Thursday, March 31, 2011

Iitate village in the news

The International Atomic Energy Agency urged the reassessment of the situation in Iitate village after finding that radiation levels were above safe limits. This echos the calls from Greenpeace a few days ago.The IAEA head of nuclear safety and security, Denis Flory, stated that "The first assessment indicates that one of the IAEA operational criteria for evacuation is exceeded in Iitate village." The head of that Agency's Incident and Emergency Centre added that the megabecquerels per square metre were a ratio about two times higher than levels at which the IAEA recommends evacuations.

More extensive details of the issue can be seen in the Montreal Gazette report via

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

English language website established

Masachi informed me that an English-language site has been established by the Fukushima prefecture. It provides extensive information on the current situation, emergency action, precautions, and even volunteer options. His message is below.

"The Fukushima prefectural government has created an English website related to the earthquake and the situation of radioactive materials. The following is the link/

Emergency Information from the Disaster Provision Main Office of Fukushima Pref

The website contains information of detected levels of radioactive materials in each sub-region of Fukushima prefecture. Iitate-village's data is shown there and you can see the results for each day.

Prefectural districts : Measurement value of the environmental radioactivity (provisional value)

As of March 30, the above site shows the results. Iitate's level is still higher than the other areas outside of the designated evacuation area.

The Fukushima prefectural government will start testing soils to check radioactive materials from March 31. Samples of soils will be taken from 70 sites in all municipalities. The results will be released around April 6th.

Last night (March 29), the Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan (under the Cabinet Office) expressed their view on how long it takes to cool down the nuclear plant. They said it would take years. They also mentioned that fixing up the circulation system of coolant should be completed within 1-2 years. It is really a long term disaster..."

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Struggling to maintain hope

Masashi sent the following message today.

"Today (March 29), I heard some sad news from Fukushima - that one farmer had committed suicide in despair over his lost harvest of cabbage due to the suspension of sales caused by the nuclear accident. We are hearing both good news and bad news related to the power plant and cannot see how long it will take to fully stabilize the plants. So we are afraid many farmers will lose hope.

The other bad news released today is that plutonium was found near the plant (within the surrounding yard). While the level of plutonium is very low, this indicates some problem of the containment system of the plant. If so, recovery of the plant may take an even longer time.

The earthquake affected a very large area, including 5 prefectures facing the Pacific Ocean and extending more than 500 km in length. The size caused many problems with the delivery of relief supplies, communication, the disparity of the type of aid required, the length of time required to build temporary housing, and so on. In Miyagi prefecture, the amount of rubble is said to be so huge that the amount is as much as the rubble normally accumulated over 23 years!! The large amount of rubble covers such large areas that one cannot find enough space to build these temporary houses. This is because the area where the tsunami created the greatest damage was located in fishing communities with only small amounts of flat land.

The national government is now trying to dispatch public officers at every level of government with expertise to help affected municipalities support administrative work or disaster relief activities. Municipal governments in the area are facing many problems caused by the disaster under the condition of fewer officials (since many officials became victims of the tsunami), loss of offices, loss of data, and so on. One municipal government lost its residents' registry as a result of the tsunami and therefore cannot exactly identify who is missing."

Monday, March 28, 2011

Dr. Peter Apedaile's reflections

I received some thoughtful comments from Dr. Peter Apedaile today. He reports on a conversation he has had with Dr. Tsuboi regarding possible responses to the crises in Japan. You are welcome to contribute to this conversation by clicking on the word "comments" at the end of any blog, then filling in the "Post a Comment" box which appears or by e-mailing me with a request to add your comment to the blog.

Peter wrote:
"Here is an edited cc of some thoughts with Nobuhiro. How can we academics, intellectuals, ex and current, make any difference? One way is to start thinking ahead beyond the tragedy of the moment. This is not heartless. But what options are opening? Mayor Kanno is responsible for on-the-spot action. Not a lot of time to think longer term. Can we be useful?

