By Alumni Correspondent, John Wells, ’73
Summary Of Events In Japan March 23 / 22:30 p.m.
Here is my first summary of today’s events in Japan. I hope to continue this as less and less is being heard about what is happening here. We are still not out of the dark, but creeping slowly toward brighter days.
I was woken out of a deep sleep by two earthquakes minutes apart at 7:34 and 7:36 a.m. Located in northeastern Japan, these two aftershocks were felt as far as Yokohama in the south and Morioka in the north.
The National High School Baseball Tournament at Koshien Stadium in Osaka began today as 32 teams vie to become champion. This tournament will surely lift the spirits for people all over Japan. It is the spring tournament and there is also a summer tournament. This event is very important to all high school baseball teams and the road to get to Koshien is hard.
The biggest news of the day was that traces of radioactive iodine was found in Tokyo water taps and five cities around Tokyo. One reading was measured at 131 becquerels, 31 becquerels above the non-dangerous level. Officials suggested that infants do not drink tap water. No immediate health risks for adults was reported.
External power was restored to all six reactors late Tuesday evening, but increased temperatures in the reactors and detection of high-level radiation has hampered workers. Workers have been focusing on transmitting power to each piece of equipment. No 1 reactor briefly went above 400 C degrees requiring large doses of saltwater to cool it off. Black smoke was detected coming out of reactor 3 around 16:20, but an hour later it receded and radiation levels did not change.
A number of vegetables continued to be banned for distribution from the cities where most of the damage occurred. The ban began yesterday and monitoring of these vegetables continue. Though not harmful to one’s health over the short term, officials are being cautious for the population.
As of 21:15 p.m. on Wednesday evening, there have been a total of 39 aftershocks during the day. They have measured as weak as 1 and four of these quakes were as high as 5 plus on Japan’s scale of 7. The Japanese measure the way it is felt, rather than the Richter scale that measures the intensity of the earthquake at its epicenter.
The death toll has risen to over 22,000 and the people of Japan are all working together to try to recover from this disaster. Some gas stations were open to distribute gas at 150 yen to a liter as long lines were seen by me at one gas station near my house. I visited a store and milk was not available along with all fish products. I managed to grab the last two bottles of Coke Zero. Very few cars were in the parking lot of that grocery store.
If you would like to listen to updates from Japan, NHK TV has a site.
Hoping for daily improvement, but for now it is time to relax and sleep.
Oyasumi Nasai – Good night!
John in Yokohama, Japan
Summary Of Events In Japan March 24 / 22:15
The Tohoku Expressway, which leads to cities north of Tokyo, was fully reopened for ordinary traffic. This will enable support for reconstruction.
I was jolted from my computer chair as a strong earthquake registering a lower 5 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale of 7 in Ibaraki Prefecture at 8:56 a.m. I was woken at 5, by a small earthquake. This is two mornings in a row I faced these jolts and assume there will be more – hopefully decreasing in intensity.
It was reported at 9:20 a.m. that more than 25,000 people had died or were unaccounted for since the initial earthquake on March 11. 9, 523 have been confirmed dead with 16, 067 still missing. The search for missing people has been hindered by the nuclear disaster. The SDF, Self-Defense Force, have been helping people evacuate from the 20 km to 30 km area around the nuclear plant.
Workers returned today to try to restore power and key cooling functions at the Fukushima Daichi nuclear plant. There worked stopped Wednesday afternoon when black smoke was seen coming out of its No. 3 reactor building. This smoked stopped early this morning allowing workers to go back and do their work.
It was also reported that many foreign embassies have temporarily closed their doors and moved elsewhere away from the Tokyo area.
There were 19 aftershocks today with the strongest being felt as a 5 plus. One report said that a person described his body as ‘shaking’ even when there was not an aftershock. With all of the aftershocks that have occurred, I certainly can understand why this person feels this way!
Hope is needed in the earthquake stricken areas of Japan, but people continue to show perseverance and fortitude. Cherry blossoms will bloom shortly all over Japan and their beauty alone will bring high spirit and joy to even the most downtrodden.
