Thursday, November 17, 2011

I hope that a lot of people worldwide can keep paying attention to what is going on in Belarus and Japan and learn a lot from it.

After the Fukushima accident, Akira Sugenoya, the mayor of Matsumoto city (a major city in Nagano prefecture, Japan) has been asked frequently to give lectures, because in addition to being mayor, he is also a well-known leading surgeon who has performed many operations on children in Belarus who were suffering from thyroid cancer caused by the Chernobyl accident in 1986. In 1996, ten years after the terrible accident, he resigned from the hospital he was working for and went to Belarus in order to treat the children because his specialty was thyroid cancer. He stayed there for about five years.

When he recently gave a lecture for the residents of Fukushima City (the capital of Fukushima prefecture, which has been considerably contaminated even though the city is about 60Km from the crippled plant), he said, "When I came back to Japan from Belarus in 2001, I insisted that such terrible accident could also happen in Japan. I implored the Japanese people to take the accident very seriously and think about it hard. However, at the time, nobody saw the accident as a wake-up call. Everybody seemed to believe that such accidents could never happen in Japan. In this sense, everybody bears some responsibility. Considering the current situation in the contaminated areas in Belarus, I think that the Japanese central government should evacuate all the children in Fukushima city to safe places. Many parents will have to live apart from their children. They will have to accept the situation to protect their children from radiation".

Since the Fukushima accident, some facts have been emerged. Some scientists pointed out the disaster risk and vulnerability of old reactors in the Fukushima plant some years ago. However, nobody took their opinions seriously. I think that nobody wanted to accept the scientists' opinions. On top of that, their warnings weren't widely announced or reported because it's been said that the government wanted to promote nuclear power plant projects. As you can see, general indifference towards nuclear power plants, ignoring warnings and covering up inconvenient information on the part of the government and people involved were indirect factors responsible for the Fukushima accident.

I really hope that a lot of people worldwide can learn from our terrible accident and think about nuclear power plants seriously. Actually, the more I know about energy problems and nuclear power plant projects in the world, the more I find them complicated. I don't intend to elaborate though. All that I want to say here is that I want all the people worldwide to see exactly what is going on in Belarus and Japan, and then think about whether or not to build nuclear plants in their own country.

I recently found the link below on Twitter. This is a blog written by a young Japanese man. He took a bus tour to areas very close to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in September. In the blog, he writes about how he felt there as an ordinarily Japanese man. According to the blog, when he visited a museum commemorating the accident, he saw a lot of Japanese writing. First, he thought that this was because of the Fukushima accident. After a while, he realized that it was because of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. When the terrible accident happened 25 years ago, the victims of the atomic bombs sent messages and tried to help them. On top of that, doctors who had experience in treating the victims of the atomic bombs went to Ukraine and Belarus to help other victims there. When I read the blog, although I know that atomic bombs and nuclear power plants are different, I still had mixed feelings.

The blog is written in Japanese, but there are many pictures.

Pictures of the Fukushima plant

Sunday, November 13, 2011

This is a part of reality in Fukushima

Although I always try to pay attention to the crippled nuclear power plant in Fukushima, I sometimes realize that I forget that the plant still remains in a dangerous situation and something serious could happen there. On top of that, there are a large number of people who are striving to get the plant back under control. All the workers are still required to wear radiation protection suits because radiation levels are still considerably high in the site. 

On the 12th of November, eight months after the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami, the press was finally allowed to take a bus tour of the crippled plant and film it. It was the first time that the press were allowed into the site since the horrible accident. All the journalists were required to wear radiation protection suits and shoot the site through the bus windows for safety reasons. After the bus tour, a reporter from NHK, the Japanese public broadcasting service, said, "Even though I saw videos of the crippled plant so many times after the accident, when I saw it for myself, I was so shocked that I was at a loss for words. The plant was more devastated than I had expected. I've visited nuclear power plants many times for coverage. I can't believe that such substantial buildings have been devastated." His words convinced me that there is a tremendous situation in the crippled plant.

In the link below, there are a lot of pictures of beautiful scenery posted by the Japanese journalist Hiro Ugaya. In late October, he visited Iidate village and took them. The village is contaminated by radiation. The residents were required to evacuate their homes. Because of this, the village is becoming a ghost town, although the residents often come back their village in turns to see if there is anything wrong with any of the homes. The scenery is so beautiful, but nobody is able to enjoy it.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Unexpected things are likely to be detected in the Tokyo area as a result of many citizens trying to detect radiation.

It has been almost eight months since the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Although many of the victims are still struggling to find a way to stand on their own feet and there hasn't been much progress in many of the tsunami-stricken areas, it seems that public concern about these harsh circumstances is fading over time. This might be largely because successive events which have had a great impact on many people (such as the fragile situation in Europe, the criminally expensive Yen and the Thailand's devastating floods) have been inevitably drawing considerable attention, and then these topics tend to get more press than the continuing aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami. Anyway, we shouldn't forget that there is nothing more cruel than indifference as Mother Teresa insisted that the opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. It's important for us to show the victims how much we care about them.

Having said that, however, there is one thing from which no event can distract the public. On the contrary, the concern about it is growing. It is the crippled nuclear power plant in Fukushima and the issue of radioactive contamination. Since the issue of whether or not low levels of radiation are harmful is controversial among specialists, the general public, especially mothers, have been skeptical about health and food safety guidelines established by the government after the accident. They have been wondering whether or not announcements on radiation levels made by both the local and central governments are accurate. They have been criticizing the government's inability to act quickly. Mothers insist that the governments should give first priority to protecting children, although they understand that there are a lot of issues to be dealt with. Many mothers have prepared themselves to do whatever they can do to protect their children according to their own standards, not government standards.

In many areas, including the Tokyo area (it's been reported that the radiation levels of the Tokyo area are normal), some citizens and citizens' groups have already purchased very expensive radiation detection devices. I've heard that a reliable one costs at least 100,000 Yen. They have been trying to detect radiation in their local areas to find where radiation levels are abnormally high (we call these places hot spots). It turns out that ditches and places where rain water or dead leaves gather are likely to become hot spots. Some specialists warned about this possibility immediately after the Fukushima accident. Thanks to groups and individuals who are trying to detect radiation with their own Geiger counters, hot spots have been detected. However, there are two hot spots where the high radiation levels cannot be attributed to the Fukushima accident. In one hot spot, radiation levels were caused by bottles of radium-226 found under the floor of a home. The other spot is still under investigation, but a bottle of radium- 226 was found yesterday, which proves there is no relation to the Fukushima plant. 

It's still not clear why bottles of a dangerous chemical were found in residential areas. However, it's been pointed out that radium-226 was used as a luminous paint when Japan was a developing country, and bottles of radium-226 may have been left due to insufficient regulations and inspection systems at the time. I'm wondering if more unexpected things will be detected in the Tokyo area.