Since returning from Cuba last night, I have read many emails from friends in Japan and am so relieved that our CJ Family are well.

I am sure that the economy of Iitate-mura is devastated. I wonder what helpful advice we economists could offer to Mayor Kanno??? Of course if cesium radiation affects the whole Mura, perhaps it will have to be abandoned. It was always an option for such hilly and remote rural economies to become natural parks with minimum population density and focus on ecological amenities in the long run.

Iitate was slowly moving in this direction it seemed to me. Awano may have more options as long as cesium stays out of the picture. But here again, the game has changed. It seems useful to do some new thinking about a geographic strategy to disperse the location of industry in Japan. Awano already has a lot of intermediate SMEs of course. We can see how the concentration along the east coast with major concentrations in places like Sendai hurts the entire Japanese economy.

Since the Japan Plate is a reality, perhaps there is logic for expanding light industrial investment to more remote rural places without forgetting the vulnerability of transport infrastructure. A very small difference in the epicentre would have devastated the Tokyo part of the Japan economy. Chiba showed some of this threat with the fires.

Right now, the equity problems of Daichi Electric (loss of stock value) also apply to farms and businesses in Awano and Iitate. Will the banks help them too and in time? Japan's debt and deficit situation makes it hard to use public finance to help private recovery let alone for infrastructure and loss of tax revenue. How to unlock the savings from over-65 Japanese to finance economic recovery, when it is already tied up supporting the national debt??? Do we need to think of new types of global financing instruments for natural disasters too big for even a Japan??? Local options?

As a former mayor and councillor, I understand that Mayor Kanno is in charge of information when a disaster strikes. We must all understand that information in a disaster is a number one management problem for the Mayor. The press must not jump to spread the feeling of mistrust, as I have seen on CNN while in Cuba. He is correct to criticize the media for jump and run coverage of a rapidly changing scene, imperfect knowledge and huge remediation and response efforts to correct never-before-seen problems arising every minute.

Bravo to Mayor Kanno and many other municipal leaders, who survived to organize the crisis and start the recovery."

Message from Dr. Nakagawa

I received an e-mail from Dr. Mitsuhiro Nakagawa today outlining the difficulties faced by the Japanese people - along with an expression of their courage and strength. It is both daunting and inspiring.

"The scale of the earthquake was Magnitude 9.0. It is said to occur once in 1,000 years. We prepared the social infrastructure for an earthquake which will occur once in 100 years. This earthquake was too strong to manage. Many people died as a result of the Tsunami following the earthquake. I expect that the final number of deaths will be about 30,000.

The situation of the Fukushima nuclear power plant is still serious. But, I think that we overcame the worst part of the crisis through the water dropped by the army helicopters. The Emperor talked to the people by TV. It was inspirational for our soldiers.

It is the fate for Japanese people to encounter earthquakes because we live on the Japanese Plate. A huge amount of energy was released by this earthquake. We will achieve the restoration by bringing together our wisdom and courage."

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Radiation levels in Fukushima soils

Masashi wrote that on March 25th, the Fukushima prefectural government advised farmers in the prefecture not to start farming activities. This advice applies not just for Iitate, but for all areas in Fukushima. The Prefectural government asked farmers to delay their work and be prepared to change crop varieties to those which can be harvested later in the season. Farmers are asked not to cultivate soils because radioactive materials would disperse further.

Also the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture (MAFF) has given advice on how to deal with the vegetables and milk which have shown elevated radioactive materials. These products should not be incinerated or mixed into the soil. They should be accumulated at one site or left on the field. This means farmers cannot use or plant other crops on their fields.

Currently very little data is available regarding the accumulation of radioactive materials on farmland. Since the government cannot identify the time schedule until the stabilization of the nuclear plant, it is still very difficult to tell how large the contamination of soil will be in Fukushima and its neighbouring areas.
Based on current information provided by the media on the nuclear plant, it appears that it will take time to stabilize the plant completely. The government has already started to discuss how to compensate farmers in the affected regions.

