Round Two?

Interesting piece in the FT on a second wave of foreigners preparing to leave:

As schools prepare for the summer vacation and property contracts approach renewal deadlines, some foreign professionals are deciding to leave Japan, according to recruitment firms, relocation companies and estate agents.

About 80 per cent of expat professionals left Tokyo immediately after the disaster, says Sakie Fukushima, chief executive of G&S Global Advisers, a Tokyo recruitment advisory firm. Of those, about four-fifths came back while the rest asked to be reassigned.

Don’t know how much i trust those numbers. Certainly a lot of people did get out for a few weeks right after the quake, but 80% seems like a huge number. It was certainly nothing like that high in my circle of friends and acquaintances. I’d have thought that this would mean that there will be increased opportunities for those that choose to stay, but maybe not that simple:

For those unfazed by safety concerns, there are rewards. Some companies are likely to pay more for such talent, says Hideaki Tsukuda, managing partner of Egon Zehnder in Japan. However, there is a growing trend to replace expats with locals, he adds.

On a related note, it’s getting increasingly difficult to discern the truth of the situation at Fukushima. The truth may well indeed be out there, but it’s caught up between the non-sensical yabberings of the anti and pro nuclear camps. Just about every piece that you can find professing to provide new insight into how fucked things are / how things are going to fine, is rebutted, squabbled, and fought over. I’m reduced to scouring the Japanese press (desperate times!) and trying to piece things together.

[There was an interesting piece i read today about the high radiation levels in reactor 4 (where all of the fuel is in the spent fuel pool. It was initially through that the pool had boiled dry and was no longer in a safe configuration (melted), and that this was causing the problems. However, recent video and sampling of the water in the pool suggests that this was not in fact the case. Also, in the same hall, is a large (7m) “metal shroud” that is hot. It’s only in 2.5m of water, and could therefore be responsible for a lot of radiation level.

Just goes to show how hard it is to say anything meaningful about these reactors when there are so many variables (that only the operator can really be aware of) to account for.]

My opinion, for what it’s worth given that i’m now thousands of kilometres away, is that the initial situation was worse than anyone (up to, and including, the hapless Tepco) realised, and that the cleanup / recovery will be harder than people expect. At least the monitoring and measuring is finally starting to give people the information that they’ve long needed to make sensible decisions. That is if anyone can agree on what is safe…

It’s definitely not over, but probably the immediate danger of an escalating situation is past. The important thing now is to keep people aware of risks, to pay the farmers to keep any potentially risky produce off the markets, and stay vigilant for areas of contamination. Anything that can be done to keep radio-isotopes out of the food chain, either on a government, or personal, level has to be done. There are no absolutely safe levels, just probabilities.

2 thoughts on “Round Two?

  1. For those of us still here, the biggest worry is radioactivity in the food chain.
    Where are the vegetables and fish in the meals we eat at izakayas coming from.
    As with everything else the worry is that the old adage “trust no-one” applies doubly here.

    • Agree. Past experience indicates that the network of trust in the Japanese food distribution system is weak… I’m not sure what is the best course of action. We didn’t eat out much before we left (only falafel, where the vegetables were sourced from Kamakura…) and i decided fish wasn’t worth the risk.

      At the time the concern was exposure to I-131, but that will have all but decayed by now. Accumulating Cs-137 is more serious as it’ll be around in meaningful amounts for years. On the plus side, the ratio of I-131 / Cs-137 is something like 16 : 1 for a Uranium reactor. And, it’s transit period in the body is 70 days… you’re likely to be able to limit your intake by doing sensible things (buying vegetables grown outside kanto, or imported) until the monitoring and detection of hotspots improves.

      Far from ideal, but in the end any measurable effect will probably get lost in the noise… at least for Tokyo residents.

Wise words...

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