Posts Tagged ‘safety’

Hi Everyone,

Thank you so much for all your messages. We’ve had several close friends and family tell us that they think we should leave, but we are going to stay put unless things change quite a bit. I have decided to start posting here instead of (in addition to?) sending messages to everyone because that is what a blog is for. I started it for a grad course I am taking at the U of Toronto but it has come in handy for one news article I wrote about Egypt (links are on the left) and for updating everyone on our situation here. You can post a comment on the bottom if you like.

A number of family members and friends are very worried about us and are asking us to leave. We have investigated the situation in great detail and here is our report. We are 1000 km. correction: 750 km. from the nuclear plants that are having a problem now. That’s about the same distance from Saint John (where my family lives) to Toronto. I asked a scientist at my university if we could expect to get any radiation here in Kitami, and he said no. If you look at 3-Mile Island and Chernobyl, the dangerous radiation extended for a distance of 12-13 miles, and in both of those cases there was a huge meltdown, which so far has been avoided here. According to the article below, people within an 18-mile radius are being asked to stay indoors, altho the US has recommended that the radius be increased to 50 miles.

Radioactivity disperses over distance, and we usually get winds coming from the north and from the west here, almost never from the south. The chances of any radioactivity showing up here at all are very small. The 75% chance of another earthquake was for the first couple days after the earthquake, so March 12-13. There still is a chance of another big earthquake, but it will not be anywhere near here. We checked the dangerous places on maps (see below for one example) before we moved here. We are on solid ground! No moving plates beneath us here. Also we are far from the sea so no chance at all of a tsunami. We prepared well!

This general article Where Things Stand explains the causes of the problems at the nuclear power plants and how they are dealing with them. I’d like to make the point that even if there were a complete meltdown, we would not be exposed to radiation at our 1000 km. distance from the plants. Now if we were in Tokyo, I would be evacuating now. We didn’t move to Tokyo on purpose because of its location close to three shifting continental plates. Scientists predict that when “the big one”, the massive earthquake that it 30 years overdue now, it will be close to Tokyo. That is one reason why we are living in the Canadian-like wilderness of Hokkaido. We live in a small city surrounded by agricultural fields and woods. We are very happy here and do not want to leave unless there is a clear and present danger. Right now, we have no evidence of danger to us here. So we are staying put, at least for the near future.

Please do not worry about us, life continues in Kitami as if there had not been an earthquake. It’s hard for us to realize that 1000 km. correction: 750 km. away there is a disaster situation, like it is hard for you to realize the same thing in your safe homes far away. If the danger becomes greater, we will surely go. For example, if large amounts of radiation were released into the atmosphere, we would likely leave because of the possibility of food contamination. We are monitoring the situation constantly, from early morning until after midnight.

On a different topic completely, today is Tristan’s birthday! He is 5 years old today, and we’ll have a birthday party with balloons and presents and pizza and a homemade chocolate cake Brandon and I made yesterday.

Bye for now, and big hugs to you all,

Love Jen xoxo

Map of tectonic plates under Japan

Map of tectonic plates under Japan. We are on the northeast of the northern-most island, on one tectonic plate only. Click on the map for a bigger version.


(Updates are posted in italics in local Japan time. I’ll update if there is big news and if I have time.)

Thank you for asking. We are all fine. Many of my family members and friends wrote to us to check on us and express their concern. Here is the answer I am sending them. I thought I should post it here too.

UPDATE (7:50 a.m. Mar. 16): There is a new fire at the Fukushima plant and two workers are missing. We are back on high alert.

We are getting conflicting information but apparently today (March 16 here in Japan) and tomorrow are the key days. If there are no more explosions then it’s likely that only low levels of radiation will leak from the reactors, something similar to 3-Mile Island, where no one died from radiation but food and animals were irradiated. The official story is that no one got cancer from the 3-Mile Island accident, that all cancers that people had after the accident were in fact pre-existing conditions. But you know how skeptical I am of official versions.

So now apparently the radiation has gone down around the Fukushima plant and in Tokyo as well. But another blast and the wind blowing south could mean the irradiation of tens of millions in Tokyo and surrounding areas. The severity cannot be determined now. We are about 600 km to the NNE of Tokyo and any chance of being irradiated is small, as far as I know, but I sent an e-mail to a scientist friend of mine to ask about that just in case.

The situation is not good for the survivors. There is not enough food and water and medical supplies. Many places are without electricity. Almost half a million are homeless and staying in public shelters like gymnasiums and many of those are without heat and electricity. Authorities are taking financial donations only, so we are not collecting blankets, food etc. here in Kitami. We donated thru the YMCA here, and donations are being accepted by the Red Cross and many other agencies.

In Tokyo stores are emptied or emptying of toilet paper, batteries, and rice. Gas stations in damaged areas have no gas or very long lines. Here in Kitami there is very little rice and gas is being rationed to 20 litres per car. We don’t know if people are hoarding rice here, as they are doing in Tokyo, or if it has been sent to survivors, which would be a much better response. Here little has changed except for the rice going missing and the gas rationing. My children are going to school and life is continuing as usual. It’s like a very strange parallel universe here right now with most people unaffected directly (indirectly we are all affected) by the quake and tsunami but others having their lives completely changed. As far as we know, all our friends are safe. But our friend’s brother has been missing for 4 days now. UPDATE: Some of my students are missing but I do not know how many or who they are.

Some countries have advised foreign nationals to leave Tokyo and areas hit by the quake and tsunami. Our friend’s Canadian friends have left already, returning to Canada. We have reservations to Thailand if we need them. If there was a major blast at Fukushima, or some other critical accident, and a major meltdown started, we would probably leave. Children are the most susceptible to radiation sickness and I’ve always been the kind of person who says, “Better safe than sorry”, at least when it comes to my children. Japanese authorities are saying the worst is over, and they say that the accidents at Fukushima rate at level 4 out of 7, according to the “International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale — or INES – which goes from Level 1, which indicates very little danger to the general population, to Level 7, a “major accident” in which there’s been a large release of radioactive material and there will be widespread health and environmental effects”.But the French nuclear authority has assessed damage at level 6, one level below Chernobyl.

So we have conflicting information too, and we are monitoring the situation from early morning to midnight. If we go to Thailand, we’ll let you know. But for now we are just being vigilant in checking the news, and hoping that the situation gets better for the survivors soon. Then there is the financial crisis that all of this has caused…

Thank you again for all your messages and concern. We will write again if anything changes in our situation here.