updated 15th May 2011
In the aftermath of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, we members of our Education in Japan community here in Japan have been scrambling to restore a semblance of order, normalcy. During the first week there was considerable misinformation most of which was disseminated from abroad by the foreign press, but by now we have been able to gather reliable sources of information that have been useful in ascertaining the real status situation. What follows below is a basket of resources and links that is helping us navigate through this crisis of national proportion, we hope readers of our blog will find this page useful too.
Brief overview of events:
Around 14:46 of March 11, massive earthquakes with the magnitude of 9.0 struck Sanriku Coast, Japan. Waves of tsunami of more than 7 meters swept cities and villages of Tohoku district off the Pacific Ocean, causing devastating human as well as physical damages. Estimates of the Tōhoku earthquake’s magnitude make it the most powerful known earthquake to have hit Japan, and one of the five most powerful earthquakes in the world overall since modern record-keeping began in 1900. Tokyo also observed tremors with a seismic intensity of 5-strong, but damage there was relatively modest. Aftershocks still persist, particularly in the Tohoku district. The earthquake and tsunami resulted in emergency situations including failure of the reactor-cooling systems in TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company)’s nuclear power stations in Fukushima Prefecture. Responses have been taken with regards to these situations. The extent of the damage (see MOFA map):
- (1) The earthquake and tsunami devastated Tohoku district and other regions. Damages were inflicted in Kanto district, too. The number of confirmed deaths is around 15,000; the number of the injured is 5,278, and the number of missing is 9,500(as of May 15th); Buildings damaged or destroyed 143,710 (as of April 15 according to the National Police Agency). The number of those evacuated and still living in shelters is approximately 138,000 (as of April 15th according to the National Police Agency).
- (2) In Tohoku district and other regions, lifelines (including electricity, gas, and water), roads, railways, airports, and other infrastructures were severely damaged. In the Tohoku district and other regions, electricity, gas and water are disconnected in many areas. Roads, railways, airports, and other infrastructure were also severely damaged. 190,000 households in the north and east are still without stable water supplies. Currently, the whole nation is working for the post-disaster rehabilitation, and lifelines are gradually recovering. A report by IRP on damage assessment may be found here
The Prime Minister’s Office and His Cabinet (kantei) – press releases and important information watch video in English at Japan Government Internet TV / NHK World News (English) | http://www.japan.org/ (general feeds)
To read updated provisional English translations of Prime Minister Kan’s announcements on the current situation, please check: http://www.kantei.go.jp/foreign/index-e.html
TUFS Multilingual Disaster Information Service (Information is provided in 21 languages)
MIT NSE Nuclear Information Hub http://mitnse.com/2011/03/15/damage-to-fukushima-daiichi-2-world-nuclear-news/
Newspapers thrive on sensationalism. Headlines like second ‘explosion’ and “Radiation hazard detected: Massive leak feared…” sell papers, but what do those explosions mean? Some of the explosions have been planned measures part of the process of stabilizing the reactor’s pressure and temperatures - and are therefore expected and mean that things are progressing as expected.
“For example, every hour the plant must submit paperwork to the safety agencies (I have come across some of these in my online searches). In doing so they assume that readers all have the same understanding of technical terms (since they are submitting them to other scientists & engineers not to the general public). Technical terms include words like “vent” that seem self-evident to us but they are not. In fact there is a very specific definition for that and unless you understand the real meaning of these terms you are not going to be able to interpret what is going on. So “vent” is only used to mean venting through certain filters and at certain levels for example or a different term must be used.” — Mindy Harris
In the case of other explosions, it is the outer building which exploded NOT the nuclear reactor which houses the nuclear rods and fuels.
Discussions on Japan’s Nuclear Plants
To check on wind direction and weather conditions try these sites:
Germany’s National Meteorological Service called Deutscher Wetterdienst (DWD) based in Offenbach has the DWD page which will inform you of the latest meteorological situation in Japan and the dispersion calculations as established by Deutscher Wetterdienst. To this end, the DWD operates a sophisticated network of 48 stations throughout Germany to detect and measure the particle dispersals Weather and Climate – Deutscher Wetterdienst — Homepage(this article refers: Meterological Agencies’ Forecasts of the Diffusion of Radiation Not Released Inside Japan)
WHO FAQs: Japan Nuclear Concerns: http://www.who.int/hac/crises/jpn/faqs/en/index.html
And speaking on the Today Programme, he also said “this was an entirely different situation from Chernobyl; and that: “the exclusion zone of twenty kilometres… is entirely proportionate.” He stressed that people should not go into the exclusion zone set up by the Japanese authorities. He went on to say that, apart from those living in the 20 km area around the reactor, there is no real human health issue that people should be concerned about.” Source: The British Embassy in Tokyo‘s travel advisory
This fleep.com radiation, water and earthquake data tracking website is by far the most useful as its graphs provide at-a-glance understanding of the trends in radiation.
