Sunday 16 October 2011

People Power

Dear Friends,
With the experts unable to agree on what levels of radiation are safe and with the government dithering between levels of 1 mSv, 5 mSv and 20 mSv per year, people are taking things into their own hands. Seems like everyone has a radiation detector (except me). People in Tokyo are getting particularly nervous and measuring everything they can (resulting in the fiasco a few days ago of the 1950s radioactive rubbish!). But people are finding high levels in the usual places, drains and where rainwater collects. There's a new word for these places: microspots.

There's widespread distrust of the government along with a thirst for information so people are getting organised. There's a 'National Parents Network to Protect Children from Radiation' (子供たちを放射能から守る全国ネットワーク), a self help group which at the weekend invited a Russian expert to Tokyo to tell parents what was done in Chernobyl and give practical advice.

Most of the schools and school routes in Koriyama have been cleaned now and elementary schoolchildren can play outside in the school yard for one hour a day but that's as far as it goes. After the recent success of an indoor play facility in Koriyama (3,500 visitors in 3 days), a group of paediatricians here has got sponsorship for a permanent faciltiy which will provide areas for kids to run around and let off steam as well as rooms for counselling worried parents.

No one goes to the park (and we have some lovely parks) and cleaning up ordinary homes and gardens has been conspicously absent from official plans. People are measuring levels in their own gardens and removing the soil. It seems to be effective. But the contaminated soil is just shovelled into plastic sacks and put in a corner. It's illegal to move it. And there's still no place you can take the stuff to though I've heard on the grapevine that Koriyama has a site which it will be opening soon.

Or you can get people in to clean your house. Cost between 100,000 and 200,000 yen (750 - 1,500 GBP). Saw on TV one company that will spray the outside walls of your house with a blue gel that gets peeled off along with the radioactive particles.

Similarly, in the face of massive opposition, Tokyo Electric has done a U-turn on the way compensation is to be handled. It's brought out a simplified explanation (the original was 150 pages long!), said it will visit old people to help them fill out the forms, and has removed the disclaimer that people had been asked to sign. It's also going to reconsider the basis for compensaton to the tourist industry. Originally it had arbitrarily decided that it would compensate for only 80% worth of last years sales. Tokyo Electric (Tepco) has a monopoly and there had been much criticism of it lording it over the people (tono-sama shobai 殿様商売)but they got their comeuppance.

Thank you for all your comments, particularly on Radiation 5. I've made one correction. I quoted a method of measuring the effect of radiation which should have read Linear No Threshold Model. This is a link to a Wikipedia page which makes interesting reading. Even the experts can't agree on what levels are safe. No wonder we're all confused!
Bye for now


  1. Dear Anne; If you are interested in testing your internal radiation exposure, a whole body testing machine is available at Hirata Chuo Hospital, installed there recently and said one of the three ever installed at some private hosiptals in Japan. Kinuko

  2. Yes, I saw that on TV. Free for those under 18.
    Now there's an enterprising doctor!
    Are you going to be tested?

  3. No, I don't think so at this moment. I will check the fee for the test and let you know.
    By the way, the harvest at Hirata is scheduled on 3rd Nov. Can you join us ?