Monday 11 February 2013

One Year and Eleven Months

It's the 11th of the month again. Time for my monthly round up. 
The good news is that radiation is falling. The monitoring post in the park near my apartment yesterday registered 0.327 μSv/hour (in the snow it dropped to 0.2). According to Dr Takamura (seconded from Nagasaki University) in one of his weekly columns in the local paper, there are no radioactive particles circulating in the air now in Fukushima. The radiation is gamma rays emitted from radioactive materials - in the ground (which the snow shuts out), in trees and on buildings. So it's safe to hang out washing and open the windows. Hurrah! 

A survey in Fukushima city carried out in September and October last year showed radiation had fallen on average 49.4% since a survey in March 2012 and 70.7% since the first survey in June 2011. Of this 24.8% was thought to be the result of natural decay in radioactivity and 45.9% the result of weathering and decontamination work. Another survey, this time of woods and forests in the prefecture (not the exclusion zone) carried out in August to November last year showed that average levels had fallen 37.8% compared with the same period the year before. Natural decay and the geography of the country with its steep hills and abundant precipitation means that the radiation is leaching out quite quickly.  

This month we've had the usual reports of minor mishaps at the reactor. This time it was an iron frame that broke as it was being removed from the spent fuel pool in Unit 3. No damage caused, we're told.Then there was the Nuclear Regulation Authority member who took it on himself to slip the electric companies an advance copy of papers for a meeting. Nothing changes. At least it's out in the open - as far as we know. Helicopters have been allowed to fly over the site for the first time and today's papers show the new facility being built next to Unit 4 to take the spent fuel, and rows and rows of water tanks. Tepco wants to clean the water and dump it in the sea but no one wants to upset already tense relations with China and Korea.

Every year figures are announced showing movements in population between Japan's 47 prefectures and it was no surprise to see Fukushima top the list again with a net outflow of 13,843 people in the calendar year 2012. This was hailed an improvement on 2011 when the net outflow was 31,381 but these figures don't tell the whole story. Our city of Koriyama had the second worst figure in the country but recently the trend is reversing. In November there were 100 more people who came to live in Koriyama than left, 36 in December and 117 in January. The paper the other day quoted a net inflow of 1 person in February so was able to claim an increase for four consecutive months. Maybe the tide has turned. (These figures are not to be mistaken for an increase in population. As deaths outnumber births, the population as a whole is declining.)

There's plenty work too - in theory. The ratio of jobs to those seeking work is top in the country by a long chalk and for the first time ever. The trouble is the jobs are in construction, decontamination (real shortage of workers threatening to delay work) and the caring professions, not in clerical and manufacturing.

Nothing to report regarding the evacuees. There's talk of 'recovery housing' (復興住宅 fukko jutaku) but I don't think any have been built yet. And compensation hasn't been sorted. We're lucky here in the middle of the prefecture. We're more or less back to normal. But people here feel for those who've lost everything and then have to live on handouts. It can't be easy. 
So that's it. One year and 11 months. Next month it will already be two years. 

福島市自動車走行サーベイ Article in Japanese below,  and on Fukushima City website in due course
Fukushima Minpo Jidosha Soko Sabei

Interim survey of woods and forests Aug - No 2012


  1. I appreciate these posts. Do you by any chance have links to the surveys you mention? I don't see an email address but I'd welcome the chance to hear more about the situation in Koriyama re: glass badges, etc..

    1. Thanks for your comment.
      You're right. I should put references in. So I've added a couple of links and I'll try and keep it up.
      The trouble is that a lot of my information comes from the local paper so doesn't always have links and of course it's in Japanese.
      But thanks for the input and I'll keep on sending out news from Fukushima!

    2. Regarding the 'glass badges', children in Koriyama are not wearing them at the moment although children in Motomiya just north of here are. As I said, in the blog, in Koriyama the badges were handed in at the end of last year but the results haven't been received yet and new badges have not been issued. I can't speak for other places in Fukushima.