Regulatory Limits on Radiation Dose (MIT NSE)
Japan Times’ Radiation fears grow after blasts article on radiation – excerpt:
“The earthquake-crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant suffered a dangerous radiation leak Tuesday in the wake of two new explosions and a fire as officials on site scrambled to avert a meltdown.
At 10:22 a.m., a radioactivity monitoring post near the No. 3 reactor showed 400 millisieverts per hour, 400 times the amount an ordinary person is exposed to in a year.
The figure was 100 millisieverts per hour near the No. 4 reactor and 30 millisieverts per hour between the No. 2 and No. 3 reactors.
Radiation exposure of 7,000 to 10,000 millisieverts per hour is considered a lethal dose, said an official at the Institute of Applied Energy. A millisievert is 1,000 microsieverts.
“There is no doubt it is an amount that would have (a harmful) effect on the human body,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said during a morning news conference. “But that is the amount right near the leak. The farther away, it drops.”
Later in the day, Edano said the government was still trying to determine whether the sharp rise in the radiation was caused by an one-time event, pointing out that the radiation detected at the compound’s main gate — a sample point often used to measure the radiation level there — rapidly fell to 596.4 microsieverts at 3:30 p.m. after peaking at 11,930 at 9 a.m.” …read the entire article here.
20 Years Later a UN Report Provides Definitive Answers and Ways to Repair Lives (5 SEPTEMBER 2005 | GENEVA)
How nuclear apologists mislead the world over radiation (Guardian Apr 11)
What the radiation oncology doctors have to say about radiation exposure (Tokyo University Hospital)
Radiation experts have said on TV that a millisiebert is a really miniscule amount of radiation – to put in context what the amounts of radioactive exposure really mean in the context of the Fukushima releases so far, read Nicky Washida’s research “Radiation 101: Radiation and what it means for Japan”.
Introduction to Radiation Health Effects (MIT NSE Nuclear Info Hub)
METI’s real-time radiation data collected via the System for Prediction of Environment Emergency Dose Information (SPEEDI) is available on the following website: http://www.bousai.ne.jp/eng/ This system is relied upon by the government to effect evacuation plans.
To check radiation levels in your prefecture, see the government’s MEXT: Reading of environmental radioactive level by Prefecture; Environmental Radiation Measurement Result; Japan Radiation Maximum by Prefecture Target Map
Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Public Health monitors environmental radioactivity level year-round. Links from their monitoring data page:
|* Monitoring data of environmental radioactivity level / hour|
|* Past data of environmental radioactivity level / day|
|* Radioactive material level of tap water / day|
|* Radioactive material level of fallout / day|
The fast and most accurate and precise data for Tokyo water supplies are found here. According to Esther S. who phoned the Tokyo water company wondering why “not detected” could be seen on one site but continuous low levels of iodine and cesium on another. She was told that the readings at the water treatment plants reported “not detected” for levels under 20 Bq/kg, because because the purpose of the latter reports in particular was to get the information out to the public as quickly as possible, and gathering data for those smaller levels takes much longer, with no benefit/danger to public health.
The Monka Sho or MEXT (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science & Technology) website for info on data for the nuclear disaster. The direct link for the data is: http://i.yimg.jp/images/evt/eq/110316fukushima.pdf
English data provided by MEXT mirroring its J-site, showing radiation levels across Japan (as well as other Emergency Information). The units are in micrograys. Micrograys are roughly equal to microsieverts. The difference is sievert units measure biological damage and grays measure absorbed dose of radiation. They differ depending on the source of radiation (i.e., alpha particles vs. gamma radiation) because a sievert is calculated based on the absorbed dose (gray) multiplied by a factor based on the radiation type (beta and gamma multiply by 1, alpha multiply by 20). But for the purpose of this chart the footnote says they are equal. Basically, just think
microsievert = microgrey. — Sean Marsula
Info on radioactive fallout (I-131 and Cs 137) levels by prefecture data as well as on atomic decay and the Becquerel measurement of radioactive material here.
