Thursday 21 July 2011

Never Give Up

I was walking to work this morning and was handed a pamphlet by a DPJ (the ruling party) city councillor looking for re-election in September. He'd made a 'radiation' map of the area around Koriyama station - 1.1 microsievert/hr in front of the station but only 0.35 in the arcade and 0.55 in front of the new hospital next to Usui department store. Also a flyer with various experiments he's tried: mixing zeolite in the soil, filtering water (though he reassures us there's no caesium in Koriyama water), and using a high pressure hose to wash the stuff away. This guy knows what's on our minds and how to get votes.

Tokyo Electric has announced that it has acheived Step 1 of its roadmap. In spite of frequent breakdowns the water processing system for the three reactors is working and water temperatures have stabilised at 100'C. The spent fuel pools in units 2 and 3 are fully stable and those in units 1 and 4 are 'more stable'. A metal roof has been put on top of unit 3 (just in time for the typhoon currently pounding the south of the country). Step 2 of the roadmap, cold shutdown, is hoped to be acheived by January or even by the end of this year. Concrete 'walls' are to be constructed deep underground to stop radioactive water seeping into the sea. The government is even beginning to talk about moving people back (90,000 evacuated). Once cold shutdown is achieved and there will definitely be no more explosions, people in the 20-30 km zone could go home once certain conditons are met: more monitoring, changing the soil and getting the infrastructure back to normal (no schools are open). One Minister even talked about getting us all to volunteer in the clean up (with the government providing money and know-how) so maybe the councillor's ideas are not that far-fetched.

The government passed the 2nd Supplementary Budget today, 2 trillion yen. That will give money to local authorities to deal with radiation and funding for new homes. There's a 3rd Supplementary Budget to be put before the Diet in September for a whopping 10 trillion yen and this is the one that will get the recovery going (rebuilding roads and ports, moving houses to higher land, rebuilding industry in the disaster areas).

The beef problem escalates. As of yesterday 578 cows that ate contaminated straw were sent to market between March and July and the beef sold (and eaten) all over the country. The most shocking thing is that these are not just cows near the reactor but in Kitakata, the Aizu area, which has not been affected so far. It seems that farmers were sent a fax on 22 March but the authorities were too busy after the quake to follow up. And the fax specified 'hay' but didn't mention 'rice straw'. So all Fukushima beef is currently banned. It's very damaging. Even people who want to support Fukushima are going to be put off by this and feel betrayed. Everything is too late, too vague. We need a quicker, stronger, more reliable response. Today comes the news that 19 cows in Miyagi and Iwate prefectures, a hundred miles away at least, fed local straw have been affected.

There's one thing I can't understand. On televison twice now I've seen the set up in Chernobyl (where people still live): there are simple measuring machines in every primary school and even in local markets. So you take your milk or apples or whatever and get them measured before you buy or eat them. Why can't we have those? Why do we only have expensive machines (the prefecture has just borrowed five). They're called  'germanium semi conductor detectors' and cost from 10 to 20 million yen apiece (75 - 150,000 GBP).

However, amid all the doom and gloom, people here,  especially the nation's women, have been inspired by the women's football team, Nadeshiko Japan, who won the World Cup in a thrilling final coming from 2-0 down to win  on penalties. People admire their team spirit and the fact that they never give up (akiramenai 諦めない).

As for me, I'm going to take a bit of a holiday. My younger son is getting married in England next week so I'm going to have a rest from all this and soak myself in the romantic idealism of youth. I'll let you know how I get on in God's own country.
All the best

No comments:

Post a Comment