Monday 16 January 2012

Radioactive Concrete

Strange news item today. Nihonmatsu, about 10 miles north of here, was monitoring the glass badges that schoolchildren wear to measure accumulated radiation and found that children living in a certain building had high levels of exposure. Levels were higher on the ground floor than the upper two floors and in the downstairs rooms double levels outside. The building was completed in July and it turns out that concrete used in the foundations and outside was made from stone which had been piled up outside in Namie at the time of the accident.

I was talking to someone today whose father is (or rather, was) a dairy farmer 3 or 4 miles from that quarry. He said people were evacuated from their homes on the second day but businesses were allowed to keep going for a couple of months. (On TV tonight it said that the quarry was closed on 22 April.)

So first there was the ban on milk, then beef when it was found that cattle had been fed rice straw which had soaked up radioactive rain. Then rice, over the limit in various hotspots, and now concrete for goodness sake.

It all goes back to that SPEEDI map. This was a system designed specifically to forecast how radioactive materials would spread in case of a nuclear accident. The recent report on the accident said that three government ministries had access to the data but the Cabinet Office didn't know of its existence and no one in any of the ministries thought to tell them. It was not made public until 23 March. What with electricity down and some monitoring posts not working properly the information may not have been perfect but surely the general drift of the plume to the north west was obvious. It is unforgiveable that some people from Namie moved northwest into Iitate, UNDER the plume. Why were they not told? Why were the people (mainly dairy farmers in slow-life Iitate) only evacuated much later? Why was rice, straw and even stone in this area not monitored?

Interestingly, according to one of the experts who wrote the report, the Americans had access to the SPEEDI data. He was saying  on TV yesterday that they asked the Ministry of Defence for it and were sent an e-mail everyday! And that, together with their own research, made them implement the 80 km zone.

By the way, the man I was talking to today was saying his father was thinking he wouldn't be able to return home for 10 years.
What a crazy place.

1 comment:

  1. Anne,
    My family and I were just watching the report about the radioactive concrete on NHK...and are disturbed about the whole situation. I'm thinking about Iitate Village too, where industries continued to function well after people had evacuated, probably leading to contamination spreading as well. Yes, it seems to all point back to SPEEDI, and the information that was not properly relayed. I had not heard that the US had access to this data, and it certainly explains why they set the evacuation zone at 80 KM rather than 30. Thanks for your fine reporting on a heartbreaking situation.