Many roads in Fukushima-ken (Fukushima state) are still broken from the earthquake, and likely to remain so for a few years.
We spent a few days in Fukushima-ken installing some radiation monitoring hardware, and donating some hand-held detection meters. While the national government has issued dosimeters to allow measuring cumulative absorption, spot metering and measuring stuff is outside of their immediate scope. Pity. Abandoned village on a Monday in June.
Errant radiation is not an issue across the whole ken, with levels outside a strict limit less than most places on earth. Two or three places in India and Iran have natural radiation many thousand times anything measured elsewhere, including close to the Dai-ichi Plant. While I've not measured India and Iran, over the past few months I've measured Tokyo, New York, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Chicago, & Charlotte, and can verify this. Measuring radiation is easy and accurate, measuring the risk of a car crash, pandemic 'flu, and similar less so. Measurements taken on local roads in June.Local farming communities have been deserted.
So, while there is a hard exclusion zone for habitation, those still resident close to the limits have a natural concern about on-going radiation limits. Particularly as not everyone has the luxury of moving away. We measured radiation levels in the exclusion zone less than that of an international flight, and levels outside the exclusion zone in excess of habitation limits (but still less that a pilot's ongoing absorption rate for example). Abandoned bus, now really abandoned.Stopping for an occasional photograph, we had to be wary of packs of stray dogs.
The biggest tragedy here is not the blind human consumption of energy, it is the broader impact on the daily lives of perhaps 100,000 people. While I've been to many deserted places, including the recent tsunami zone above, the depressing nature of seeing kilometers of once well kept, and very beautiful countryside now abandoned is appalling.Abandoned valley, with Dai-Ichi plant off to the right on the coast over those hills.
Whole villages, farms, valleys, schools, homes, & businesses have simply been left. The roads are patrolled by an imported contingent of police, but otherwise everything is empty. A real end of the world feeling. It is tempting to overstate the nuclear energy is dangerous story, or present our menial drive North as a position of bravado, but the real issue is for those that cannot go about their normal lives.
Not necessarily because of radiation (though that is obviously the immediate cause), but because of mis-management; mis-management of technology, mis-management of response, mis-management of information. Roads under the control of Fukushima police.Police patrol regularly.Local road.
To put this in context, we had no concerns about getting out & about on a rainy day, and walking around either in the exclusion zone, or in numerous hot-spots in the area - for short term exposure the radiation levels all the way up to the Dai-ichi plant fence (and likely well inside too) are nothing to be concerned about.
Thoughtful analysis of how this happened is simple - the Japanese government allowed 1960s' technology to be installed and operated by a bunch of incompetent friends-of-friends, with nice solid back-channels of cash flowing. The construction supervisor would have driven to work in something like this:
Even if he had replaced the tires and windshield wipers occasionally, what hope would he have had in keeping up with the 2011 emissions laws, the 2011 Tohoku Expressway traffic at 120km/h in the rain, at night, with four people & their luggage on board, with only lap-belts, no ABS, SRS, or crumple zones? Sounds like a disaster waiting to happen to me... Neko.