And on a side note, Go Badgers in your bid to make it to the Best 8 in the NCAA tournament. I know I will be watching and certainly pray that there is not a strong aftershock making me suddenly disappear for my front door . . .
Summary Of Events In Japan March 25 22:00
Today started out GREAT! I was not rocked out of my bed or computer chair by any aftershock this morning. That is improvement over the previous two mornings. In fact, there were only 9 aftershocks and nothing stronger than an intensity of 3 on the Japanese seismic scale. I hope a lot of people were able to catch up on their lost sleep.
The number of foreign nationals arriving in Japan has plunged 60% with the biggest number of foreigners leaving Japan on March 13 numbering 40,000 the day after the evacuation zone was expanded from the troubled nuclear reactor site.
According to the National Police Agency, more than 27,000 people were confirmed dead or remain unaccounted for as of noon—10,035 deaths and 17,443 missing.
Veteran action star Jack Chan and other Hong Stars are holding a concert on April 1 in Hong Kong to raise money for people suffering from the quake.
Prime Minister Kan spoke to the public today and said he was not certain when the nuclear reactor problems would be brought under control. He added that the government is putting all its efforts into preventing the situation from worsening.
Decreases in radioactive water found in Tokyo, Chiba Prefecture and Tochigi Prefectures are below the numbers from the previous day and below the dangerous level where it was reported that it was not safe for babies to drink tap water. This was really positive news!
A day after three workers were exposed Thursday to water containing radioactive materials 10,000 times the normal level at the turbine building connected to the No. 3 reactor building, highly radioactive water was found also at the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors’ turbine buildings. The three workers were transferred to the National Institute of Radiological Sciences in Chiba Prefecture Friday afternoon, after two of them were taken Thursday to a Fukushima hospital for possible radiation burns to their feet, the plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co said.
Outside of the nuclear reactor site problems mentioned above, today has been a very positive day. It was also a sunny day with temperatures warming throughout the day. Heavy snow is forecast for northern parts of Japan tonight and tomorrow.
On my walk today I purposely visited a local store to see how they were doing with food and other items. A person who works for the store said things are getting much better and as I left his store he presented me with two apples and said there are a couple of nicks on them but that they are delicious. I thanked him and had a smile on my face all the way back home!
Summary of Events In Japan March 26 / 10:00 p.m.
It has been a very normal day in the Kanto region in the area that I live in. I did not feel any aftershocks though there were 21 aftershocks reported as late as 8 p.m. tonight. The largest earthquake was felt as a 4 on the Japanese scale of 7 in Miyagi Prefecture. I think I felt worse from the icy winds that blew gale like winds here. My walk was not very long. Yes, spring is just around the corner and cherry blossoms will paint our landscape with their beauty … SOON!
The biggest concern still has to do with the reactor plant and I have included the entire article written about what has been happening during the day. Japanese officials are working hard to get a grip on the problems and there seems to be new things that crop up each day. I have to remind myself at times that this was the fifth biggest earthquake that the world has ever recorded and when I think of that … I am not surprised at all.
FUKUSHIMA — Japan is stepping up its efforts to restore power and enhance cooling efficiency at the crisis-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant Saturday, but fears of contamination intensify as levels of radioactive materials are skyrocketing in the sea near the station.
Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) has turned on the lights in the control room for the No. 2 reactor at the plant on the same day, while analyzing the water containing radioactive materials detected in the turbine building of the reactors and trying to remove the pools of water.
Meanwhile, abnormally high levels of radioactive materials have been found in the sea near the troubled plant, the government said, fanning concerns over fishery products in northeastern Japan.
TEPCO said the radiation level at the No. 1 reactor of the plant has reached 200 microsieverts per hour, suspending work to pour seawater into its spent fuel pool. But its Fukushima office corrected the announcement later, saying no such high radiation level was detected.
Japan’s top government spokesman Yukio Edano said at a press conference Saturday he finds it difficult to predict when the ongoing crisis at plant would end. Asked about the prospects of the crisis, Edano said, ‘‘the current situation is that we are preventing it from worsening,’’ adding that the situation still requires ‘‘an enormous amount of work’’ before it settles down.
