Sunday, April 8, 2012

In Cities in Fukushima, Abnormal Has Become Normal One Year After the Nuclear Accident

It is well-captured in a Mainichi Shinbun article and an Asahi Shinbun article that I found yesterday.

It may be puzzling to read about these, looking in. But for the residents inside Fukushima, this may be fast becoming the accepted way of life.

First, from the Mainichi article (4/7/2012, local Fukushima version; part) talking about school lunches in Fukushima City and school playground rules in Koriyama City and Minami Soma City: 


Fukushima City will test school lunches for the city's 73 public elementary schools and junior high schools for radioactive cesium every day, starting April 9. The city has installed more testing equipments, and is now able to test more frequently than in the fiscal 2011 when the test was done once a week or once in two weeks.


The school lunch centers will make one extra lunch each day and the lunch will be tested at 21 locations. Testing time will be between 11 to 30 minutes, and the detection limit is 20 becquerels/kg. The city's Board of Education says, "We cannot feel safe even it tests below the new safety limit for food (100 becquerels/kg or less)." If more than 20 becquerels/kg of cesium is detected, the lunch will be discarded, and the students will be served with rice and milk separately tested for safety. In the fiscal 2011, no lunch that was sample tested was found with 20 becquerels/kg of cesium.


Koriyama City lifted the 3-hour restriction for outdoor activities at the city's public elementary schools and junior high schools on April 6. The limit had been in place since May last year. Minami Soma City also lifted its restriction.


Koriyama City's own restriction limited the outdoor activities at public schools (58 elementary schools and 28 junior high schools) to 1 hour per day for PE classes and 2-hour per day for extracurricular activities. The city's Board of Education has decided that the decontamination including removing the top soil has effectively lowered the air radiation levels on the school grounds to the levels where the safety of the pupils and students can be secured.


A mother in her 40s with a child attending a junior high school in the city was puzzled. She said, "It is the same school ground as in the last fiscal year, but now they tell us it will be OK from now on. I've made my child promise to wear the mask during the extracurricular activities."

As of April 1, 2012, food is now "safe" as long as cesium is below 100 Bq/kg, instead of 500 Bq/kg only one day prior. As the new school semesters start, the school grounds are suddenly "safe" and no need to worry about radiation. ("Black dust" in Minami Soma? What black dust?) What a difference a day makes, indeed.

By the way, the detection limit of 20 Bq/kg is high compared to other cities in other prefectures that have been testing the school lunches. In Kamakura City in Kanagawa Prefecture, for example, the detection limit is 3 Bq/kg, and it is set to get lower with the introduction of the germanium semiconductor detector starting April 9.

The Asahi article was written by Shunsuke Kimura, an Asahi Shinbun reporter in Fukushima. On April 7, he participated as "decontamination" volunteer in a volunteer project to "decontaminate" one of the high-radiation hot spots in Watari District in Fukushima City. He says 387 "volunteers" including 82 from all over Japan participated.

Why do I put volunteers in the parenthesis? Well, reading the article I got the feeling that it may not have been so "voluntary" for some participants.

From Asahi Shinbun local Fukushima version (4/8/2012; part):


Everyone talks about decontamination. But what do we do in "decontamination"? So I participated in the decontamination work as a volunteer to decontaminate Benten-Yama (altitude 143 meters) in Watari District of Fukushima City on April 7 to find out. [The photo shows the reporter stuffing the bag with dead leaves.]

 ●落ち葉集め袋詰め 3時間で最大3割減

Stuffing dead leaves in bags, 3 hours, max 30% reduction [of radiation]


Rain jacket and rain pants, hat, mask, cotton work gloves and rain boots. People were divided into groups of 20 to 30 people, and the groups were assigned segments of the mountain slope. They raked in the dead leaves, and stuffed them, with the dirt, into plastic bags. I went up the slope with a bag in hand.


Soon, I was breathing hard. Lack of regular exercise. My eyeglasses got foggy from the breath escaping from my mask. I kept stuffing the bag with dead leaves in front of me. My back started to hurt after 10 minutes.


No matter how much I collected, there were more dead leaves. During the break, it started to snow. My sweats turned cold.


Because the radiation level here exceeded 1 microsievert/hour, we couldn't eat lunch where we worked. We were transported on the bus to a nearby location to have lunch. Local residents greeted us with warm miso-soup that they had prepared.


I talked with a man sitting nearby. Masayuki Shimosegawa (age 46) left his home in Gunma Prefecture at 5 in the morning. He said, "So many people from outside Fukushima. I think people who have come from far-away places are here for the children of Fukushima."


Back to the bus to the work. I thought I was able to pack the bag much faster now.


The work was done around 3PM. We couldn't decontaminate the entire 1.3 hectares that the city had planned, but there were 3,500 bags of dead leaves. 315 cubic meters. The area that I worked on had the radiation level at 1 centimeter off the ground dropped from 1.95 microsievert/hour to 1.525 microsievert/hour, 20% reduction. The maximum reduction was at most 30%.


82 people from Akita Prefecture to Kumamoto Prefecture [Kyushu] joined as volunteers. There were also participants from inside Fukushima Prefecture, the local residents, workers from the Fukushima prefectural government and Fukushima City government. In total, 387 people did the decontamination.


I worked for 3 hours total, in the morning and in the afternoon. The dosimeter that Fukushima City let us use showed 4 microsieverts. I went back to my office. I noticed that my body felt heavy. I really should have done more regular exercise.

4 microsieverts external radiation exposure from 3-hour work. Just smile, radiation is good for you, say many nuclear experts all around the world.

Benten-Yama Park is a known hot spot in the (already high-radiation) Watari District in Fukushima City. The Ministry of Education and Science (MEXT) has the website for real-time measurement of radiation levels in Fukushima, the MEXT page for Benten-Yama Park shows 1.362 microsievert/hour radiation at 50 centimeters off the ground, at 6:50AM on April 9, 2012.


Anonymous said...

"Background: After the Chernobyl accident in 1986, children of the contaminated Narodichesky region of Ukraine were obliged to participate in a yearly medical screening. They have been exposed to 137cesium (137Cs; half-life = 30 years) in contaminated soils, air, and food."

"Conclusions: These findings are unique and suggest significant airway obstruction and restriction consequences for children chronically exposed to low-dose radioactive contaminants such as those found downwind of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant."


Steve From Virginia said...

So ... the leaves will be burned in an incinerator and the cesium will be right back where it came from.

OT: The once useful Mainichi English language website has been 'combined' with nothing in particular and now has useful information such soccer scores. No more info about Japanese government (lying).

Anonymous said...

Very interesting study. Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

get er dun


"4 microsieverts external radiation exposure from 3-hour work. Just smile, radiation is good for you, say many nuclear experts all around the world.">he says/
Listen here, people "like that" will die soon, that guy breathed mox and it's in his lungs/ hair hat pants mouth eyes ears, he's dead, because he believes it's GOOD FOR YOU and wants you to take a flying $%^ck through a rolling donut with him. That belief system will exterminate itself in short order and I believe that's a goood thing, don;t need people like that dumbing everyone down/rolling in the leaves sayin it;s GOOD GOR YOU

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