Tuesday, 12 April 2011

It's not really catacylsmic

From afar Japan is probably looking rather cataclysmic. The 7.4 tremor on the weekend has been followed by a series of aftershocks including a 7.1 and a 6.1 last night and then a 6.3 this morning.  This morning's quake was centred in Chiba, close to Tokyo.  For people closer to the epicentre of the original quake the aftershocks are terribly stressful.  NHK had the cameras rolling yesterday at an evacuation centre and children in particular were so traumatised.
But in Tokyo they are becoming integrated into the fabric of the day, and usually aren't particularly troubling.  This morning's was at 8.08 though, peak time on the subway, and Hiro was on the train. All lines were halted to ascertain safety before resuming normal service.   It seems as though there is a policy to have the trains proceed to the next station.  Fortunately his train was stopped only for a few minutes & they had the doors open at the station.   For me, probably the greatest fear of commuting is being stuck in an over crowded train needing to go to the loo...  

The Sydney Morning Herald, yet again demonstrates its tabloid credentials, opening with a strong suggestiong that a fire at the Fukushima plan has caused the upgrading of the severity of the damage:

Japan has raised the severity level of its nuclear crisis to seven to put it on a par with the Chernobyl accident 25 years ago as engineers battled a fire at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

It has been upgraded, but not because of anything new, not because things are getting worse, but as a retrospective analysis of the situation.   Unlike Chernobyl, there are multiple reactors in Fukushima. 

Also unlike Chernobyl, irradiated food is being withdrawn from the food chain - with what seems to be strict & transparent testing.  (Though Madeline has explained it to me I still puzzle that food irradiation for sterilization is permissible in so many jurisdictions internationally...) 

In the last couple of days the evacuation area has been increased to include areas where radiation levels are high.  But Japanese govt. exclusion zone is still much smaller than the exclusion zone foreign govts are working with.  Realistically though, locating people from the 80km radius would mean evacuating 2 million people....If the radiation levels aren't high, I can see the logic for not applying the 80km zone.

This is a picture that was in the NY Times a few weeks back explaining the evacuation zones as they stood at the time.



Simon said...

Have to say the SMH is starting to get me a little more concerned about my upcoming trip to Tokyo, although I am loathed to cancel.

I think the worst thing has been the different amounts of information flowing from on the ground, in the media or from official sources.

Has there been any increase in radiation in Tokyo?

Cecilia said...

Sorry for the late reply.

There isn't really much difference in base data, what is different is how media is using it to create stories. Radiation levels in Tokyo are unchanged. Food is being removed from the food chain if it has radiation levels above the very conservative standards. A decision was taken yesterday or the day before to not plant the rice crop in villages near the plant. Other ag. products are included.

By all accounts, including the SMH and CNN if you dig deep enough, the situation is vastly improved. Apparently even Greenpeace, no friend of the J. govt, is agreeing with their stats. measuring radiation levels.

The level seven has been applied to take account of releases of radioactivity on the 15-16 March. It does not mean that emission levels have increased now.

Safety from radiation isn't a problem. One can never say there is no danger in an earthquake, but inconvenience is more likely than danger (train delays the most likely). That danger really is no greater now than at other times, it's just closer to the front of people's thinking than usual.

I am sure you will enjoy your trip if you come.