No personal comments today. This time I'd just like to pass on something I got in my inbox this morning from the JET program prefectural advisors (PAs). They have been doing a good job of trying to provide up with up to date sources of information in English and keep us abreast of the situation as it unfolds. Today they addressed concerns over the situation with the nuclear powerplants here.
Several of my friends have also expressed, understandable, concerns about this. Thank you for the thoughts, prayers and kind messages you have variously sent me, it is appreciated! However, I get a strong feeling that much of the information in the mainstream media is (as ever) somewhat exaggerated to grab and hold public attention.
To somewhat balance that, here are some quite straight forward comments on the situation made by a panel of experts who recently met at the British Embassy in Tokyo. I though some of you might appreciate this more down to earth assessment of the situation.
So here are the comments as relayed by one attendee.
I have just returned
from a conference call held at the British Embassy in Tokyo. The call
was concerning the nuclear issue in Japan. The chief spokesman was Sir.
John Beddington, Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government, and he
was joined by a number of qualified nuclear experts based in the UK.
Their assessment of the current situation in Japan is as follows:
In case of a 'reasonable worst case scenario' (defined as total
meltdown of one reactor with subsequent radioactive explosion) an
exclusion zone of 30 miles (50km) would be the maximum required to avoid
affecting peoples' health. Even in a worse situation (loss of two or
more reactors) it is unlikely that the damage would be significantly
more than that caused by the loss of a single reactor.
The current 20km exclusion zone is appropriate for the levels of
radiation/risk currently experienced, and if the pouring of sea water
can be maintained to cool the reactors, the likelihood of a major
incident should be avoided. A further large quake with tsunami could
lead to the suspension of the current cooling operations, leading to the
- The bottom line is that these experts
do not see there being a possibility of a health problem for residents
in Tokyo. The radiation levels would need to be hundreds of times higher
than current to cause the possibility for health issues, and that, in
their opinion, is not going to happen (they were talking minimum levels
affecting pregnant women and children - for normal adults the levels
would need to be much higher still).
- The experts do not consider the wind direction to be material. They say Tokyo is too far away to be materially affected.
If the pouring of water can be maintained the situation should be much
improved after ten days, as the reactors' cores cool down.
Information being provided by Japanese authorities is being
independently monitored by a number of organizations and is deemed to be
accurate, as far as measures of radioactivity levels are concerned.
This is a very different situation from Chernobyl, where the reactor
went into meltdown and the encasement, which exploded, was left to burn
for weeks without any control. Even with Chernobyl, an exclusion zone of
30 miles would have been adequate to protect human health. The problem
was that most people became sick from eating contaminated food, crops,
milk and water in the region for years afterward, as no attempt was made
to measure radioactivity levels in the food supply at that time or warn
people of the dangers. The secrecy over the Chernobyl explosion is in
contrast to the very public coverage of the Fukushima crisis.
The Head of the British School asked if the school should remain
closed. The answer was there is no need to close the school due to fears
of radiation. There may well be other reasons - structural damage or
possible new quakes - but the radiation fear is not supported by
scientific measures, even for children.
- Regarding Iodine
supplementation, the experts said this was only necessary for those who
had inhaled quantities of radiation (those in the exclusion zone or
workers on the site) or through consumption of contaminated food/water
supplies. Long term consumption of iodine is, in any case, not healthy.
The discussion was surprisingly frank and to the point. The conclusion of
the experts is that the damage caused by the earthquake and tsunami, as
well as the subsequent aftershocks, was much more of an issue than the
fear of radiation sickness from the nuclear plants.