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Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Business and chaos. Money in toilets.

Six months on from 3/11, clear data is now emerging that is being accepted by all parties as true. Detailed geological charts of cesium and plutonium hotspots are now available to everyone. Even the daily newspapers are carrying this information, alongside the air radiation levels which do continue to go down slowly everywhere.

Intensive aerial monitoring for fall-out/soil and air contamination was carried out in Tohoku and Kanto areas between Sept 8th and 12th. I don't know why this took such a long time to get going but this is progress and  much more reliable information now paves the way for the next step which will be removal of the top 5-10cm of radioactive soil (the depth to which particles cling) and then the humungous task of disposing of this waste will follow that.

Right now, the govt is still in hot debate about where the waste will be stored and how. There are two kinds of waste, the non radioactive kind (mostly wooden debris and washed up belongings etc) that can be burned..estimated at over 500.000 tons and the contaminated soil and sand that is estimated at 2.879 million cubic meters (an amount that can fill the Tokyo Dome/stadium 23 times). This is, needless to say a Herculean task. There are interesting BIOMASS plans to convert the non radioactive debris into fuel or resources. This sounds hopeful.

Proposals by the environmental ministry are to store some of the waste that cannot be burned (i.e radioactive) in 8 prefectures. Those affected by the disaster. Although i have no idea for an alternative this seems at first sight to be adding insult to injury, although promises are that it will be stored in a totally toxic-leaking-proof way.

Now that figures and data are being made public the govt has lifted police enforced regulations about people returning to their homes in areas where radiation (air) has decreased to so called safe levels. Some towns where people were evacuated have now been given the all clear for a kind of "return to live at your own risk" but most people are still in fear of doing so and I think are just returning to collect items and possessions. Areas within the 20-30km range of the plant have been closed off for ever. With the definite go-ahead for some contaminated soil burial to take place within this vicinity, it does not seem wise for people to return to the area ever but alternative relocation costs are just not being provided either fast enough or in a needs appropriate way yet.

While the bad news and grim hardship of shelter life continues for thousands of homeless people, in the midst of the chaos weird business opportunities are arising. The construction business of course as #1. Building new homes and building hotels to house the stream of volunteers, NPO and relief workers that will be in the disaster region cleaning up for some years. Radiation testing businesses have started up. Devices like 'tsunami safe" floating water tight escape pods that fit one person have been designed and are on sale for 288.000 en. Designed to withstand 7 tons of debris or water falling on them.

A new business of self service radiation measurement has opened in a shopping center in Chiba,
where radioactive particle hot spots have been found :

The medical world has had to take a close look at itself. In Saitama, one doctor has started a home visit service, never before heard of here as even when very very sick home visits are not done and patients must use an ambulance to get to hospital. Hopefully this will spiral as a good new trend.

In other more "curious"news, 10 million yen was found in a public toilet with an anonymous note reading "for the Tohoku disaster people". After 3 months (govt regulated on hold period) this will be added to he Red Cross donation funds -one third of which has still to be allocated.