Monday, 14 March 2011

Not enough news on the Fukushima nuclear crisis

The internet and phone lines in this area are now back on line after two days. The main problem for us is that there is a lack of up-to-date information to enable us to make a decision about whether to move or not. For example, information has been given an hour or two later, even though there have already been some leaks, two explosions, and four reactors are still at risk of meltdown. They are currently being cooled with sea water and they say they don't know if this will work or not. There has been a partial meltdown already. The nuclear reactions were automatically shut down, which was not the case in Chernobyl. Over the weeekend information appeared to be being controlled by the private company that owns the facilities, and the atomic safety spokesman appeared to be simply passing this on, blanking any tough questions from the media with stock phrases, like "We need more time to research information before we can answer that."  There has been no update on TV for a while, and the vital information about wind direction and weather forecast is not being updated live. The New York Times is giving a more worrying picture.  Although there are online lists of which roads are closed, it is hard to assess the risk of landslides and avalanches on routes through the mountains.

In case you live near a nuclear facility, this is the kind of treatment you can probably expect in the event of a problem, no matter what bland assurances you are given beforehand. No doubt all over the world the nuclear industry is as I write preparing statements about how this is a unique event, and in any case their designs are different, newer and safer, and they will apply everything learned from this incident to ensure that it can never happen again. Until the next time.

People locally are continuing as normal, which is admirable. They feel safe because this area is relatively safe in terms of earthquake. The nuclear risk does not seem to worry them, perhaps because trust of government is high. For example we just asked our son's school is someone there is monitoring warnings on TV. They are not.

The shops here have food for now and people usually have a lot of food for the winter, but we have just heard from relatives that shops in northern suburbs of Tokyo are now empty of food, and petrol has run out. This is possibly because oil tankers are diverting until the threat of further tsunamis is over. This means that leaving the areas threatened by the nuclear emergency by this route is much more difficult, as you could end up stranded in the car with no petrol and little food available. Once south west of Tokyo it might ease. The Japan sea side of Japan is apparently less affected by shortages, but how long this will continue we don't know. The numbers of people in greater Tokyo mean that things can spiral very quickly, although it seems stable at the moment.

There is no reliably safe option for what individuals should do, and it is hard to know whether to trust information we are given, which makes it especially difficult to decide.

Good luck to everyone.

Please note this post is written based on TV reports and what relatives are telling us - if you are in Japan please refer to other sources. 


  1. Geoff, Chris and I are thinking about you and like everyone else in Tod Harriers we are concerned for your safety. You are right to doubt the authorities. Rely on your instincts, keep yourself and your family safe.

    John & Chris Preston

  2. Geoff, Prof. John Beddington (current chief uk scientist) was on the Radio 4 website this morning and if you can listen back he was quite frothright about actual harm potential. interesting.

    If you need anything practical done at this end jsut ask. Ben Crowther

  3. Geoff, I found your blog by accident as I searched on the name of a school I used to teach at. I was wondering whether I should emails the schools to send on my wishes and hopes that everyone is OK, and I think you are now doing the job that I used to do (from what i can see from your other blogs. I hope everyone in the village and 2 towns are well. I guess most of the students I taught will be away at university now, but don't know where they went (I am in touch with one student who continued to study English and is now studying in Tokyo). Anyhow I will stop waffling, send my wishes to all, Sharon Pearson (formerly Barlow) from Scotland

  4. Mrs P, I am sure all messages of support would be welcomes by the schools. The children will be scared and confused. Thanks for reading.

  5. John, Chris and Ben, thanks for your concern, it makes a big difference.