I must admit I have been getting very, very worried.
From a number of sources, I am hearing that not only Tōhoku area (northeastern part of the island Honshu) should be avoided in the immediate future, but it’s long term fate remains unclear.
Tōhoku region is more rural than the rest of Japan, featuring snow-covered mountains, thick forests, rice paddies and is a hiker’s paradise. I have long held plans to traverse its rugged terrain together with my husband on foot. Look at its breathtaking beauty:
I, of course, refuse to believe that my dreams of a languid journey across that amazing land will never be fullfilled. But…
Tourism opportunities aside, that region is characterised by declining, ageing population and dominance of agriculture. Much of rice farming is subsidised. Clearly, the disaster on scale of Tohoku-Kanto earthquake has dealt a double blow to Tohoku – taking away the essential flow of tourism and exacerbating the outflow of population, possibly long term.
The greatest concern, of course, is the ongoing battle and potentially catastrophic long-term effects of the Fukushima nuclear accident. To me, Fukushima plan is a wound that just would not stop bleeding. Engineers and emergency workers are still there. My heart pains for those brave people daily. But the thought of the long term affects, should their efforts not bring the desired results, is ever more terrifying. Today, I went in search of informed opinions on the Fukushima situation. I discovered that this organisation – Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center – provides non-establishment disaster analysis. In their latest press release, they stated: “Despite strenuous efforts, there is an increasing danger that large amounts of radioactive material might be released from Unit No. 3, which is loaded with fuel containing plutonium”.
No. 3 reactor at Fukushima, uses MOX fuel — whose melting point is lower than that of normal uranium fuel.
“The type of plutonium in MOX is different from that in normal fuel, and the toxicity of the plutonium in MOX is higher than that in normal fuel,” CNIC stated. “According to our calculations, it’s possible that the radiation exposure could be twice as much as that from normal fuel under certain conditions.”
Moreover, Masashi Goto, a former nuclear plant and containment vessel designer with Toshiba Corp., which manufactured four of the six reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi (No. 1) plant in the 1970sOn Thursday, said at the CNIC press conference that he thought it was possible that that spent fuel pool at reactor #3 was broken and water was leaking out.
The consequences of spent fuel pool filled with MOX combusting and radiation released into the atmosphere are potentially more severe than Chernobyl.
Let’s hope and pray that this will not happen.
In conclusion, the information I found today is discouraging. Personally, I think that unless there is an immediate need to be in Honshu, travel should be avoided. As long at the Fukushima Daichi plan is unstable, the potential dangers of far-reaching radiation release cannot be ignored.
P.S. I also thought that this article titled “Japan’s deadly game of nuclear roulette“, written by a geoscientist in 2004, is an important read that provides a chilling perspective on the possibility of further nuclear disasters on southeastern parts of Honshu. Those areas are right next door to Tokyo and the ultimate Japanese icon, Mt Fuji. Leuren Moret writes:
“Of all the places in all the world where no one in their right mind would build scores of nuclear power plants, Japan would be pretty near the top of the list”.
I can only hope the Japanese government finally carries out a fresh assessment of the dangers of housing nuclear plants on seismic fault lines.