[Announcements by Fukushima prefecture (Japanese only)]

[Japanese Ministry of Agriculture's (MAFF) information related to the earthquake (English)]

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A message from Mayor Kanno

Masashi wrote to inform us that Iitate mayor Mr Kanno reported on the situation of the village in a telephone interview by a Japanese TV news program (NHK's 9 p.m. news on March 26). Mr. Kanno expressed concerns about the the way in which various negative items are reported via the news media. For example, TV programs reported about the results of radioactive materials in Iitate without providing a detailed explanation to the village beforehand. Also, the simple announcement of results [regarding radioactive material from the soil, in particular] by TV news reporters creates very serious concerns for all the people involved - especially where there are no updates. This makes it very difficult for them to understand the situation.

Mr. Kanno's concern seems to be related to media reports that tend to focus on sensational news but do not provide further updates even if the situation improves. Mr. Kanno's comment seems to have made a strong impact on the interviewer of the TV program since the reporter mentioned that this kind of issue needs to be seriously taken into account from now on.

While the data regarding radioactive material in water and the environment gradually improves, the situation of Iitate's farming is still unpredictable. The agricultural cooperative in Iitate has asked farmers not to start spring farm work since the situation is still unclear. Usually around this time of year, preparatory work for rice farming begins. But farmers cannot start their work because of this request by the cooperatives.

Spring is a very important season for every farmer. This is also a very serious situation for all the farmers in neighbouring prefectures; Fukushima, Ibaraki, Gunma and Tochigi.

As for the radioactive material found inside sea water, extremely high levels of radiation were found near the plant today. Radioactive iodine levels were 1250 times higher than the allowable standard. It is ten times higher than it was 4 days ago.

The Nuclear Safety Commission explained that the materials would be diluted by sea water and radioactive iodine is quickly degraded as time passes, therefore, there is no urgent health risk even if people eat fish. However, we know many countries are beginning to stop importing seafood along with vegetables and milk from Japan.
It is very hard to understand this situation for lay people.

The toll of death and missing has reached more than 27,000 and is still increasing.
The evacuation zone (20 km radius from the power plant) has not been actively searched for missing people, so the death toll will definitely increase.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Signs of Improvement

Masashi wrote that the situation of Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant has been improving somewhat and the radioactivity level in Iitate has been decreasing day by day.

On March 15, the radioactivity level in the environment of Iitate had jumped from
0.139 micro Sv/h at 16:00 to 44.7 micro Sv/h at 18:20. This was the highest level to that date. After that high point, the level has declined day by day.

The most recent reading of the level (at 0:00 on March 26) is 9.36 micro Sv/h. This is a quarter of the peak level of March 15. It is still higher compared with those detected in other neighboring areas, but it seems to be improvement.

The result of monitoring environmental radioactive material can be found in the following website by Fukushima prefecture. It is in Japanese only, however,

Other good news is that there is a temporary resumption of fuel for automobiles. Three gas stations in Iitate now sell fuel to residents who have one of the certificates provided by Iitate village. However, the stations are only open for 3.5 hours on Saturday and Sunday so far.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Wind and Rain

Masashi sent another update today - this time providing some information about the conditions affecting the spread of radioactivity in the region.

He wrote that extremely high level of radioactive materials were found in Iitate which is about 30-40 km away from the nuclear plant. Today's Japanese TV program explained the mechanism by which Iitate had such a high level of radioactive materials. It is a combined effect of wind and rain. Radioactive materials tend to move sporadically and in an uneven manner. They tend to concentrate in certain areas depending on the weather conditions.

Iitate was affected by the weather condition of March 20th (south-east wind and rain afterward). Attached is the map of the eastern part of Fukushima prefecture showing the regions for evacuation and the region where they are advised to stay indoors. You can see from this map that only the southeast corner of Iitate is within the latter zone.

