7.0-magnitude earthquakes continue and more grim news for the people of Fukushima
Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Times
Radiation and other problems blight northeastern Japan
In the last few days several powerful earthquakes have jolted northeastern Japan and several strong tremors could be felt in Tokyo. This in turn meant that power was shortly lost at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and clearly the radiation leaks have begun to accumulate from this ongoing crisis since the initial earthquake and tsunami struck on March 11.
After more than one month the situation remains delicate at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. It is true to say that the situation is much more stable than several weeks ago but the situation is not stable enough and this is worrying because earthquakes continue unabated in northeastern Japan.
Radiation into the sea and atmosphere is taking its toll on the local economy and health issues will not be known until much later. The government of Japan is clearly worried about this and warnings have been sounded. Therefore, the heavy toll on the local economy will continue and it must be remembered that the local economy was already blighted before the earthquake and tsunami struck.
The income disparity between prefectures like Fukushima and Tokyo was already huge and clearly jobs were at a premium for the local community. Added to this is the high ratio of elderly people compared to the younger generation in many parts of northeastern Japan.
Obviously, all nations have huge income disparities and the gap between New York and Louisiana will also be huge. Hurricane Katrina also showed you how America was unprepared and the crisis showed a clear gap between economic areas which were vibrant and deprived areas which had been neglected.
Japan does not face the same social issues like America and this applies to drug problems, high crime rates, no-go areas and other issues related to social deprivation. However, you still have deprived areas throughout Japan but because of major cultural differences between nations like Japan and America; then the low crime rate, minor drug problems, and so forth, means that social deprivation in Japan is hidden or not highlighted within the mass media.
The picture is complex in northeastern Japan and some areas will clearly be more potent than others and certain sectors will be strong. However, unlike Tokyo, the region will face it harder to bounce back because the economy is weaker and over reliant on certain sectors.
Clearly the fisheries sector and agriculture is going to be hindered by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Therefore, for small sized and medium sized companies, this is going to be a long term problem
The Japanese government announced that they will expand the 20-km evacuation zone which was deemed appropriate in the past, but no longer because of the accumulation of radiation. This applies to the zone around the stricken nuclear plant in Fukushima because it is apparent that the situation is still not under full control and the earthquake which struck yesterday also shut down the system for a short period of time.
Yukio Edano, Chief Cabinet Secretary, commented that long-term radiation issues and the cumulative build up of radiation and exposure is a problem. Therefore, people outside of the 20-km zone will be instructed, in line with the nuclear disaster law, that they have to evacuate.
Yukio Edano said that people will be “instructed” to leave areas outside of the 20-km zone and this applies to parts of Iilate, Minamisoma, Namie, Kawamata and Katsurao. All these places are located in Fukushima and while the evacuation will not start immediately it will come into place over the next few weeks and month.
He cited that the factor behind this move is based on the cumulative exposure of radiation surrounding the nuclear plant in Fukushima. Also, for residents in the hot zone, between 20-km and 30-km from the stricken nuclear plant; then this area is deemed an “emergency evacuation preparation zone” and this means that people could be told to evacuate at any time when the government believes that risks are increasing.
Yukio Edano also stated that “The risk that the situation will worsen and that there may be new massive emissions of radioactive materials is becoming considerably lower” but“Even if there are no new emissions of radioactive substances, radiation may come out from the soil . . . and this could affect health if one stays in the affected area for a long time.”
Meanwhile the continuing aftershocks remain unabated and recently several more powerful earthquakes have hit, including 7.0-magnitude earthquakes. This is also hindering the recovery of the nuclear plant because power was shortly lost yesterday but they psychological impact must be taking its toll.
After all, with each new potent earthquake and the power of the tremors; then it is reminder about how fragile the situation is. It is factual that the last few earthquakes only killed a few people and unlike the 9.0-magnitude earthquake which unleashed the potent and deadly tsunami; then the threat to loss of life was not high. However, the psychological impact must be very high because it is difficult to return to normal when you have continuing aftershocks which are powerful and the ongoing nuclear crisis is adding to even greater pressure.
Since the 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck on March 11 you have had over 400 aftershocks with the magnitude of 5.0 or even higher and in the last few days two have been rated very high. Even today, April 12, tremors could be felt in Tokyo and the last few have been stronger than the previous week or so. Therefore, fears remain that an even stronger aftershock may emerge and even if it does not, psychologically it is a problem because the number of aftershocks have been many.
The latest aftershock caused a blow to companies which are trying to return to normal in parts of northeastern Japan. Fujitsu Ltd. was forced to suspend operations because of power shortages and Renesas Electronics Corp. had to stop production lines in Aomori and Yamagata prefectures.
Other major companies like Rohm Co. were forced to halt their restart in Miyagi prefecture and so many other major companies have been hindered by energy shortages, huge damage, infrastructural problems, and other factors; therefore, it is hard for northeastern Japan to return to normal because of ongoing problems.
The latest 7.1-magnitude earthquake which hit Fukushima and the ongoing radiation crisis at the stricken nuclear plant, alongside energy shortages, is causing great damage to the regional economy and this in turn is creating major ripples within the economy of Japan.
Nature is still not letting up and human failings over the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is adding to the psychological factor. When this is added to power shortages, fisheries sector in crisis, agriculture industry in free fall, and other major factors; then the recovery is going to be painfully slow and for people near the stricken plant it is clear that their communities are under enormous strain and the immediate future looks bleak.
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