatic and unhealthy than mild doses of radiation. At least this time Edano has said that the evacuees will be taken care of financially. The 'voluntary evacuation' recommendation was insiduous.

Here's a clip a friend sent me of Japanese journalists venturing into the no-go zone. Packs of dogs and herds of cattle. Interesting.

The Koriyama schools went back today. But just for the morning. The central kitchens have been damaged and can't yet supply lunches.

And let's finish on an upbeat note since it's the anniversary. The word for recovery is 'fukkyuh' (復旧)which means getting things back to where they were, restoration. There's another word 'fukkoh' (復興) which is much stronger and means renewal, building a new future. Edano has announced the formation of a group to consider renewal, first meeting this week. It'll be attended by the governor of Miyagi who has already come up with a plan: a 10 year plan, the first three years of which will be 'fukkyuh' ie getting things back to normal.
The poor governor of Fukushima looks more and more tired and on every occasion asks for only one thing: an end to the affair (jitai no shuhsoku 事態の収束)。He can't make any plans until the reactor's sorted.
Goodbye from an unseasonally cold Koriyama.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting that the US has finally explained its rationale for the 80km evacuation order for Americans.

    At the time when I looked into it, the only reference I could find was from an established guidelines from the US Nuclear Regulation Commission. According to these guidelines, there's danger of inhaling radioactive particles within the 10 mile (16 km) exclusion zone. This has already been in place with the 20km exclusion zone. The next 50 mile (80 km) zone is for contaminated food, which the Japanese government have been enforcing through tests.

    For those who are interested, here's the link:

    "Emergency Planning Zones

    For planning purposes, the NRC defines two emergency planning zones (EPZs) around each nuclear power plant. The exact size and configuration of the zones vary from plant to plant due to local emergency response needs and capabilities, population, land characteristics, access routes, and jurisdictional boundaries. The two types of EPZs are:

    The plume exposure pathway EPZ extends about 10 miles in radius around a plant. Its primary concern is the exposure of the public to, and the inhalation of, airborne radioactive contamination.

    The ingestion pathway EPZ extends about 50 miles in radius around a plant. Its primary concern is the ingestion of food and liquid that is contaminated by radioactivity."