There are many concerns about the radioactive materials detected in vegetables and tap water that are spread along the food chain, through restaurants and importers of Japanese food. For example, one major Italian restaurant chain restaurant has announced it will stop using vegetables grown at its own farms in Fukushima.

Details of restrictive measures to distribute vegetables can be found at the website of Ministry of Health.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Iitate and Peace Winds news

I received two e-mails today - one about Iitate from Masashi and another from Peace Winds America about the work they are doing in the region.

Masashi wrote that the March 23 newspaper reported that high levels of radioactive caesium were found from soil taken at Iitate village on March 20th. It is 163,000 Bq per 1 kg of soil, which is four times higher than the permitted level within the designated radioactive control area. Caesium is very slow to degrade, so it is a great concern for farmers.

Today the Japanese government has suspended the sale of several additional types of vegetables and raw milk produced in the four prefectures, i.e., Fukushima (Iitate is part of this prefecture), Gunma, Tochigi, Ibaraki. This is also a significant blow to farmers in these areas. The growing season of many crops is approaching so many people are concerned with this situation.

Tap water in other areas is also affected, Today, 210 Bq of radioactive material (iodine) was found in tap water in northern Tokyo. This level exceeds the 100 Bq which is the maximum level for drinking water for babies. The Tokyo metropolitan government decided to distribute bottled water to families with baby less than
12 month old. Wind and rain seem to contribute to the expansion of the affected area.

Because of the news regarding radioactive materials in drinking water, mineral water is sold out in many shops in Tokyo (see picture).

The earthquakes have not ended. We had 3 large aftershocks today.

Since the Tokyo area is still under such a disrupted condition, 26 embassies of foreign countries in Tokyo have already closed and gone to their home countries or moved out to other cities of Japan, such as Osaka and Hiroshima.

Mao wrote to tell me that she is off to the field tomorrow - with officials from Mercy Corps. She sent a message to Peace Winds America about the tax deduction issue, and I received the following information from them regarding their work and registration.

"I wanted to let you know that if Peace Winds America receives donations for the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, 100% is passed to Peace Winds Japan, our sister organization. Donations are tax-deductible but that may not be of use in Canada unless someone is also filing US taxes. Not sure of the Canadian tax rules.

Ms. Sato and the other Peace Winds Japan staff are working 24/7 helping to respond to the disaster. We have focused our efforts on four cities--two in Miyagi prefecture (Kesennuma and Minamisanriku) and two in Iwate prefecture (Ofunata and Rikuzen Takada)--all terribly devastated. Food, clothing, heaters/cookers and kerosene, medical assistance,--immediate relief. Later will come recovery/rehabilitation.

The office works without being consumed by the various news/misnews of the nuclear reactors and potential radiation."

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Lack of gas for evacuations

Masashi has provided another update regarding the activities in Iitate. The village has begun to close its refugee sites to relocate people to safer areas. One of the major destinations is Kanuma-city, Tochigi prefecture (Awano is part of Kunama-city). However, the people in Iitate still face a big problem: lack of gas for transportation!! Mayor Kan'no has sent out an emergency message asking for help to improve this situation.

A small part of Iitate is currently designated as an area where residents should stay inside their house or office. However, officials need to go out to distribute drinking water to many community meeting halls because radioactive materials are still found in tap water. It is really a contradiction, but there is no other way. Drinking water is distributed by self-defense army officials.

Iitate village is now providing services to residents who wish to check their degree of radiation exposure. The testing service is carried out on the school bus where the equipment is loaded. The bus circulates around the village.

Masachi also attached two pictures of his office at Ibaraki University. It is located on the 7th floor where offices received the most extensive damage.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Radioactivity concerns in Iitate village

I received an update from Masashi this evening that the Japanese Newspaper (March 21) said high levels of radioactive material were found in tap water in Iitate village. It is 965 Bq (becquerel) per kg (caused by radioactive iodine). As a result, the government asked residents not to use tap water for drinking.
Low level radioactive materials (iodine and caesium) are also found in some other prefectures, such as Ibaraki, Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa, Niigata.

