Monday 10 October 2011

Seven Months On

Dear Friends
Seven months since the disaster and at last things seem to be moving.

All 360,000 children and young people in Fukushima prefecture under the age of 18, are to have their thyroids tested (ultrasound, takes five minutes). It'll take a couple of years to get round them all but they're going to be tested every two years until they're 20 and every five years for the rest of their lives. It takes a while to get things moving in this country but once they start they certainly do things thoroughly.

The other progress is in the Clean Up. The government had said that only areas over 5 mSv/yr would be  cleaned but the resulting outcry made them change their mind and now areas over 1 mSv are to be cleaned. The government are to clean up the 20 km no-go zone and Iitate (the 'planned evacuation area') but local authorities are in charge of the rest. An IAEA mission is here at the moment visiting various areas and will give advice.

The best way to clean farmland seems to be scrape off the top 4 cm, grass and all (97% effective). Other methods such as spreading solidifer over then scraping, spraying with water and sucking up the mud, or deep ploughing are less effective. Sadly, sunflowers came out badly in the tests so not worth promoting as a decontaminant.

But the big unresolved issue is where to dump the stuff. If you hose down your house, the waste water is treated and the resultant sludge (odei) is being stored in bags at the waterworks. School playgrounds have been scraped but the soil sits in a heap in a corner. If you're unfortunate enough to have any on your land, it's illegal to move it so you have to leave it there. Every time a location for a 'temporary site' is mooted the locals object. You can imagine the scene. I hear Fukushima City is dumping it at an unknown location.

Today was a holiday 'Physical Education Day'. It was a lovely day so I headed off to Ura Bandai and took the lift at Gran Deko ski resort for some glorious views. The maples not turned yet - need another couple of weeks. The walkers - with bear bells - were out in force for the walks from the top. Come to think of it, bears are back in the news so things must be quietening down. In sleepy Fukushima not much happened before the accident and bears were big news. In early March a bear stepped on the automatic doors and walked into village offices somewhere near Aizu. Now bears have been spotted in central Sapporo in Hokkaido. Yeah, things are getting back to normal.

First stop, Nakanosawa Onsen for some sasa-dango (bamboo cakes). Sticky rice flavoured with yomogi (Artmesia indicus var.) with aduki bean filling cleverly wrapped in bamboo leaves.
Fragrant and delicious.
From Ura Bandai took a twisty road along Lake Onogawa.
To Gran Deko ski resort
The lacquer tree brilliantly red right now. But don't touch. You'll get a nasty rash.

Mount Bandai always seem to be in the mist!

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