Hey soon-to-be Fuku JETs! Soon we will be sending out a Welcome Guide for Fukushima to your houses chock full of awesome advice and insider information, but before we send that out, I wanted to address radiation concerns sooner rather than later. This way, both you and the people in your life back home can put some worries to bed. For those who don’t like long analyses, math, and links, and instead prefer Twitter-style 140 character messages:
Steven Thompson @distantshores
Don’t worry about radiation in Fukushima. Levels here are no higher than anywhere else. Shouldn’t influence your decision! #fukufacts
My consulate back home in Florida asked me to get in touch with some JETs from my area coming to Fukushima, and I thought I’d pass on the information I got together. This information will also be printed in your Welcome Guide, but here it is now in case you were worrying a bit! (It’s okay!)
Speaking for my area, (Izumizaki village, middle-south of Fuku) our radiation levels are relatively low, as they are in most of the areas southwest of the plant. Realistically, there are few areas around the plant that still have dangerous levels of radiation, and those places are evacuated. You won’t be living in a dangerous area. I believe the reading in my village today was around 0.29 microsieverts/hour. (For one thing, every town monitors these levels very readily, and are very aware of it, so if things ever were dangerous, they would take the steps they needed to immediately).
So, 0.29 microsieverts/hour translates to approximately 2,540 microsieverts a year. The actual number depends on several variables, but that’s a ballpark, and close enough. 2,540 sounds like a lot, except, that’s only 2.54 millisieverts a year (1000 microsieverts = 1 millisievert, yay metric system!).
Normal background radiation for a year (depending on where you live in the world) is between 2 and 4 millisieverts (2,000 and 4,000 microsieverts, for those of you playing along at home). You read that correctly, Fukushima is more of less at normal levels of radiation for the world. For comparison, people living in New York City get more radiation than you would in Fukushima (NYC gets around 3.4/year, average for US overall is 3.6/year). A CT scan is around 2 millisieverts of radiation, the same as Fukushima in the course of an entire year.
Depending on your Japanese level, you can get up-to-the-hour information on the radiation levels in your area here:
This is provided by MEXT, the Japanese ministry on energy and things. (Official title).
Also, TEPCO, the company in charge of most of the plants in Fukushima, updates the condition of the reactors daily in English (it basically always says they’re shut down, which they are). TEPCO also outlines their plans for cleaning up the area and monitoring the state of the reactors in the future.
Another helpful link is actually from xkcd, an online webcomic. The guy behind it is a PhD mathematician among other things and likes to make good, clear charts. Here’s his infographic on radiation that he made specifically after the disaster in Fukushima last year.
(Note the bottom left of the green section, which lists normal background radiation as about 4 millisieverts/year)
Lastly, if you ever ever have concerns about radiation in your area, feel free to speak to your consulate, embassy, or any of your sempai in Fukushima. Anyone will be happy to answer your questions, and won’t be annoyed/upset by them. We understand that there is a lot of talk about Fukushima, mainly about the disaster, and we all would like to get real, true information out there. In short, don’t worry too much about it. Fukushima, apart from being safe, is also very large, with only a very small area immediately around the shutdown plants deemed unlivable. All the attention from the media has only made their resolve to make sure everything is safe everyday all the stronger. My parents too were worried when we found out my placement. It’s perfectly understandable, but trust us when we say that you have nothing to be worried about in coming to Fukushima.
Looking forward to meeting you here! Let’s going to Japan!