Fukushima back in the news with the announcement today that Xenon, a radioactive gas, has been found coming out of Reactor No.2 (that's the only reactor with its building still intact, a pretty square box painted blue with white cloud patterns). Xenon 133 has a half life of 5 days and Xenon 135 of only 9 hours and they're produced when the fuel Uranium 235 has a nuclear fission reaction. So this means that some small nuclear reactions may be continuing inside the reactor. Everyone's playing it down saying that there's no possiblity of criticality, a self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction, and that the temperature is down to 76'C so should not affect the plan for cold shutdown by the end of the year. Nonetheless, announcements like this make you realise how big the accident was and how little is known yet. No one can get inside that building so it's all supposition. The centre of the reactor may be 76'C but the fuel has melted down, off the rods, and is sitting in water at the bottom of the building and may even have melted through the floor. Underestimate of the dangers? I don't know. Meanwhile, boric acid is being injected to neutralise the stuff.
Tomorrow is a national holiday, Culture Day, and the lucky people of Iwaki were treated to a ballet performance by Sylvie Guilleme. Here in Koriyama our huge concert hall is bottom of the list for repairs so is still shut. Couldn't even be the venue for the Dalai Lama who is coming to Koriyama on Sunday. The Dalai Lama coming to Koriyama! (All tickets sold out)
Main topic of conversation in our office is the tax office's announcements today of 'adjustments' to land valuations. Every summer land valuations are announced which form the basis for taxes (inheritance tax, property tax etc). The value of land has been falling every year since the bubble burst so land now is worth half, or in some expensive areas one tenth, of what it was in 1991. Don't let anyone tell you that the price of land always goes up! Today's announcements put a figure on the effects of the earthquake and the nuclear accident. So Koriyama is 0.85 which means that property tax will be reduced by 15% as a result of the accident. It's supposed to be a goodwill gesture but it would be naive to think that this will not affect sale prices. Areas on the coast in Iwate and Miyagi were valued at 0.3 and land in the exclusion zone at 0. Good that these people will not have to pay tax on their land but a slap in the face to be told your land is worth nothing.
On a brighter note, todays news showed foreign companies moving into Aizu Wakamatsu. A Chinese company which makes heavy machinery and sees big business in the recovery and Accenture, global management consulting company, that sees that local hydro and geothermal could form the basis of new renewable energy. When we here are reeling from the news that Xebio, a local sportswear company that made it nationally is moving its HQ out of Koriyama as foreign buyers won't come, frightened off by the radiation, this is good news indeed. The government does nothing, the local people are doing their best but basically waiting for instructions (and money) from Tokyo, so it's great that some outsiders are putting their brains together and looking for a way out of this mess we're in.
Tomorrow I'm off to the country to pick up my year's supply of rice. The weather is mild and it's too nice to stay indoors.Love to all