Radioactive materials are also found in spinach and raw milk produced in some areas in Fukushima, Ibaraki, and Tochigi prefectures. All these items have been ordered off the market.

It has now become a farming problem in this region: how to manage this risk and at the same time to avoid imagined rumours. Currently the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture are watching to ensure that contaminated products which exceed 300 Bq/kg for milk and water, and 2000 Bq/kg for vegetables are not circulated on the market.

Iitate partially included in evacuation zone

Masashi sent the following update regarding the situation in Japan.

"I have passed on your kindest offer to provide temporary housing space in Canada to one official working for Iitate. I am not sure if he is cognizant about our activities of the C-J project, but anyway I have transferred your generous message.

By the way, as of the nuclear power plant, the Japanese government ordered evacuation from the area within a 20 km radius from the plant in Fukushima, and for residents between 20-30km, to stay within their houses or offices.

Part of Iitate is locating within this 20-30km zone away from the power plant.
So the Iitate people are now very concerned about this situation.

According to Nobuhiro's information, residents living in this area have moved to Kanuma-city, Tochigi-prefecture. It is really a sort of coincident that these Iitate people moved to Kanuma-city which is an amalgamated city including Awano- town.

Thanks to fire-fighters' effort to pour water into the power plant and fix up the electric system in the plant, we can observe some symptoms of improvements. However, it is still unpredictable what it would take to solve the problems.

The toll of dead and missing is still increasing and has reached more than 20,000 today. This is the worst record of disaster after the WWII.

However, it is said that, almost 1140 years ago (869 A.D.), the same area was hit by almost same size of tsunami and earthquake. History repeats, but people easily forget because it is such a long time!"

I have also heard from Mao, one of our NRE alumni, who is currently in her homeland of Japan. She is working for Peace Winds, an humanitarian and disaster relief organization, that is providing services to those affected by the Japanese events. You can find out about Peace Winds via Mao informed me that her organization has asked Peace Winds America to raise foreign funding so that people can receive tax deductions. Unfortunately, they are not registered here in Canada, but if you wish to donate to them you can do so through Peace Winds America via the link above. For those of you who wish to receive Canadian tax deductions, you can donate via one of the Canadian agencies providing support. I know that the Canadian Red Cross and OxfamCanada are among these groups.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Welcome to the CRRF-Japan blog

This blog was established to support the network of Japanese and Canadian colleagues and friends we have made as a result of the CJ and NRE Projects. We will use it to provide news of the events unfolding in Japan, support those whose lives have been upset by the events, and respond to those who are concerned about their welfare. Please use the site to pass on news and concerns as they arise.

The CJ Project was established by the Canadian Rural Revitalization Foundation ( and the Organization for Urban Rural Interchange Revitalization in Japan. The NRE Project ( was a CRRF and SSHRC-supported, 11-year project that built on the relationships established under the CJ Project. As a result of these initiatives we have held numerous exchanges - not only among research personnel but with local rural people as well. Our specific focus has been on the Japanese communities of Iitate-mura and Awano-machi - as well as the 22 Canadian sites in the NRE Rural Observatory.

Of particular concern is the town of Iitate-mura since it is situated in Fukushima prefecture - close to the epicentre of the quake and about 30 to 60 km from the crippled nuclear power plant.

Our Japanese colleagues report that Iitate-mura sustained only minor damage from the quake and none from the tsunami since it is located about 25km west of the Ocean and it is about 400-800m above sea level. Only one injury was reported and this was not serious.

Awano-machi is in the Tochigi Prefecture which is more than 200km from the epi-centre. They only experienced the tremors - with no significant damage.

The concern about the power station remains since it is still not under control.

If you have questions, concerns, or suggestions, feel free to add to this blog - or contact me directly.

Bill Reimer