徳島 英会話教室 

Earthquake, Tsunami and Radiation Fears in Japan! – (Updated: May 24, 2011 9:14 AM JST)

A short note to my friends and family, Tokushima has not been effected by the earthquake, tsunami, or any radiation and I am fine.  This blog is to provide a somewhat detailed chronological summary to what is occurring in Japan.  As many in the world are now aware of, on the morning of March 11th there was a massive 9.0 magnitude earthquake that hit off the eastern coast of Japan.  This is said to have been the largest earthquake in Japan’s recorded history.   The result of the earthquake triggered an incredible tsunami up to a record 38 meters high (124 feet) which devastated numerous towns beyond recognition.  In terms of where the earthquake occurred, the Tohoku region was the hardest hit.  Tohoku means northeast in Japanese, and includes Fukushima, Yamagata prefectures and Sendai City, the capital of Miyagi prefecture which was only 130 km (80 miles) east from the epicenter.  Tokyo, 373 km away from the epicenter also felt the lengthy quake and its many aftershocks that still continue.  Life has hardly returned to normal for the over 12 million living in Japan’s capital city as transportation remains inconsistent, and food and water has been limited. 

Moreover, a second and serious nuclear power plant explosion occurred on March 15th at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant operated by a private company, the Tokyo Electric (Daichi) Power Company (TEPCO).  The explosion was followed by reported fires, which created an already apprehensive public to fear the spread of radiation.  The Japanese government has evacuated residents living up to 20 km from the plant and advised residents 30 km away not to go outside, or voluntarily evacuate themselves.  The U.S. Embassy in Japan is advising Americans living within an 80 km radius (50 miles) to evacuate the area and the State Department strongly urges U.S. citizens to defer travel to Japan at this time and those in Japan should consider departing.  On April 11th, the Japanese government expanded its current 20-kilometer evacuation zone around the nuclear power plant in Fukushima prefecture to include several additional highly radioactive hotspots.  On this same date one month after the initial earthquake, the Japanese government’s nuclear safety agency decided to raise the crisis level of the nuclear power plant accident from 5 to 7, the worst on the international scale.  Level 7 has formerly only been applied to the Chernobyl accident in the former Soviet Union in 1986, however, the volume of radiation released from the nuclear plant in Japan is one-tenth that of Chernobyl, according to the agency.  Japan’s chief cabinet secretary added, unlike the Chernobyl disaster, the Fukushima case has caused no direct health problems.  The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) supported the Japanese government’s analysis by adding, in Chernobyl the reactor exploded while in operation, but in Fukushima the reactors stopped when the earthquake hit and the pressure vessels housing them did not blow up.  On March 18th, one week after the massive quake, the Japanese agency initially declared the Fukushima trouble a level 5 incident, the same as the accident at Three Mile Island in the United States in 1979.  Unfortunately, the situation has worsened, especially for Tohoku residents in Japan.  It is uncertain whether the nuclear plant is under control, if a major nuclear meltdown is eminent, or what the potential repercussions will be for the entire country.  To make matters worse, on March 15th one of the nuclear reactor containers was discovered to have been damaged, indicating that radioactive steam was spreading outside.  The government played down the extent of the initial damage and has been conscious not to over excite the public.  On March 16th, in an attempt to console and encourage the nation, Japan’s emperor gave an extraordinary nationally televised address telling the country to never give up hope and expressed he was deeply concerned and stated the situation is critical.  An inspiring address, however has fueled the public demand for more immediate answers regarding the true state of the situation from its government.  The monitoring of radiation levels in the surrounding cities continue, including in Tokyo where radiation levels have increased; however, not near the level of concern yet, according to the governor of Tokyo.  Despite these attempts to reassure the public, the nation is becoming increasingly worried.  Japan’s science ministry has finally begun publishing radiation levels monitored nationwide on its website, with the information also available in English, Korean and Chinese.  The ministry’s website (link) began showing the data on March 19th, with the prefectural information updated twice a day.  

