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Six Months after the Disasters in Ibaraki, Japan

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Art_from_Ark Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-11-11 07:39 AM
Original message
Six Months after the Disasters in Ibaraki, Japan
As some of you may know, I live in Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan, on a direct line between Tokyo and the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power complex. The six months that have now elapsed since the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disasters have been quite a difficult period here, as you can no doubt imagine. So I would like to report on the good news, and the bad news, from my little corner of Japan.

First the good news:
The rolling blackouts that Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) warned its customers (including me) might happen this summer never materialized, thanks in large part to the efforts made by Japanese companies, government agencies, and average citizens to conserve energy.

The local economy *seems* to be picking up, and repairs to roads that were damaged during the earthquake are coming along, albeit at what seems like a snails pace.

Ambient levels of radiation (one meter above the ground) in nearly all Ibaraki municipalities have returned to normal levels. There are some exceptions which I will discuss later.
http://www.pref.ibaraki.jp/important/20110311eq/2011052... /

There are no detectable traces of cesium in Ibaraki chicken and eggs.
http://www.pref.ibaraki.jp/important/20110311eq/nousanb...

No recent detectable traces of radiation contamination in raw milk.
http://www.pref.ibaraki.jp/important/20110311eq/nousanb...

And no detectable amounts of radiation contamination in most seasonal fruits and vegetables (most are grown in indoor facilities)
http://www.pref.ibaraki.jp/important/20110311eq/nousanb...

The local rice crop is being harvested as I write this, and official inspections of rice made in various areas in the prefecture all have shown no detectable amounts of radioactive contamination, particularly from cesium.
http://www.pref.ibaraki.jp/important/20110311eq/nousanb... /

For that matter, cesium has not been detected in rice grown in Fukushima Prefecture, either. And while some cesium has been detected in some rice grown in Chiba Prefecture (between Ibaraki and Toyko), it is much less than the governments maximum acceptable level of 200 becquerels per kilogram.
http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:zC... ;城県米放射線&cd=8&hl=en&ct=clnk&client=safari

Now for the bad news:
Some local open air crops have not been as fortunate as rice. Blueberries and tea, for example, have shown levels of cesium that approach or even exceed maximum tolerable levels.

Radiation levels in much of Fukushima Prefecture remain at distressingly high levels. As of yesterday, NHK reports that levels were at 1.03 microsieverts in Fukushima City; 0.9 microsieverts in Koriyama City; 0.43 microsieverts in Minamisoma City; and 0.42 microsieverts in Shirakawa City.
http://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/html/20110910/t1001551712100...

And a few hot spots remain in Ibaraki Prefecture, particularly in Moriya and Toride cities, which are on the boundary with Chiba Prefecture and 100+ miles away from the reactors. Although it was hoped that radiation levels in the soil of schoolyards, parks, etc., in Moriya would decrease over the summer, by mid-August levels at some nursery and elementary schools were so high that the city gvernment decided to remove the top level of soil from most of those facilities. Here is a chart showing the schools where topsoil was removed. The two values on the extreme right represent the radiation readings before (left) and after (right) the removal (in microsieverts per hour). The removal project was completed two days ago. The sites will be monitored once a month.

http://www.city.moriya.ibaraki.jp/saigai/pdf/jyosen0909...
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Bonobo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-11-11 07:44 AM
Response to Original message
1. Great informative post, Art. Thank you! nt
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Liberal_in_LA Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-11-11 11:17 PM
Response to Reply #1
10. +10
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Art_from_Ark Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-11-11 11:21 PM
Response to Reply #1
11. Something that was really surprising to me
was the persistently high levels in Moriya, which is about 15 miles farther from the reactors than I am. Some areas of the city have shown readings that are as high as Minamisoma, which is just north of the reactors. But they still aren't anywhere near as high as in Fukushima City, where the radiation readings are 10X higher than they are in my area and 12X higher than in Tokyo.
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Lydia Leftcoast Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Sep-12-11 12:23 AM
Response to Reply #11
15. Moriya?
Yikes.

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Art_from_Ark Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Sep-12-11 01:21 AM
Response to Reply #15
17. Yes, Moriya
Edited on Mon Sep-12-11 01:51 AM by Art_from_Ark
A chemical engineer (I don't think you got a chance to meet him) who lives in Moriya told me about that, so we checked the Internet and sure enough, the city had just posted an announcement about the end of its soil removal program that it had implemented due to the persistently high readings. I have no idea what they plan to do with that soil.
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Yo_Mama Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-11-11 08:09 AM
Response to Original message
2. Thanks for the information
I'm glad that life is regaining some semblance of normality.

I suppose everyone will feel tremendous relief when a lot of the infrastructure repair is done.
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Art_from_Ark Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-11-11 10:21 AM
Response to Reply #2
5. Up north, it is a Herculean task to clear the rubble
and start over. But reports I've heard from people who have been up there say that despite the immense scale of the damage, there has been remarkable progress made in the rebuilding effort.
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hlthe2b Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-11-11 08:38 AM
Response to Original message
3. thank you so much for this update from someone "living" it...
Edited on Sun Sep-11-11 08:38 AM by hlthe2b
As disaster-filled as this summer has been for much of the US, I still think of what those living in the earthquake/Tsunami/nuclear disaster impacted areas of Japan daily. I know it is inevitable that what passes for media in the country would turn away, but I hope others have not forgotten as well. It is wonderful to hear some good news, despite knowing that there is considerable continuing 'trauma' under the surface.