|At this point, iodine and cesium were detected, but the amount is extremely low level compared to Nuclear Safety Commission’s standard, and there are no effects on health.|
|A monitoring place : Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Public Health, Hyakunincho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Collected from the tap water supplied by the Tokyo Water Works every day, and analyzed using germanium semiconductor detector(Ge Detector).
|* Nuclear Safety Commission has indicated drinking water standards for radioactive iodine (I-131) and cesium(Cs-137).|
|The maximum contaminant limits in tap water:
radioactive iodine (I-131): 300Bq/L (300,000mBq/kg)
radioactive cesium(Cs-137): 200Bq/L (200,000mBq/kg)As of Mar 18, the amount of the radioactive iodine included in tap water was below the criteria of 300 Bq/kg. In Tokyo, it was 1.5, in Saitama City 0.6 Cesium was not found. Source
This link for Kanagawa data (measurements of radiation in the water supply) is being updated much faster :
On decontamination methods using water – see the National Institute of Radiological Sciences’ page here and where water is not available here (basically, removing clothes and using wet wipes) National Institute of Radiological Sciences website
Q&A: Take proper steps to avoid exposure to fallout (Japan Times, Mar 16 2011)
Precautionary measures for children:
Brownoutjapan Blog Due to consequences of the 2011 Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, there exists a significant electricity shortage in Japan. Japan’s government and Tokyo Electric Power Company have announced the rolling blackout plan for residents in Kanto area of Japan, which started off March 14 and would continue for several weeks. Brownoutjapan Blog is for foreigners who live in Japan but do not understand Japanese well until any announcement in english (or the other languages) is provided by someone. (Follow through with the next page)
See also http://www.tepco.co.jp/index-j.html (you can click on your prefecture and find which “group” your town is in.)
- Planned blackouts by Tohoku-Electric Power Co – Yahoo! News(Japanese)
- Planned blackouts by Tokyo Electric Power Co – Yahoo! News（Japanese）
- Preparation before and after the power outage
Road safety – traffic lights don’t work during power outages! With the brownouts, we need to make sure our kids are extra aware of the dangers of crossing ordinarily safe streets now that traffic lights don’t work any more. I observed that drivers were also driving a lot faster and more unwilling to stop or even slow down at zebra crossings – probably wanting to maximize the little gas they have in the fuel tank. Our school brought our attention to the fact of the lack of the traffic lights and asked that we accompany our kids to and from home if possible.– A.K.
Advice on How to conserve food during brownouts
Understanding the psychological effects of a nuclear crisis on you (fear, stress, anxiety): see Fear is a potent risk of Japanese nuclear crisis (Washington Post, Mar 14, 2011)
“The psychological effects were the biggest health effects by far. In the end, that’s what really affected people.” – Fred Mettler, a University of Mexico professor emeritus, one of the world’s leading radiation experts on the Chernobyl disaster for the World Health Organization.
A new online resource the Disaster Japan blog has just been launched today. This site attempts to bring together, in English, information for non-Japanese people frantically searching for information in the event of disaster on things like where to go, who to talk to, where the worst of the crisis was taking place, or how to go about getting necessities like food, shelter, medical care.
Japan Times’ Tohoku Kanto Earthquake resources
For communications links and disaster info and boards, see BlackTokyo’s page.
On tracking earthquakes in Japan, see http://earthquake.usgs.gov
Contacting local authorities in each quake-tsunami-hit area for earthquake information: http://www.mofa.go.jp/j_info/visit/incidents/pdfs/earthquake_information_inquiry.pdf
Locating and finding survivors of the Tohoku-Kanto Earthquake/Tsunami list (written in Japanese but non-Japanese evacuees must write down their names in their own language.): Google Japan’s Picasa Web Gallery picasaweb.google.com3
YouTube Person Finder hoping to connect Japan earthquake victims – Pocket-lint The Person Finder page also has a link to the Google Person Finder too.
“Our hope is that this channel will help victims and their families to establish each other’s safety, and that the video messages will reach many viewers and motivate them to contribute to the recovery and restoration of the disaster-stricken areas,” read the YouTube blog. Via: youtube-global.blogspot.com
To find relocation housing nationwide for the disaster victims see:
Family Links.icric.org - This is a website to help restore contact between family members in the aftermath of the Japan Earthquake. The ICRC is managing this website in cooperation with the Japan Red Cross, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies around the world.
See also this page for the relocation housing centers for the Tohoku tsunami-quake victims.
Satellite Photos Before & After: Some of our members have used these photos to help assess the damage in the areas where family or people we know live.
General news sources: http://www.japan.org/
Wikipedia source on the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami