Saturday 15 October 2011

A Funny Thing Happened

Dear Friends,
Traces of Plutonium found recently in six places in Fukushima (outside the plant), Strontium discovered on a roof in Yokohama, and yesterday mystery radioactivity in Tokyo! The country's gone mad. Mothers from the 'Protect our Children from Radiation Society' who walk Tokyo streets with dosimeters found high levels in Tsurumaki in Setagaya. (Nice area, quiet, low rise, lots of temples.) The police got to work with power hoses but no change in the levels. Then it became apparent that it wasn't Caesium but  Radium, so nothing to do with Fukushima. The authorities moved in and removed old bottles dumped in the garden,  probably fluorescent paint that had been there since the 1950s!  Quite funny really. Just goes to show how nervous everyone's got. People are over-reacting, especially in Tokyo.  

Tom made a good comment on a recent post, that at Chernobyl the stress was more damaging than the radiation. That could well be the case here too, what with families living apart, or living with the unknown. Still no guidelines as to what are safe levels. Is it 1 mSv/year or is 20 mSv/year alright? We just want some sound guidance.

A start was made today with the publication of educational materials to be used in schools nationwide. Basic knowledge about radiation is to be on the curriculum for children of all ages. The move seems to be welcomed by teachers. Seminars are also being held to train teachers on counselling or 'care of the soul' (kokoro no kea 心のケア). Definitely needed as children face big upheaval: latest figures show 17,000 children have moved school, 11,000 of these moving outside the prefecture.
Here's the link to the text for primary school kids on the Ministry of Education's website. It's 20 pages long and informative (did you know that radiation is used to reinforce rubber tyres?). It  explains the sievert measurements very well and tells kids how to protect themselves in an emergency. The only information about safe levels is that cancer has been found to increase after a single dose of 100 mSv with the rider that cancer has other causes too. On the whole it's a pretty grown up text.

Or maybe we should loosen up and measure radiation in bananas. Not so whacky as it sounds. My brother-in-law sent me this from the BBC which suggests that we measure radiation not in microsieverts or rems but in bananas - which contain Potassium 40 and have been known to trigger sensors for nuclear materials at ports. Living here for two weeks in March, the article claims, is the equivalent of eating 1,000 bananas. It's a refreshing take on this subject which is getting us all down. The comments at the end make interesting reading.

Here at home, work is to start soon on repairing this apartment block. It will take six months. I'll get a new front door and door frame. And all the hideous cracks will be filled. Since the building was rated 'half-destroyed' there will be insurance money but the bulk of the funds will be met from accumulated service charges (the residents' association here is well off). I won't have to pay anything as I rent.  
Weather here pleasantly warm in the daytime but much cooler at night. How much longer can I put off going into winter clothes?

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