Thursday 15 March 2012

One Year On

I usually do a round up of the general situation every month but it didn't seem appropriate at the anniversary so I've put it separately  here.

All quiet at the plant. The scare last month about the temperature rising in Unit 2 turned out to be a faulty thermometer. Reactors 1 to 3 and spent fuel pools in Reactors 1 to 4 continue to be cooled by the circulating system developed jointly by Japan, America and France. Temperatures in the reactors at end February were 24'C for Unit 1, 44'C for Unit 2 and 53'C for Unit 3. So cold shutdown maintained. Unit 1 is covered over, the building of Unit 2 is still slightly open to the outside, work is going on to remove the debris of buildings from Units 3 and 4 which were destroyed in the explosions. An underground wall is being built to prevent seepage of water into the sea. 3,000 people beavering away trying to clear up the mess. Acres and acres of tanks holding water that's been used in cooling. Nowhere to put it and talk of dumping cleaned water in the sea but with the ban on fishing still in place, the fishing industry won't hear of it.

80% of people surveyed say the recovery is too slow. For example, although most debris from the tsunami has been cleared from the coast, only 5% has been taken away. Tokyo, Aomori and Yamagata have taken in some but even though debris from Iwate and Miyagi is nowhere near Fukushima and is clear of radiation, residents won't have it. The PM was on TV on the anniversary and said central government would pay for extra testing etc. It seems to have worked and more local authorities and some private companies are looking into accepting the waste.

Progress in rebuilding, for example moving to higher ground, has been slow. Local authorities made plans but didn't get the money until December and then didn't have the resources to make the scores of applications to five or more Ministries. The Ministry of the Recovery is supposed to be a 'one-stop' shop to simplify things but it only opened last month so it's still early days. People are saying that growth in demand for construction, materials etc will start from the summer.

Big companies are pushing ahead. Rengo our parent company whose Sendai factory was destroyed in the tsunami purchased land on higher ground within weeks and the new factory is to open today, 15 March, bringing back all the workers who'd been given temporary employment in other factories in the group. Brilliant. But for smaller businesses which don't have the funds obviously things are much more difficult.

One of our customers, Yuzuki, a firm making kamaboko fish sausage, has been the first to get compensation paid (150 million yen, over a million GBP) for loss of sales due to the nuclear scare. Our box business still has lawyers working on the case. Out of thousands of applications only a handful have been awarded.

The main problem for all the disaster areas but Fukushima in particular is to stop the drain of people leaving. For jobs there need to be grants and tax breaks to entice industry here and the Chamber of Commerce has sent us a survey asking what kind of 'tokku' (特区), special deregulated areas, ie free from Japan's notorious red tape, we would like to see.

Seya Toshio, an old friend, ex-Toho Bank and Chairman of the Fukushima Prefecture Chamber of Commerce, has spoken out. He says he's sick of talk of grants and airy fairy ideas. He's angry with central government for refusing to fund free medical care for under 18s (the prefecture's going to go ahead with it anyway). He wants Fukushima made into a tax haven and he's floating the idea of getting Fukushima Daini (No 2) going, selling the electricity not to Tokyo but to Fukushima businesses at rock bottom prices to give them a competitive edge. I doubt it will happen as people here are very anti-nuclear but at least it's someone  thinking outside the loop and looking for practical solutions to this new reality we are facing.
Well, that's all for now
Good night

1 comment:

  1. Just to say "gambatte" for the difficulties ahead. Keep us informed please.