Earlier in the day, radioactive iodine-131 at a concentration 1,250.8 times the legal limit was detected Friday morning in a seawater sample taken around 330 meters south of the plant, near the drain outlets of its troubled four reactors, the government’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said.
The level rose to its highest so far in the survey begun this week, after staying around levels 100 times over the legal limit. It is highly likely that radioactive water in the plant has disembogued into the sea, the utility said. Radioactive materials ‘‘will significantly dilute’’ by the time they are consumed by marine species, the agency said, adding that it will not have a significant impact on fishery products as fishing is not conducted in the area within 20 kilometers of the plant because the government has issued a directive for residents in the area to evacuate. If people ingest 500 milliliters of water containing the same level of radioactive iodine, the radiation levels would reach the 1 millisievert limit which people can be safely exposed to in one year, the agency said.
TEPCO is planning to inject fresh water into pools storing the spent nuclear fuel at the plant to prevent crystallized salt from seawater already injected from forming a crust on the fuel rods and hampering the smooth circulation of water, thus diminishing the cooling effect. It has begun injecting fresh water into reactor containers of the No. 1 and No. 3 as well as No. 2.
At the same time, the firm is trying to remove the pools of water containing highly concentrated radioactive substances that may have seeped from either the reactor cores or the spent fuel pools. On Thursday, three workers were exposed to water containing radioactive materials 10,000 times the normal level at the turbine building connected to the No. 3 reactor building.
On Friday, a pool of water with similar high concentration of radioactive materials was found in the No. 1 reactor’s turbine building, causing some restoration work to be suspended. Similar pools of water were also found in the turbine buildings of the No. 2 and No. 4 reactors, measuring up to 1 meter and 80 centimeters deep, respectively. Those near the No. 1 and No. 3 reactors were up to 40 cm and 1.5 meters deep. While it will try to analyze the radioactivity levels of the pools from the water found in the No. 2 and No. 4 reactors,
TEPCO will remove such water in all four reactor units to reduce the risk of more workers being exposed to radioactive substances.
The risk hinders their efforts to restore the plant’s crippled cooling functions, which are crucial to overcoming the crisis, the government’s nuclear safety agency said.
May you all have a good day or night wherever you are reading this from.
Summary of Events In Japan March 27 / 9:45 p.m.
I woke much too early today as the rising sun woke me up. I had forgotten to close my bedroom drapes. That made me feel a bit lethargic all day as I did not get in any nap. At least I did not wake up because of any aftershock. I have not felt an earthquake in more than two days. Nothing wrong with that, is there?
The combined death toll and missing is presently over 27,000 people Unfortunately these numbers will continue to rise and with it bring more heartbreak.
My wife had to go to two separate stores to pick up milk as each store was only allowing customers to purchase one per customer. I had a similar situation at night when I went out to buy Coke Zero. I had six in my basket and could only walk out of the store with one.
This was the headline I read when I saw an article about the day’s activities around the Fukushima nuclear reactor plant. This startled me at first. It read ….
“10 million times normal level of radioactivity in water at No. 2 reactor”
FUKUSHIMA — Authorities on Sunday faced an increasing challenge of removing highly radioactive water found inside buildings near some troubled nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, with the radiation level of the surface of the pool in the basement of the No. 2 reactor’s turbine building found to be more than 1,000 millisieverts per hour.
The concentration level is 10 million times higher than that seen usually in water in a reactor core, according to plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO). Hidehiko Nishiyama, spokesman for the government’s nuclear safety agency, said the figure is ‘‘quite high’’ and ‘‘likely to be coming from the reactor.’‘
Also, I received a postcard from my university telling me that classes for the new term will begin May 6 instead of the April 8 starting day for the new school year. I imagine that all universities in the Tokyo and Yokohama area will have similar announcements for their teachers and students.
Days have rhythm now and I only hope that people can begin to put this tragedy behind them and move on the best they can.