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Art_from_Ark Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-11-11 09:21 AM
Response to Reply #3
4. "Continuing trauma" under the surface
I guess in this part of Ibaraki we were relatively "lucky" in that external damage from the earthquake was mainly limited to road and roof damage (although many facilities experienced considerable interior damage) , and the radiation levels, though they were high for a while, were nowhere near as high as they were in much of Fukushima Prefecture. Even today, the city of Fukushima still has radiation levels that exceed the maximum level that was recorded here, and the people living along hundreds of miles of the eastern coast of Honshu no doubt are still jittery every time there is a major rumbling up there.

And of course I fully empathize with the folks back in the US who have had to deal with droughts, floods, hurricanes and tornadoes. This has been an exceptionally bad year for disasters.
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NNN0LHI Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-11-11 10:52 AM
Response to Original message
6. Recommended and thank you for the update
Hope things continue improving.

Don
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Generic Other Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-11-11 11:30 AM
Response to Original message
7. Thank you so much Art
My relatives had their rice tested and passed. I don't think they had their vegetables tested.

A bit alarming that Chiba has hot spots. A reminder that fallout does not blanket an area evenly but is random and carried by the winds.

I want to send hugs and strength to you; however I still fear for you.

I appreciate this post and all the effort.

:hug:
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Art_from_Ark Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-11-11 10:29 PM
Response to Reply #7
8. I'm glad your relatives' rice passed
I was a little surprised at first to hear that there were no problems with the local (even Fukushima) rice. But given that the rice fields were flushed with fresh water before planting, then constantly replenished with fresh water during the 4-month long growing season, I guess that was enough to prevent cesium from entering the rice plants.
It is a little odd, though, that cesium was detected in some rice from Chiba, albeit in small amounts.

As for the (fruits and) vegetables, it seems that pulpy fruits and vegetables grown outdoors in the open might have absorbed some cesium. I noticed the watermelons in a local 3-4 acre field that were grown completely exposed to the atmosphere have seemingly all been left to rot on the ground. Also local blueberries and peaches have had levels that have approached or even exceeded maximums. I think your relatives live in one of the main tree-fruit areas of the prefecture, so there might be some problems up there with some crops. Pears seem to be OK, I don't know about grapes, though (Kyoho, a very large and succulent grape, is a very popular variety in that area).
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Fire Walk With Me Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-11-11 11:15 PM
Response to Original message
9. I hope the Japanese come back stronger than ever and lead the way with Green technology.
They could rule the market!
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Bill Bored Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-11-11 11:23 PM
Response to Original message
12. Thanks for your infomrative post. The US media seems to have forgotten about this.
And I wonder if this statement would be true of our fellow Americans if they found themselves in a similar situation:

"The rolling blackouts that Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) warned its customers (including me) might happen this summer never materialized, thanks in large part to the efforts made by Japanese companies, government agencies, and average citizens to conserve energy."
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Art_from_Ark Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-11-11 11:47 PM
Response to Reply #12
13. If fellow Americans found themselves in a similar situation...
I'm sure a lot of people would be complaining that it was just an attempt to raise rates.

At any rate, I don't know how many American individuals and companies would go to the lengths that were taken here, including:

1) reducing street lighting (including drastically dimming the big gaudy business signs in night-life districts like Tokyo's Ginza)
2) reducing office and store lighting (half-lighting in my office and every store I entered this summer)
3) raising the thermostat in offices (the temperature in my office was set at about 80 degrees for a while, and the company distributed paper fans to all employees)
4) reducing lighting in homes (for a while, it was very unusual to see lights turned on in second-story windows of homes)
5) even taking unscheduled vacations (my company took the unusual step of closing up for a week in August to conserve energy (they never have before, even during the O-bon season)).
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Bonobo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Sep-12-11 12:16 AM
Response to Reply #13
14. Yes, Japan should be proud of the degree they worked together
to reduce energy consumption.
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uppityperson Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Sep-12-11 12:33 AM
Response to Original message
16. k&r
Thanks for the post and links
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dixiegrrrrl Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Sep-12-11 10:35 AM
Response to Original message
18. I hope you do not mind me asking this..
What is the level of trust in the "official" reports of radiation levels in various crops and locales??
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Art_from_Ark Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Sep-12-11 06:47 PM
Response to Reply #18
19. I think the rice data are probably correct
The rice fields were flushed out before planting and constantly replenished with fresh water during the growing season, so there probably wasn't much of a chance of cesium being absorbed. Also, ambient radiation levels this summer were not high, either in my area or the area where Generic Other's relatives live. However, I do wonder why the Chiba data are a little different.

I've only talked to one greengrocer recently and he says that there is some confidence in locally-grown produce returning (most of it is grown in greenhouses or under plastic sheeting). In this case, though, the Moriya radiation data are a little unsettling.

I think Generic Other's relatives live in one of the major tree-fruit areas of Ibaraki Prefecture, so maybe she can shed some light about the situation there. The major tree fruits up there seem to be pears, apples, persimmons, and mikan oranges, as well as grapes. There are a lot of "pick-your-own" places there, and they are entering the fall picking season, so it would be interesting to see how that turns out. As I said, I think Generic Other might be able to shed some light on that.
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