Sunday, March 27, 2011

Tohoku Quake - Day 17

This whole thing is really turning into a roller coaster ride of fear and worry fueled by rumors and truth.

The radioactive spinach and milk scare from the other day has shut down shipments of a number of products, mostly vegetables from the affected area. I feel so bad for those farmers. On the news they were showing how they had to keep milking the cows to keep them conditioned, but they're forced to literally pour all the milk down the drain since it's worthless. I also saw a report on how a box of some vegetables used to sell for 2500 yen (approx $30), but were being offered for 1 yen (1 cent) instead. Then there was the radioactive water scare for which the government suggested infants not drink the tap water, which has since been released as the levels have lowered again.

I've also heard reports about a couple workers hospitalized from radiation exposure at the Fukushima plant, and that TEPCO hadn't informed the workers of the radiation levels found in the water in time about it. On top of that, there were readings of radiation levels in the seawater next to the plant at 1,850 times the normal level. Radiation from Fukushima has also been found around the world in California as well as in Sweden and Germany. Perhaps the most startling of all has been a report of radiation levels inside one of the reactors found to be at 10 million times above normal. Subsequently, the International and Nuclear Radiological Even Scale for this disaster has been raised to a level 6 serious accident, surpassing Three Mile Island. Fortunately, even at a level 6 though, we're still not talking anything close to what happened in Chernobyl.

But then when I woke up this morning I read a BBC article about how the response to all these radiation readings are somewhat over reactions and a mistake. It suggests this partially because the 'acceptable' limits are set a bit too low. Basically these limits are sort of 'as low as possible' rather than 'as high as reasonably safe'. Furthermore, while I was looking up all these articles to support the stuff I've been hearing on the news over the weekend, I've learned now that the report about radiation levels inside a reactor being 10 million times above normal was actually a mistake. The radiation levels found in the sea and other areas are also supposedly not much of a health risk at all.

So you really don't know what to believe. One day the reports pile on of radiation being found here and there, and the next day you hear about how it's not dangerous at all, with experts on news programs left and right explaining what different levels of radiation mean as far as their affects on the environment and people.

And at the same time this is all happening, we're continuing with the rolling planned outages (now split into 25 groups), which are rumored to continue through winter or even until next summer. As a result the trains are running with the lights and heat off, and many businesses and stores are operating similarly with lights and heat cut. Plus, we're still getting strong aftershocks every day. In fact we had several today, including an emergency alert on TV for an earthquake in Ibaragi, but nothing major came out of it, with only a 4 or so land, and an M5 in the sea.

Who knows what will happen next. I'll just have to be as prepared as I can for it, and get on with life as normal the best I can. One nice bit of good news though, is that my company has been awesome supporting us through this whole endeavor. After putting our safety as a priority, advising and helping us to temporarily separate from the area a couple weekends ago as a precaution, we have subsequently managed to setup and move our data to servers in the other US (HQ) and UK locations in the period of a week. This takes a huge load off my shoulders, as I now don't have to freak out when the power goes out anymore. Proto Labs, you guys rock. Thank you.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kris, great blog....keep it up and stay safe. See you in about a week.

Brad C.

4/03/2011 2:51 AM  

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