Monday 14 January 2013

One Year and Ten Months

Time for my monthly update. Sorry it's a bit late. Today, Monday, is a holiday and I've been taking it easy over the weekend.

So how are things over at Fukushima Daiichi? Reactors 1 to 3 continue to be stable in 'cold shutdown condition' though radiation is high inside the reactors. The plant continues to emit radioactive materials at a maximum rate of 10 million bq/hr. (at the time of the disaster it was 80 million times more than that). At damaged Reactor 4 work has begun on building a structure and cover prior to removing fuel assemblies, work which is due to start ahead of schedule in November this year. But it's not as if the fuel is to be taken anywhere. It will be stored more safely in a newly built facility on site. Tepco has sent 80 staff to nearby J-Village  to work in its new Fukushima Recovery HQ. Good news indeed.

Here's how the radiation is shown on TV these days, before the weather forecast.
Maximum and minimum values are shown for each district in the restricted area.
Highest is Okuma-machi (in the middle) at 0.48 to 31.3 μSv/hr

And here's the rest of Fukushima prefecture.
Koriyama in the middle (label under the lake) 0.05 to 0.84 μv/hr.

With remarkable alacrity, Abe, the new Prime Minister, has announced a raft of measures to boost the economy and Fukushima has been a welcome focus. Full government funding for the building of 'temporary towns' (仮の町 kari no machi) which had got bogged down over which local authority was to foot the bill. 130 million yen (1 million GBP), three times the amount spent last year, to promote the Fukushima brand, or as they say here 'sweep away harmful rumours' (風評の払拭 fuhyo no fusshoku). Over 10 billion yen (77 million GBP) on measures to encourage people to return to the evacuated districts once the bans are lifted. The list includes building new commercial districts (grants so far have been ineffective), new hospitals and old peoples' homes, maintaining land and homes (no measures so far, effectively a wasteland), even temporary toilets! There are also new powers for the Recovery Ministry which will coordinate the decontamination work of the various ministries. 

So all in all things are looking up. Though I have to say businesses are still struggling, with sales generally ten percent or so down on last year. 

After a week of very cold weather but bright sunshine and great views of the mountains, today it's snowing with a vengeance. This holiday is known here as 'little New Year' and there are traditional events but officially it's Coming of Age Day (成人の日 seijin no hi) when 20 year olds get dressed up and attend a civic ceremony and celebrate the fact that they are fully fledged members of society and can drink alcohol legally and vote in elections. Koriyama held its ceremony yesterday, thank goodness, and I spotted a few brightly coloured kimonos in town. That reminds me. On Friday night, on my way back from the gym, a big party was breaking up outside the hotel on the road from the station and I spotted a geisha. Unusual these days, especially since the restaurant they used to operate from was so badly damaged in the earthquake it closed down. I couldn't see her face in the dark, but she looked so dainty, her tiny body in its bright purple kimono, and the wig - such big hair. Exquisite. A rare sight these days.

Goodbye, from a very snowy Koriyama. It's midday. Three or four inches on the ground and lots more swirling down in the wind. Don't fancy driving to work tomorrow morning.

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