Sunday 24 April 2011

Schools and Sunflowers

Dear Friends
I spoke too soon about the aftershocks. We had a biggish one (force 4) right after I signed off two nights ago followed by a sharp jolt at one in the morning. Then there was another force 4 just as I was going to bed late last night. Understandably it's the main topic of conversation round here.

The school lunch service has been resumed so Koriyama schools are back for the whole day. There was much confusion when they first went back as schools were left to make their own decisions concerning whether children should be kept inside but on Tuesday the government at last issued guidelines. The guideline is that up to 20 millisieverts/year is safe. If a child spends 16 hours a day inside at 1.52 microsieverts/hour and 8 hours outside at 3.6 microsieverts/hour that adds up to 20 millisieverts/year. So the advice is that if outside radiation is 3.8, then children should spend only one hour outside. (Forgive all this technospeak but this was taken from a letter to parents and we're all talking like this!) This has caused uproar as we were previously told that 20 millisieverts per year was the permissible level for workers in nuclear plants. The radiation levels at some schools in Koriyama are 3.9 and 4.0 (for your information, measurements are taken at a height of 50 cm and 1 m above ground, out in the playground, near the window and in the classroom), so most schools are keeping kids inside. We see pictures of them exercising - running up and down the stairs and along the corridors. Must be a teacher's nightmare.

The CEO of Tokyo Electric is out of hospital and back on the job and the Governor of Fukushima after snubbing him twice agreed to receive him. Tokyo Electric have said that reactors 1 to 4 at Fukushima Daiichi will be closed down but the governor let him know that reactors 5 and 6, and the four reactors at Fukushima Daini (undamaged by the tsunami but currently not in use) would not be reopened without the agreement of people here. He then asked him why he'd only come for the day. You should stay here 3 or 4 days, he said, then you'd know what the people of Fukushima are going through. Exactly.

The evacuation areas have been changed. We now have a 20 km no-go zone (keikai kuiki 警戒区域)with road blocks and fines for entry, a planned evacuation area (keikakuteki hinan kuiki 計画的避難区域)which includes the heavily contaminated Iitate village north west of the plant, while most of the 20 - 30 km shelter area has been renamed the 'prepare to evacuate in case of emergency' area (緊急時避難準備区域). It's all very well imposing these restrictions but as Tanigaki, leader of the opposition said, the government should first make arrangements for the people before announcing the measures. Things are done in the wrong order. Certainly there is much confusion. I was under the impression that arrangements had been made to move cattle but the TV showed one farmer pleading with a stony faced official to give him permission to feed his cows in the no-go zone. Incidentally, the Mayor of Minami Soma has been voted one of the 100 most influential people of the year by Time Magazine. Take a look at him on YouTube and you'll get a flavour of the tension around here.

The governor's advisor on the national recovery committee, a writer and Buddhist priest from Miharu, has had a good idea. Plant rapeseed and sunflowers (which we know don't absorb radiation in the soil) all over the prefecture. Pay the people in the evacuation centres to do the planting. Colour the prefecture yellow! And make oil, for fuel, from the seed. This man has vision.

And on that bright note, I'll leave you.
Good night.

No comments:

Post a Comment