Posted by Michael Forster Rothbart on Wednesday, June 05, 2013
The Wakamiya evacuee housing complex in Koriyama city forms a giant grid of pre-fab buildings, 11 apartments per building, 5 buildings per row, erected on a field of gravel and asphalt. In the middle is the Odagaisama Center—a community building with a recreation room and a radio station that broadcasts news and music to evacuees.
Posted by Michael Forster Rothbart on Tuesday, June 04, 2013
Every evening after dinner, plumber Masayuki Nagai opens the newspaper and pores over the radiation reports. The average daily dose for each city is monitored by government dosimeters and printed each day in the paper alongside the weather. Nagai tracks the changes, but at the same time, he doesn’t believe what he reads. “People don’t trust the government numbers,” he says. “Unlike the supermarkets, which now report exactly where each food came from.” People trust the stores labels, he believes, because a market would lose all its customers if they ever learned they’d been lied to. It’s harder to switch governments than supermarkets.
“What must be admitted – very painfully – is that this was a disaster “Made in Japan.” Its fundamental causes are to be found in the ingrained conventions of Japanese culture: our reflexive obedience; our reluctance to question authority; our devotion to ‘sticking with the program’; our groupism; and our insularity.” (2)
And pigs can fly.
No, actually, the evacuations were complete chaos. The Japanese government was slow to relay information to local officials and slower to admit how severe the disaster was. As a result, instructions for residents conflicted and changed every few hours. Residents were told to shelter-in-place or that evacuation was mandatory or that it was voluntary, and the evacuation zone kept changing, from 2 km to 3 km to 10 km to 20 km from the nuclear plant. As a result, some people had to re-evacuate four times while others were relocated to sites with higher radiation and left there.
“The residents in the affected area are still struggling from the effects of the accident. They continue to face grave concerns, including the health effects of radiation exposure, displacement, the dissolution of families, disruption of their lives and lifestyles and the contamination of vast areas of the environment. There is no foreseeable end to the decontamination and restoration activities that are essential for rebuilding communities… The government has not seriously undertaken programs to help people understand the situation well enough to make their own behavioral judgments.” (3)
Posted by Michael Forster Rothbart on Monday, June 03, 2013
In the months after the 1986 accident, machinery driven by liquidators often became too radioactive to continue using. So they just dug pits and buried their own radioactive vehicles.
The horse is out? Quick, close the door! It seems to me there must be a better way, but our attention is short and disaster mitigation is long.Today, workers unearth the machinery to lay foundations for new construction. This day’s discovery was the boom of a crane. They lay it on a flatbed truck (covered with plastic to hopefully contain some of the contamination) and haul it to an edge of the Chernobyl plant site for pressure washing. (The contaminated washwater gets piped to the liquid radioactive waste treatment facility). Then the boom gets trucked to a dumpsite in the Exclusion Zone, where it will be stored until after you and I are dead. Unless priorities change once the danger fades from some bureaucrat’s mind. Or unless it gets stolen first and sold for scrap.
Elsewhere in the Zone, liquidators buried everything from topsoil to village houses. Now at least 800 burial sites, mostly unmarked, are slowly leaching radiation into the groundwater. (3) (Fukushima now faces similar problems, which I’ll discuss later).
Tomorrow: What went wrong in Fukushima?
Posted by Michael Forster Rothbart on Sunday, June 02, 2013
Fumiya Sekine, age 6, and his mom Kaori Sekine play with his new pets — a pair of stag beetles. The Sekine family evacuated from their home in Kawauchi village, 20 miles west of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, due to high radiation levels in the village. They have lived in a one-room “temporary housing center” apartment in Koriyama city since the complex opened in June 2011. They have no idea how long they’ll stay here.
Posted by Michael Forster Rothbart on Saturday, June 01, 2013