At Present

Despite an initial evacuation of 700 workers from the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant where only 50 heroic workers stayed, there are now 180 plant workers at the site working to avert a nuclear catastrophe at the expense of their own health and lives.  On March 16th, the Japanese Self-Defense Force attempted to cool the over-heating reactors by dumping water in from helicopters, using fire trucks and police water cannons from the ground.  A 13-hour water spraying operation ended and reports indicate radiation levels were are on the decline.  Workings were battling against time due to crisis levels at three of the four reactors in efforts to cool spent fuel pools.  These operations to different level of degrees of emergency are still continuing.  (See the Operation to cool spent fuel rods graph to get a picture of the dramatic efforts)  However on March 21st, operators were forced to evacuate workers after gray and black smoke was seen rising from the No.3 damaged reactor, and later white smoke was seen rising from the No.2 reactor.  Latest reports indicate the smoke has subsided.  It was reported higher levels of radioactive materials had surged and later dropped in the areas surrounding the nuclear power plant.  Also, on March 25th the level of radioactive iodine detected in seawater near the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant was 1,250 times above the maximum level allowable, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said Saturday, suggesting contamination from the reactors is spreading out into the nearby sea.  Efforts to restore electricity to the nuclear reactor power plants are still ongoing and it appears progress has been made, but due the recent smoke and higher radiation levels there have been setbacks.  On the morning of March 23rd, a powerful 6.0 aftershock hit the ravaged Tohoku region, including in Fukushima where the nuclear power plant restoration continues.  No tsunami warnings were issued.  Previously, weather officials had warned of powerful aftershocks and urged the public to be alert.  This was one of several recent aftershocks in northern Japan.  Workers at the plant had said electricity supply for the control room of the Number 1 reactor was restored, but this is now uncertain due to recent developments.  With functioning lights in the control room, repairing the damaged cooling system would be easier.   Workers at the plant are now trying to reactivate vital monitoring systems in the control rooms, such as those for measuring temperatures inside the reactors and water levels in the spent fuel storage pools.  If this is successful, workers can transmit electricity to the cooling pump for the Number 1 reactor.  The government says if the pump functions normally, it will begin cooling the reactors and the spent fuel storage pools.  

Progress was being made at the No.3 reactor until March 23rd, when black smoke was seen rising again from the No.3 reactor building at the quake-damaged Fukushima nuclear plant at around 4:20 PM on Wednesday.  One hour later, it was reported the smoke had gradually cleared.  And, on the morning of March 24th,  a news helicopter crew confirmed what appeared to be steam rising from No. 1, 2, 3 and 4 reactor buildings.  Later that same day, Japan’s nuclear safety agency says 2 workers at the Fukushima nuclear power plant were taken to hospital after being exposed to high-level radiation at the plant.  In grim news on March 25th, Japan’s nuclear safety agency says it is highly likely that the No. 3 reactor has been damaged, leading to a leak of high levels of radiation within the reactor.  Suspicions of a possible breach were raised when two workers waded into water 10,000 times more radioactive than normal and suffered skin burns when the water splashed over their protective boots.  Workers at the plant examined the reactors and found that not only No. 3, but also the No. 1 reactor has highly radiated water in its basement.  And, on March 28th it was reported extremely high levels of radiation was found in the water inside the No. 2 reactor complex, measured at more than 100,000 times more radioactive than normal.  Currently, the nuclear power company is working to remove the highly radiated water found inside the exterior building of the reactor and more importantly, trying to determine the cause.  Authorities say it needs to remove the contaminated water as quickly as possible to resume efforts to restore external power to the reactors, in order to restart the cooling systems.  If indeed there is a breach of the reactor containment walls that are supposed to prevent the release of nuclear material in accidents, then there is a potential for greater radioactive material to escape into the air and long-lasting environmental contamination in areas around the plant, including in the soil and sea.  In light of the higher radiation levels spreading further out into the sea, some level of a very serious breach has no doubt occurred.   Although the exact cause for the contaminated water have not yet officially been provided, officials have suggested it may be to be due to a partial meltdown of the reactor core, or damaged fuel rods.  Due to the circumstances, more significant challenges and delays in restoring the cooling system at the nuclear plant appear to be inevitable.  One major challenge includes, the radioactive pollution threat that looms in the reactors’ subterranean “trenches,” which could overflow with contaminated water — a dilemma because TEPCO must continue pouring water to cool the No. 1, 2 and 3 reactors and their spent fuel cooling pools.  It is believed the cooling water is reaching the trenches.  The priority is to cool the reactors, therefore the delicate balance will most likely lead to occasional further overflow of radioactive materials.  Disposing of the contaminated water continues to be a challenge as well.  In addition, independent research centers have found plutonium in soil samples around the nuclear plant,  possibly from reactor No.3, which may have been breached.  The level detected in the soil is the same as that found in other parts of Japan and does not pose a threat to human health, according to officials.  Despite these reassurances, the news is not good for the environment and local agriculture.  The situation continues to be carefully monitored. 

