Monthly Archives: March 2011

Am I Radioactive?

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Wednesday was a rough day as far as developments at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Radiation levels were fluctuating high enough that the company deemed it necessary to pull their skeleton crew for a couple of hours, leaving the place unmanned. I admire those workers- they’ll be lucky to live through this, but no one being there to man the hose was a bit of unnerving news at that moment. Before bed we got a radiation report- I understand that normal is in the .001 range. As far as Yokohama- 300km south of Fukushima and down the beach from Tokyo, they got readings in the .01 range. In Tokyo and my area, the .1xx range, and 50 miles north 15.xx…  Early this morning the British were advised to leave Tokyo, and the Americans finally diverged from the Japanese on the point of how far away from the plant people should be evacuating if possible. The Japanese are at 12 miles for evac, 19 miles for hunker down. Americans within a 50 mile range have been told to bug out if at all possible, and consular staff are starting to check on those with addresses in that range.  Message boards online are indicating that many of the Japanese who are aware of the situation (the divergence has not hit the Japanese news yet), are expressing more trust in the American recommendation. While no one wants to hear that they have to evacuate, the distances so far have just not seemed far enough.

People are being given instructions to remove and wash all clothes and to shower well after going outside. Additionally, gloves, masks, and hats are also advised. Today I’ll be going out for the first time in about 4 days:  I need to buy some travel supplies for the kitteh, some boxes for packing up some stuff to send to the US, and get myself a nice sweaty workout at the gym! Most of the employees there have local or farther than Tokyo families, and so do not seem stressed or worried personally about anything yet. One of the reasons that I have not gone out is because I believe that in a situation like this, people and companies should take a knee if possible- I haven’t worked for two weeks and have canceled my lessons for the rest of the month, and all of next month are on hold. On the same principle, I felt wrong turning around and going to the gym like usual.  But this will be my last chance in a couple of weeks, as I am escorting Miss Norah, my kitteh, to her new home tomorrow.

Empty shelves at the local supermarket

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Everyone is preparing for the blackouts and possible warnings to stay at home, indoors, with the window frames stuffed and wet towels over our faces, in the event that these (very strong) winds start blowing the OTHER way, bringing radiation toward us. The news that the U.S. Navy’s Ronald Reagan group has backed off due to sensing radiation 60 miles away from the reactors is NOT on the Japanese news yet. The American Embassy has been diligent about updates and instructions so far, and while they have not recommended evacuation from any area besides the 20km radius around the degenerating power plants in Fukushima, apparently the French have recommended its citizens to head south and out of Tokyo.

The Japanese government and media generally err on the side of understating devastation. Emperor Hirohito, after Japan surrendered in WW2, in his first radio speech to his own people, described the event of surrender after nuclear devastation in two highly populated areas like this: “The war has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage” [translation not mine, btw].  Informative and comforting, no?

Considering the utter emptiness at the supermarket, I can kind of understand why the dangers are not being reported; this is locust/panic behavior already- at the idea of inconvenience. What would happen if people felt their lives were in serious  and real danger from radiation poisoning? Personally, I have just today realized that I am a little worried for myself. I didn’t feel that even in the midst of the earthquake (rather I was a bit preoccupied with the prospect of my cat getting buried under my building). But radiation poisoning… that could follow me everywhere for the rest of my life and the idea scares me. I wasn’t worried until I heard about the Navy backing off the Japanese coast.

Still having aftershocks. The weather is light jacket- a lot warmer than Friday. Skies are blue and the winds are strong, but going north for now. I’m about 230km from the nuclear reactors, to the south, close to a city called Chiba, fyi. We should be out of power in about two hours for a few hours (it is now 4pm in Japan, 1am in Utah). Probably no internet until its back on.

8.9 Quake, Aftershocks, and Tidal Waves

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No one I know was hurt but there were casualties, the body count is climbing toward 100, a few factories and refineries are on fire, and many more are underwater.  In my neighborhood, the factories have shut down until tomorrow afternoon (as my own company has done), many things flew off of shelves including television sets and in my house, my TV is ok, but the oven took a swan dive off of its cart. Well see if it still works tomorrow. The cat is okay. Lots of books and other things fell over but nothing expensive or irreplaceable has been lost. We might spend the night in the car, but for the moment I am doing guerrilla cooking between aftershocks. Trying to get lots of calories in us in case something worse happens.

For Tokyo the greater danger from an earthquake is not getting crushed, as most buildings are built specifically with resilience in mind, but the spread of fire. Just as I decided that this particular earthquake merited an exit from my apartment, I somehow remembered to shut off the gas. The cat had already dashed under the sofa (don’t need to train them for emergencies I guess) but I was worried about her as I stood outside for the next hour watching my 50 year old concrete building rock around.  There was an aftershock- the first one was a swayer, the second one, or the big aftershock, was a bouncer.

I can’t wait to go home!!!