Wednesday, 2 May 2012

The exclusion zone

We stayed the night in Iwaki. It was a basic minshuku, we were the only guests aside from construction workers. It's possible that the clientele before the quake was also business related people rather than sightseers, but I decided not to ask the owners.  They were not around for the most part, and at any rate they probably didn't need us to remind them of the situation,  and we continued north to the exclusion zone the next morning. Just north of Iwaki is Hirono Town. The exclusion zone begins a few kilometres into Hirono.

Driving along the highway, low cloulds, TEPCO thermal plant smoke stacks
looming in the distance (not the nuclear plant) it felt ominous and foreboding.
We were both more tense... entering into Mad Max territory, a blade runner post
apocalypse.  But of courseradiation cannot be seen or smelt.... it was entirely a
construction in my mind. And I began to understand why the WHO warns that
mental health was the biggest health effect of Chernobyl.  (I know there are
issues with accepting the WHO line since the International Atomic Energy Agency
trumps them in the UN heirarchy)  It's an invisible demon.  People have no way
of knowing what is safe, what is not safe, people are told numbers and decide
for yourself if it's safe.

Signs warned of the imminent exclusion zone.

The exclusion zone. No entry.  What makes where we were safe
and the area where the police were not safe?  It looks the same.
Establishing safe limits is one of the most vexing problems
facing decision makers, and the people.
The exclusion zone - the police did not seem to be wearing protective gear.

TEPCO had created a seaside park here - part of the inducements to
local communities to allow the nuclear plants to be built.
J-village, which was a national soccer training camp, is right next to the
thermal plant. The area on the other side of the road was being used as
a waste dumping ground, there was a man there with what was presumably
some kind of geiger counter.

A sports field opposite a school in Hirono.
The best season for sport, and not a soul to be seen.
While we were here, the town loud speaker was reading microseivert
levels taken at various places. 
We saw a few people gardening nearby, but aside from that
there weren't people around.
High voltage powerlines dominate the landscape.
Fukushima produced much of Tokyo's electricity.

The Joban expressway has been cut. I imagine work has stopped
on the construction work that was to link it with Sendai.

Road blocked - there were no police manning it, and I was curious to
enter, Hiro has a more natural inclination to obey the rules than I do...
We didn't enter.
factories in the area must be reeling. Some seemed to be open.
I imagine there is difficulty / prejudice in selling even industrial
goods from the area. Anything produced I assume would have to be
radiation tested.  In a risk averse society, who wants to take the
risk of buying contaminated goods... understandably.
There were very very few people around.
Rice fields a little inland from Hirono that will not be cultivated.
The people are told it's safe to live here, but not safe to produce food
for other parts of Japan.  What does a farmer do who cannot farm,
particualrly if he/ she cannot sell his/her farm. Their options for
having a livelihood are all but destroyed.

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