More Challenges

On March 31st, troubles at the nuclear plant persists as the challenge to dispose radioactive water is hindering cooling efforts.  According to plant officials, a large volume of underground water with a high concentration of radioactive substances beneath the facility in tunnels are hampering progress.  Radioactive iodine and cesium have been found in water coming from a tunnel outside the turbine building of the No.1 reactor and in the basement of the turbine buildings of reactors No.1 to 4.  Work to pump the contaminated water into the turbine condenser came to a halt at the No. 1 reactor after the condenser became full.  Meanwhile, work to pump water out of the basements of the No. 2 and 3 reactors has yet to begin.  Some 600 tons of water inside the tunnel at the No. 1 reactor is to be moved to a tank near the No. 4 reactor, but no plan has yet been made to pump the radioactive water from the basements of the No. 2 and 3 reactors.  The chief of TEPCO says at present he cannot provide a road map for resolving the serious accident, as many factors remain unclear.

Also in news on March 31st, the International Atomic Energy Agency says radiation levels twice as high as its criterion for evacuation were detected in a village 40 kilometers from the troubled nuclear plant.  This is outside the 20 kilometer exclusion zone and the 20-to-30 kilometer alert zone where the Japanese government advises voluntary evacuation.  The IAEA said its experts measured levels of Iodine 131 and Cesium 137 in soil around the plant between March 18th and 26th.  Also, radiation 4,385 times higher than the legal standard has been detected in seawater at a location 330 meters south of the troubled nuclear plant.  The new high in radiation levels detected in sea water and the detection of radiation levels outside the exclusion zone is more reason for greater concern.  However, on April 3rd it was reported radiation levels on the ground have gradually decreased or have stabilized in many locations around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.  With regards to circumstances directly at the plant, stable is not a word often used.  On April 5th, officials at the power plant reported that 7.5 million times the legal limit of radioactive iodine 131 has been detected from samples of seawater near the plant.  An official responsible for monitoring radiation at the nuclear power plant says workers there are being exposed to immeasurable levels of radiation.  The official told news outlets that no one can enter the plant’s No. 1 through 3 reactor buildings because radiation levels are so high that monitoring devices have been rendered useless.  He said even levels outside the buildings exceed 100 millisieverts in some places.

On April 2nd, TEPCO officials reported it had found radioactive water leaking into the ocean from a 20-centimeter crack in a facility wall of the No.2 reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.  It said water is leaking from the crack in the wall of a 2-meter deep pit that contains power cables near the water intake of the reactor. Water between 10 centimeters and 20 centimeters deep was found in the pit.  Officials have attempted to plug the cracked storage pit using concrete with no success.  A second attempt was made by injecting water-absorbing polymers into the cracked pit in hopes to stop the radioactive water from leaking into the ocean, this also was not successful.  On April 4th, TEPCO officials were trying to examine the route of the radioactive water leak by pouring a colored liquid into a tunnel linked to the pit, in order to retrace the exact route of the contaminated water.  On April 5th, workers injected a hardening agent called liquid glass which was reported the next morning as being effective.  Power plant officials say radioactive water has stopped leaking into the sea from the cracked concrete pit.  These efforts to stop the radioactive water from leaking into the ocean was the urgent priority of workers at the plant.  With respect to the overall mission, Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said a full-scale recovery of cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is needed to stem the leakage of radioactive substances, but that work will take several months.  At present, workers at the nuclear power plant are continuing efforts to remove highly radioactive water from parts of the facility.  The highly contaminated water needs to be transferred from the basement of the reactor turbine buildings to the plant’s waste processing facility.  In addition, more time is needed to install makeshift water tanks in order to contain the highly radioactive water used to cool the reactors.  These efforts need to be completed before workers can continue efforts to restore the cooling system.

