Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Playing with numbers (part 3 of 5)

I started out the day in the Watari district of Fukushima City where I met Mrs. Gotoh, the worried mother of seven-year-old daughter, Satomi.  Mrs. Gotoh's husband works for the prefectural government, and after the nuclear meltdown he was needed more than ever; for him, evacuation was not an option.  Mrs. Gotoh's choice: to evacuate with Satomi and be separated indefinitely from her husband or keep her family together and remain in Fukushima.  She made the difficult choice to remain.

Mrs. Gotoh showed me the neighbourhood playground where her daughter, Satomi, sometimes plays.  

Children play at a playground in the Watari district of Fukushima City

There were many children, accompanied by their mothers, climbing the equipment and playing in the sand.  I asked one of the mothers if she was concerned about the radiation level in the playground, and she told me that she was not because the playground had been "decontaminated".  When I probed a little further, she said that she wants to believe the levels of radiation the government is releasing are accurate.  She then pointed to a sign directly above where two little girls, one of them her daughter, were playing:

Two little girls play under a sign stating the average radiation level for the playground.

The sign displayed the "average radiation level" in the playground.  The mother explained that every month "the people in charge" check the radiation levels "in different places" in the playground and that the figures are added together and the posted radiation level represents "the average level of radiation."

While I was processing this idea of an "average level of radiation", my phone rang and it was Mr. Kanno from the NPO 'Save Watari Kids' (Japanese website HERE).  He had seen my Tweet saying that I would be in the Watari area, and he was calling to ask if I wanted to meet. 

My Tweet saying that I will be filming in the Watari district of Fukushima City.

Within ten minutes we had met, and I asked Mr. Kanno what he thought about the monitoring posts at the playgrounds, and indeed the monitoring posts all over the city.  He said that the posts are measuring the radiation level at 1 meter above the ground, which renders them virtually useless.  He brought me to a park that is currently undergoing "decontamination" and showed me what he meant.

A radiation monitoring station in a park that is undergoing radioactive decontamination.

He pointed to the "+" sign on the side of the monitoring station.  He told me that the mark, one meter from the ground, is where the radiation is being measured.  He explained that radiation collects on the ground and in dirt, in trees and grasses, on houses and gutters, but it doesn't collect in the air so the levels on the ground itself are potentially much higher.  He continued by explaining that children are smaller than adults and are more susceptible to the effects of radiation, so it makes more sense to measure the radiation at a lower height. 

A closeup of the radiation monitoring station showing the "+" sign

If children are more likely to play in, touch, fall face first in, and to eat dirt, then why aren't the radiation levels being measured at that height?  I asked Mr. Kanno why the government doesn't do the measurements closer to the ground, and he replied, "If they told the truth about the radiation levels, they would have to evacuate the entire Watari area.  Without Watari, the economy of the city of Fukushima would collapse, and without the city of Fukushima, the entire economy of the prefecture of Fukushima would collapse.  The people of this city are being sacrificed for the greater good of the prefecture, of the country." 

In the evening, I met with Ms. Sachiko Sato head of the NPO 'Fukushima Network for Saving Children from Radiation" (English website HERE).  She shared with me that she also felt the placement of the radiation monitoring posts only in areas that have been recently "decontaminated" and in places at a greater height from the ground was done intentionally in order to coverup the true radiation level. And she asserted that this act by the government is criminal.

Ms. Sachiko Sato, head of 'Fukushima Network for Saving Children from Radiation'

What Ms. Sato told me next was so utterly shocking that my jaw dropped in disbelief.  However, it is something so sensitive that I feel I need help in doing the official translation before I release the contents of the interview.  If what Ms. Sato said is true, and if I understood her correctly, then there is much more trouble ahead.


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