I’m doing a media blackout today- I just can’t stand it anymore. I’ve got my email open for US Embassy alerts but I’m staying off the news. It looks like they’ve reconnected some electricity to the nuclear facility, but no one knows if the machinery is even functional. No two sources say the same thing.
I have no plans to leave Tokyo as of today. I’m not staying to be a tough guy, or because I want to start glowing. I’m staying because every reliable source, including the US Embassy, says there is low risk to folks outside the 50-mile exclusion zone and the radiation levels in Tokyo are well below risk limits. (I’ve stopped listening to all for-profit news sources. The Japanese are underplaying to avoid panic, which would kill people in and of itself, and the foreign media are overplaying for ratings). I’m staying because I want life to get back to normal. I’m staying because I don’t know if I’ll be able to return if I leave the country, due to visa issues, etc. I’m staying because it looks like the Japanese are finally accepting US help to get things under control and they’ve reconnected power to the plant. There will be no quick and easy resolution to this, and no moment when everyone says, “Ah, it’s all over.” It will be ongoing, but it looks like things are taking a turn for the better. The Japanese countermeasures are downright cartoonish- dropping water from a helicopter? crowd control cannons? but they seem to be staving off disaster. The electric is partially restored but no news yet on if the systems it will power are functional. But at least there’s more good news than bad news.
There are still commercial flights from Narita and Haneda. But if I leave, it will probably be to Okinawa or Fukuoka in the far south of Japan. The US had a voluntary evacuation to Taipei, which I thought was an odd choice. I guess they were just planning on everyone getting an outward flight out. The US evacuation flight had less than 100 people on it, so I think a lot of Americans are staying.
We all understand the biggest risk is if the spent fuel pool in Reactor #3 has a melt down. That one has plutonium in it, which is extra nasty if released into the air. That’s what we’re watching out for. If it goes critical, there will probably be a huge panic, even amongst the stoic Japanese. Nobody can count on evacuation if 36 million people are panicking. Everyone’s playing the odds on this one- if it goes, it’s going to be very bad. But it’s still holding for now.
These decisions to stay or go are not made lightly. I realize I could “wait and see” myself into personal disaster. But if I leave for parts unknown for a week, how do I know things will be safe when I return? What if I leave for a week and the stupid thing goes into meltdown the day I return? If I evacuate, it will probably be permanent. I won’t be able to return to Japan.
I don’t know if it’s true or not, but the Japanese news reported that the government, briefed by those overly optimistic idiots at TEPCO (Tokyo Electric), refused American help in the early stages and only accepted it when things got really out of control. The US and Japan are arguing about the width of the exclusion zone (Japan says 12 miles, US says 50). The US flew unmanned drones over the area yesterday to try and get a better look at the situation, as well as bringing in their own radiation testing equipment. There’s a US nuclear team in Fukushima right now but I doubt they’re at the plant itself. Still, given TEPCO’s track record of coverups and total bungling of the situation, I’m glad there’s some other folks at the scene. TEPCO probably would have fallen back on their standard crisis plan and attempted a cover-up if international news hadn’t been reporting. “Oh, those weren’t explosions at the reactors. We were just making popcorn.”
I think we’ll know more in the next couple of days. If they’re still doing crazy Hail Mary stuff to cool the reactors by the end of the weekend, then I’m going to take that beach vacation to Thailand a little bit early.
Oh, and the timing of the Illumasqua Toxic Nature collection was perfect, in kind of a grim way. I think I’ll buy the green polish from it at least. 😉