Prior to these efforts to transfer the contaminated water, on April 4th, TEPCO disposed wastewater containing low-level radioactive substances into the sea from the troubled nuclear power plant in a bid to stabilize the plant.  The utility company says the release is aimed at making room in facilities to store the more highly contaminated water from the Number 2 reactor’s turbine building and a nearby tunnel, as the contaminated water is hampering restoration work.  The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency approved the disposal of the wastewater as an emergency measure.  The agency says it will strengthen its monitoring of the seawater to limit any adverse effects caused by the disposal.  Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said the government approved the plan because removing the water from the No.2 reactor is a more urgent matter.  Despite Edano calling the operation an emergency measure to ensure the safety of the plant: China, Korea, and Russia have expressed concerns.  Whether the emergency measure will need to be revisited would be concerning, but not surprising.  Workers still continue to struggle to store the huge amounts of radioactive wastewater found throughout the facility.  From April 8th to April 14th, it was reported seawater radiation levels rose and then fell in areas near the plant.  Situation reports appear to change from positive to negative, and vice versa on a regular basis, which makes it difficult to gage any level of deterioration or progress.  

On April 6th, officials at the nuclear power plant reported it has begun injecting nitrogen gas into the containment vessel of one of the reactors.  The injection is aimed at preventing hydrogen from exploding inside the containment vessel at the No. 1 reactor.  If the density of hydrogen inside the containment vessel increases, it will heighten the risk of explosion through a reaction with oxygen.  This operation will continue for 6 days and will be considered for reactors No. 2 and No.3.  Operators at the plant are still undergoing the same serious damage control challenges, as fuel rods in the reactors remain nearly half exposed as the coolant water inside the reactor has not yet risen high enough.  On April 13th, it was reported that water temperatures in the spent fuel storage pool at the No. 4 reactor had risen to about 90 degrees celsius.  Officials fear the spent fuel rods may be damaged.  To cool the fuel, TEPCO sprayed 195 tons of water for 6 hours on the same morning.  These seemingly endless patchwork efforts still continue daily and are necessary, until solutions to the overall greater challenges can be met.  The chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said on April 12th, the Japanese nuclear reactor crisis is static but not yet stable.  Meaning, there doesn’t appear to be any immediate or significant changes forseeable in the short-term. 

On April 7th the most powerful aftershock to date, a magnitude 7.1 quake occurred off the Miyagi coast, northeastern Japan in the late evening.  The agency issued a tsunami warning for coastal areas in Miyagi Prefecture, and tsunami evacuation advisories for Japan’s northeastern seaboard from Aomori to Ibaraki prefectures. The warning and advisories were lifted about 80 minutes after the quake.  It was reported that four people had been killed and hundreds injured.  The aftershock forced the troubled nuclear plant onto emergency power, but fortunately no serious damage at the nuclear plant has been reported.   The pumping of high-level radioactive water from the reactor to a nuclear waste processing facility and the injection of nitrogen into containment vessels of  reactors is now continuing.  Due to the aftershock, more than 1.1 million households in northeastern Japan remain without electricity, adding more strain to the power grid operated solely by TEPCO.  And again on April 11th, a magnitude 6.6 aftershock hit the troubled region again.  The quake was centered about 100 miles (164 kilometers) northeast of Tokyo and about 30 miles (50 kilometers) southwest of the nuclear plant.  Workers at the plant briefly evacuated, but later returned according to reports.  Japan has been hit with hundreds of aftershocks since the March 11th initial earthquake.

TEPCO, the operator of the troubled nuclear power plant has finalized a new plan to cool down the troubled reactors.  It was reported April 17th, that the company will install a new cooling system that filters contaminated water and recirculates it back into the reactors.  Following the quake and tsunami, cooling systems broke down in reactors 1, 2 and 3. TEPCO workers have been pumping in cold water in an effort to keep them from overheating.  However, the water inside the reactors quickly becomes contaminated with high levels of radioactive substances.  Due to possible structural damage in the quake, contaminated reactor water has been leaking into the basements of neighboring turbine buildings and service tunnels. This has impeded emergency repair work and created a disposal problem.  To best deal with the present circumstances, TEPCO plans to first pump contaminated wastewater outside the turbine buildings where it can be more safely cooled and filtered. Radioactive substances and salt are removed and a continuous supply of treated water is circulated to gradually cool down the reactors.  TEPCO is scheduled to start operating the new cooling system by summer with a goal to get the crisis under control in 6 to 9 months.  According to independent experts, TEPCO’s optimistic timeframe may prove difficult to achieve due to several uncertainties that continue to plague progress at the nuclear plant. 

On May 24th it was reported, the nuclear fuel rods in three of the reactors at the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan are believed to have melted during the first week of the nuclear crisis, the owner of the facility said Tuesday.  Tokyo Electric Power Co. said a “major part” of the fuel rods in reactor No. 2 may have melted and fallen to the bottom of the pressure vessel 101 hours after the earthquake and tsunami that crippled the plant.  The same thing happened within the first 60 hours at reactor No. 3, the company said, releasing a worst-case scenario analysis.  The fuel is believed to be sitting at the bottom of the pressure vessel in each reactor building.  The situation is continuing to be investigated by Japanese authorities, as IAEA members have arrived in Japan on a 10-day fact-finding mission of their own.  The IAEA is expected to report their findings in late June.  TEPCO officials have reported the current events do not change their optimistic timeline for a cold shut-down within 5 to 8 months.

Water and Food Fears

In more severe news reported March 23rd, radioactive iodine exceeding the government’s regulated level for infants was detected Wednesday in water in a purification plant in Katsushika Ward, Tokyo, prompting the metropolitan government to advise residents not to let babies younger than 1-year-old drink tap water or powdered milk made with tap water, in the 23 wards and five cities.  On March 20th, Japan’s health ministry urged the people of a village in Fukushima Prefecture not to drink the tap water, in which higher levels of radioactive materials were detected.  This recent news in Tokyo immediately created a shortage of bottled water in the capital city.  The fear of tap water in Tokyo’s largest city is very serious and the repercussions may be severe.  The government is attempting to reassure the public by explaining that the water is not dangerous unless it consumed for long periods of time and added that if there is nothing else to drink, babies should be allowed to drink the water every once in a while.  The government advised parents to use bottled water to make powdered milk, but added that they shouldn’t panic even if babies have drunk tap water.  Later that same day, the government offered assurances that adults can drink tap water and use it in everyday life.  According to a team of radiotherapists, physicists and nuclear engineers at the University of Tokyo twittered, “Iodine-131, when contained in water, can be removed to some extent by boiling it,” the team said.  And, Iodine-131’s half-life — the period by which the radiation level is halved — is eight days.  In other words, boiling and storing tap water may reduce the effects of radiation, but I don’t imagine any of these reassurances will calm the public’s apprehensions to all tap water at this point.  The alternative to the use of tap water may be unavailable to many and the consequences are questionable.  In light of the shortages, the Tokyo Metropolitan government says it will distribute bottled mineral water to families with infants.  On March 24th (less than 48 hours later),  the Tokyo Metropolitan Government says the measurement of a radioactive substance at the Tokyo water purification plant has now dropped below the safety limit for infants.   However, it warns of the possibility that water containing higher levels of radioactive iodine could remain in pipes and water tanks for the next couple of days.  As Tokyo residents fears may be slightly alleviated: in Chiba, Saitama, Ibaraki, and Tochigi fear is rising as radioactive iodine-131 has been detected in each respective prefecture’s water purification facilities.  This resulted in all municipal governments issuing the same previous warning as in Tokyo, advising parents to refrain from allowing infants to drink tap water.  On April 2nd, Japan’s health ministry says test results of tap water show that radiation levels are within safety standards in all municipalities across the region.  However in the village of Iitate in Fukushima Prefecture, about 40 km from the disabled nuclear power plant, officials say the water situation will need to be monitored for some time.  Pregnant women and small children in Iitate are being evacuated if they apply to do so.  However, on april 11th, the evacuation zone was expanded by the Japanese government and residents in Katsurao Village, the town of Namie, Iitate Village, and some areas of Kawamata Town and Minami Soma City, all in Fukushima Prefecture are required to evacuate.

In other troubling news, higher than normal radioactive materials were detected in vegetables around Fukushima prefecture adding to public fears about contaminated food and drink.  The government has asked 4 prefectures — Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi and Gunma — to stop shipping spinach and another leafy vegetable called Kakina, as these items may contain excess amounts of radioactive materials.    The government is calling on consumers to refrain from eating leafy vegetables such as spinach and cabbage produced in Fukushima Prefecture.  Also added to the list were broccoli, cauliflower, turnips, and parsley from Fukushima and Ibaraki.  Also, Fukushima and Ibaraki Prefectures have been asked not to ship raw milk for the time being, in line with a law on special measures for nuclear accidents.  Japanese authorities have detected an extremely high concentration of a radioactive substance in soil at a village, 40 kilometers away from the troubled nuclear power plant in Fukushima.  Experts on radiation in the environment warn since radioactive cesium remains in the environment for about 30 years it could affect agricultural products for a long time.  With regards to the current level of radiation contamination in foods, large quantities would have to be eaten for years for it to even reach the level of a CT scan it was reported.  Despite these reassurances, the fear of radiation in specific foods within Japan and internationally continue.  Several countries have tightened inspections of imported food products from Japan.  The Japanese government says it will greatly increase the number of machines that test Japanese food products for radioactive contamination.  At present, the Japanese health ministry has detected radioactivity above the legal limit in a fish called Sand Lances caught off the coast of Fukushima Prefecture and in 11 different kinds of vegetables grown in the prefecture, including recently added Shiitake, a popular mushroom.  Possibly due to a very angry Japanese fisherman’s association, news regarding the safety of various fish is not being readily provided by TEPCO, or clearly reported by the Japanese media until recently.  Common sense would be to side on caution whether to consume any food from the region, especially Fukushima.  Yet, the prime minister of Japan recently encouraged the country to support the damaged region by buying its products.

The Mission to Stabilize Nuclear Reactors

The current mission at hand is to first cool the dangerous “spent” or used uranium fuel rods which are stored in pools of water adjacent to the reactors.   If these pools of water go dry and the spent fuel is exposed to oxygen they can catch fire, become highly radioactive and burn through the walls of the reactors.  In conjunction with this effort, electricity needs to be restored to the site so the sea-water cooling system that was damaged by the typhoon can function.  A steel containment vessel which secures the reactors is the last line of defense to prevent the toxic radioactive materials from leaking.  In the worst case, the core could melt through all barriers and the steel container, releasing a large amount of radiation into the atmosphere.  There are four reactors in question, all in which have been compromised to various degrees, according to reports.  At this point, it appears all off the book creative measures are being taken to combat the problem. 

On April 17th, details regarding the containment plan moving forward was provided, requiring two-stages and will take 6-9 months.  In the first stage over the next 3 months, TEPCO aims to cool the Number 1 and 3 reactors in a stable manner.  It plans to cover fuel rods with water by injecting water into the containment vessels.  The company also plans to purify contaminated water and return it to the reactors.  It will set up heat exchangers to remove heat from the reactors.  TEPCO says it will contain the radioactivity leakage from the Number 2 reactor by patching the damaged section. Then it will take the same measures as at the Number 1 and 3 reactors.  In the second stage, TEPCO plans to lower the temperature of the fuel in the reactors to below 100 degrees Celsius to stabilize its condition.  Regarding the release of radioactive substances, it will set up water purification facilities to tackle highly contaminated water.  TEPCO also plans to put giant covers over the reactor buildings to prevent the release of radioactive substances into the air.  Regarding environmental monitoring, in the first stage, TEPCO will increase the number of monitoring points within the government-set evacuation areas. In the second stage, it will carry out decontamination to reduce radiation levels in the area.

Radiation is measured in units called Sieverts (mSv), and the levels measured at the Fukushima Power Plant were approximately 400 mSv per hour which is 160x higher than the average dosage typically a person receives in one year.  The average dosage a  person receives in one year is 3 mSv, the same levels as in a CT scan.  A chest X-Ray would be equivalent to .1 mSv and 100 mSv per year would increase the risk of cancer.  See the Effects of Radiation graph I posted to better understand the various degrees of radiation exposure.   With respect to the workers at the Fukushima nuclear plant, the risk from radiation depends on how much of it the workers are exposed to.  The Japanese government increased Fukushima workers’ allowable exposure from 50 mSv a year to 250 mSv because of the emergency.  U.S. protocols allow workers to be exposed to twice as much, 500 mSv, during an emergency.  Exposure to one sievert, or a 1,000 millisieverts at once is enough to make a person feel nauseous. 

On another note, the government has implemented electricity rationing in and around Tokyo, which may include unpredictable blackouts based on power demands due to cold or hot temperatures.  These rolling and sometime unpredictable blackouts will no doubt affect the Japanese economy;  and more importantly, many lifelines and the ability to respond to medical needs.  The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) has lost 20 percent of its production capabilities in northern Honshu, Japan.  With these challenges, including major fuel shortages:  the Japanese Self-Defense Force, the United States military, and various international support agencies are working tirelessly to continue its daunting search and rescue operations, and aid operations.  There are over 15,000 reported dead, over 8,000 missing, and over 150,000 thousands living in evacuation shelters.  I will continue to update this blog as information changes. 

Tsunami aid and relief fund:  How you can help (CNN) 

If you are interested in helping through a donation, here is a list of reputable charities I recommend:

 Charities helping in Japan

11 responses

  1. It is scary to watch from far but it is good to know that life is “normal” in my spiritual home of Tokushima.

    March 15, 2011 at 11:09 pm

  2. Oli

    I’m following the tv news and websites including yours bro, shit’s been crazy to watch and absorb since last friday.

    Keep us posted.


    March 17, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    • hey bro! pretty crazy I know… i think it’s at a very high level of concern… it feels like they’re in a non-stop cycle of damage control and it’s unclear what progress is being made towards stabilizing the situation…

      March 17, 2011 at 7:02 pm

  3. Darlis

    My heart goes out to the plant workers and their families. I know these workers are very, very brave heroes….however I feel so sad that they cannot have any communication with their families….and so sad for their loved ones who must be anxiously awaiting any word at all…….my prayers are with you all.

    March 21, 2011 at 12:55 pm

  4. Jer

    To everyone in Japan,
    My heartfelt prayers goes out to you all. My son and I were scheduled to vacation in Japan (Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya). We have postponed our trip for now and are hopeful that we can travel before fall. I urge everyone to make a contribution to help the families that are homeless and housed in shelters.
    God bless everyone there.

    March 31, 2011 at 9:52 am

  5. Perry

    Keep up the good work – The media in the West is not reporting much about the disaster. I heard that in Tokyo tap water cannot be used for drinking anymore – Is this true?

    March 31, 2011 at 4:08 pm

    • With regards to water in Tokyo, all reports indicate it’s safe… but oddly, reports saying it was safe came a day after officials said it wasn’t safe.. some parts of Japan near Tokyo, are still not safe for infants… i’m sure there are a lot of people still apprehensive in Tokyo, I would be…

      March 31, 2011 at 11:10 pm

    • 7TUNE

      We aren’t drinking water from the tap and live in Tokyo. But we are stocking up for water that we need for cooking.

      I was told by a very wealthy Japanese friend of mine that we should trust the government 100% and I thought that was one of the stupidest things he could ever have told me.

      No government is 100% honest and to believe that everything is daijobu is to be a puppet for the masters; a slave to ignorance.

      Japan is in deep trouble and there is no two ways of going about this.

      I’ve lived in Tokyo for going on 7 years now and I know – in my GUT – that the government is not being honest and forthcoming with information. How could they?

      If they did, 19 million people would try to flee the country or the area at the same time and no-one would get out alive.

      It’s not over yet. Mark my words.

      April 18, 2011 at 5:57 am

      • 7TUNE, The truth lies somewhere in between I think.. it’s no secret that the situation is severe, but the level of caution necessary depends on the detailed information being provided and carefully reading between the lines.. most governments will never be 100 percent forthright I agree, but at this point, I believe they are trying to be as much as possible due to international pressure from neighboring countries.. good luck in Tokyo!

        April 18, 2011 at 9:23 am

  6. Now, with more radiation leaking and being deposited through the air by rainfall, they should know:
    How to protect your garden patch or field against radioactive fall-out
    You and your readers may also be interested in how to treat radioactively contaminated drinking water, one of the most pressing concerns in Japan and soon in regions further off:
    Maybe someone wants to help with Japanese and other languages?

    April 7, 2011 at 8:38 am

  7. O'Neill D. Louchard

    My son has lived in Japan for over 15 years and now has a family in Miyazaki, which, so far, has escaped damage. I’ve visited many times.
    I’m feeling distress over the suffering of the people in all of the areas impacted. I have contributed to four organizations on your list, but realize it is a small drop in a very large bucket. Thank you for your comprehensive

    April 7, 2011 at 10:06 am

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