Tuesday, April 26, 2011

really mixed signals from media, TEPCO, and government..,


Video - SOS from Mayor of Minami Soma City, next to the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant

JapanFocus | Mistrust of the media has surged among the people of Fukushima Prefecture. In part this is due to reports filed by mainstream journalists who are unwilling to visit the area near the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. But above all it is the result of contradictory reportsreleased by the media, TEPCO and the government.

On the one hand, many local officials and residents in Fukushima insist that the situation is safe and that the media, in fanning unwarranted fears, are damaging the economy of the region.By contrast, many freelance journalists in Tokyo report that the central government is downplaying the fact that radiation leakage has been massive and that the threat to public health has been woefully underestimated. While the government long hewed to its original definition of a 20 kilometer exclusion zone, following the April 12 announcement that the Fukushima radiation severity level has been raised from a level 5 event (as with Three Mile Island) to a level 7 event (as with Chernobyl), the government also extended the radiation exclusion zone from 20 kilometers to at least five communities in the 30-50 kilometer range.

In recent weeks, many Fukushima residents who fled in the first week of the nuclear crisis have begun returning home and attempting to resume normal activities. For example, some local people in Iwaki city, 40-50 km from the Fukushima Daiichi reactor, are convinced that it is now safe to return despite the high radiation levels recorded. Here is one example.

In Japan, April’s cherry blossoms signal a symbolic beginning, a new stage in life. On April 6th, along with school children across the nation, Iwaki City, within the 40 km radiation exclusion zone, held many school entrance ceremonies for elementary, middle and high schools.

Iwaki's Yumoto Daini Middle School’s ceremony was a bit different: not only were there 33 new students, but refugees living on the school grounds and some members of the Self Defense Force also attended. Overall 107 people participated in the ceremony. Headmaster Sawai Shiro may have exceeded his authority in taking the humanitarian step of granting permission for the refugees to remain on campus as the school year begins, at the risk of being punished later for breaking rules.

Local sources report that in the first week or so after the nuclear crisis began, Iwaki City experienced difficulties in receiving supplies like food and fuel because many agents refused to deliver.Since early April, refugees who had evacuated outside the prefecture started returning. Restaurants in downtown Iwaki are reopening and many convenience stores boast reasonably well-stocked shelves, while gas, water and electricity have been restored. Iwaki City has repeatedly confirmed that “radiation is at a stable level which is not harmful to human health.” Iwaki officials explain that this judgment is based on figures provided by the Fukushima prefectural government regularly updated since March 11.

Principal Sawai began his welcome speech by saying, "I am glad to be able to confirm that all 33 new students are participating in this ceremony amidst a disaster that had forced many people to leave Yumoto.""In our district,” he continued,“some people survived by drinking water from their bath for weeks as there was no running water. I want you to care for each other especially for anyone who is in trouble." He concluded, "You young students, are the future of Japan. Now, we should be bound as one beyond differences in ideas, position or self interest."

Though all the new students attended, not all teachers were there. As a result of the catastrophe, personnel for the school was frozen and new teachers were not dispatched to the school, Sawai explained. As a result of the lack of teachers, there will be only one class run by a teacher for each grade.

School Doctor Informs Children “The radiation problem is already finished.”
Following the principal’s speech, the school’s doctor in his white coat stated matter-of-factly that, based on science, people should know that the worst of the earthquake damage had passed and that radiation leakages from the Fukushima Daiichi plant were decreasing and would soon fade away.

“The radiation problem is already finished,” he told the children and their parents. “You can go to school and go outside without any problem. You should not fear malicious gossip.”

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