A number of items updating conditions in Japan post-Fukushima have appeared in the last couple of days.
Robots at the crippled Fukushima power plant found more radioactive hot spots, as Press TV reported today:
At the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, a new record has been broken—but not the kind you want to see.
Robots sent inside the structure which houses Reactor No. 3, one of those where the fuel melted down in mid-March, measured radiation on the first floor at a level of 1,600 millisieverts per hour.
This means that any human being who spent a few hours in that location would receive a dose of radiation sufficient to end one’s life after a few highly unpleasant weeks.
File this under Firing the Messenger. Bloomberg Businessweek reported today:
Dismissed as a “nobody” by Japan’s nuclear industry, seismologist Katsuhiko Ishibashi spent two decades watching his predictions of disaster come true: First in the 1995 Kobe earthquake and then at Fukushima. He says the government still doesn’t get it.
The 67-year-old scientist recalled in an interview how his boss marched him to the Construction Ministry to apologize for writing a 1994 book suggesting Japan’s building codes put its cities at risk. Five months later, thousands were killed when a quake devastated Kobe city. The book, “A Seismologist Warns,” became a bestseller.
That didn’t stop Haruki Madarame, now head of Japan’s Nuclear Safety Commission, from dismissing Ishibashi as an amateur when he warned of a “nuclear earthquake disaster,” a phrase the Kobe University professor coined in 1997. Ishibashi says Japan still underestimates the risk of operating reactors in a country that has about 10 percent of the world’s quakes.
And not even a series of reactor meltdowns can stop the political process, as the Guardian reported yesterday:
They have been deserted for eight months, and could stay that way for years, their former inhabitants now scattered around north-east Japan.
But the towns of Okuma and Futaba, located in the shadow of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear powerplant, have shown that civic life must go on, even in the wake of a major nuclear accident. In one of the more surreal episodes of world democracy, tens of thousands were eligible to vote on Sunday for regional assemblies and mayors in towns that have all but ceased to exist.
Fukushima is the last of the three hardest-hit prefectures to go have gone to the polls since elections were postponed after the 11 March tsunami. Elections in Japan are usually characterised by early-morning speeches outside railway stations and last-ditch appeals for support from candidates perched atop campaign vehicles. Their faces, accompanied by pithy slogans, stare out from numerous billboards.
But none of that was evident in the 11 cities, towns and villages that lie inside the 12-mile exclusion zone imposed around Fukushima Daiichi in March.
Residents of Futaba and Okuma, which were electing mayors and assembly members on Sunday, have only been permitted brief visits home since the disaster to survey the damage and retrieve valuables and heirlooms.