Firms relocate Tokyo staff in wake of earthquake

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  • The Tokyo metropolitan area has a population of around 35 million. Far from exaggerating and sensationalising this event, for days the media, including in the UK, have been failing to communicate the worst-case scenario, continuously stressing the very best-case, and ignoring the loss of control by TEPCO and the Japanese government.
    This has the real potential to be an event of unimaginable implications.

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  • And there I was thinking the email headline "Firms react to Japan quake" meant some enormous aid effort was being launched by the mega-buck firms. How silly of me. Of course, they're just looking after their own and offering a stint in another location.

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  • But is that correct? See the Government's Chief Scientific Officer Professor John Beddington's comments on the developments following the explosion at Fukushima nuclear plant on the FCO's website http://ukinjapan.fco.gov.uk/en/news/?view=News&id=566799182

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  • Rather than talking about "unimaginable implications" or listening to a media whose prerogative it is to create a dramatic story listen to the people with the best knowledge of possible implications.
    Sir. John Beddington, Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government, was joined by a number of qualified nuclear experts based in the UK to give advise to the British embassy in Tokyo. 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 km 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 above scenario.
    * 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 in time, 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 km 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.
    Let's hope the experts are right!

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  • Sir John Beddington, UK's Chief Scientific Officer, and others had a conference call yesterday with the British Embassy in Tokyo. I'm not sure whether posting a link is permitted but there is a transcript of the call available at the Embassy website.
    He asks whether there is a threat to Tokyo if you combine a worst case scenario of meltdown, breach, explosion, prevailing wind to Tokyo and rain. "The answer is unequivocally no. Absolutely no issue."
    I sat through an off-the-record briefing organised by the ACCJ yesterday and the message was the same.
    My family and I are still in Tokyo. We are much more worried for those affected by the tsunami and hope we can support efforts o help them. I'd also like to voice our gratitude to the heroic efforts of those working at Fukushima.

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  • What scientists, who have not even visited the site of the four damaged nuclear reactors, have to say is not really going to be relevant if there actually is a meltdown and fuel rods are fully exposed and winds blow high levels of radiation South over Tokyo. I don't know about you, but if I was told there was even a 1% chance of this happening I would be out of there. The scientists are simply saying there may not be a meltdown and if there is not then there is little to worry about at the moment - that may well be true. But, what if there is a meltdown - something expected in the next 48 hours if there is no improvement in cooling? These scientists are like someone saying standing next to a live bomb is not dangerous at all - as long as it doesn't go off. (And when have scientists ever told the public not to worry when there were many things to worry about? The list of public health disasters that occured after scientists told the public there was nothing to worry about is as long as my arm.) (P.S. the British Government has a massive vested interest in not scaring the public about the risks of nuke power - we're just embarking on a huge multi-billion pound nuke plant building spree,)

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  • @ Anonymous | 16-Mar-2011 9:57 pm - most of the 'expert' views given pubilcly have continuously stressed the best possible outcome, and continue to. And they have constantly shifted as the reality of the situation has become clearer.
    There are six reactors at Fukushima, all of which have varying levels of issues. The Japanese authorities have essentially lost control of the situation. Dumping water from helicopters and using police crowd control water canons, at the likely cost of the lives of the workers and crew, is pure desperation.
    If the entire site has to be abandoned due to fire or further explosions the possibility exists for a release far, far larger than Chernobyl. Look at a map of the still restricted areas. Some are as far away from the plant as Tokyo is from Fukushima. However in the worst case radiation would spread far from Japan.
    Whilst governments say one thing they do another. For example the U.S. is urgently upgrading all of its domestic monitoring equipment. Both the U.S. and Russia are getting more and more actively involved in directly assisting Japan.
    The worst case is never stressed purely to avoid panic.

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  • Dear all
    Remind me how far away Wales is from Chernobyl and how many restrictions are still in place there as a result of it.

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