The Japanese papers have a new kind of weather map, one which shows daily levels of radiation, rather than wind speeds and rainfall. The area which we visited on Tuesday had 2.60 microsieverts per hour at 9am that day, compared with 0.059 for Tokyo. We were on the edge of the exclusion zone, about 30km from the N0 1 Fukushima Power Plant and it can be surmised (although figures aren’t being released) that the radiation levels are even higher inside the exclusion zone.
All agriculture in the area has ceased, but the authorities have hit upon an intriguing idea to cleanse contaminated fields. Research suggests that sunflowers can remove radioactiive material from the soil and so yesterday 30 workers wearing protective masks set about planting 10,000 sunflowers in a 6,000 metre field, where radiation levels of 4.43 microsieverts per hour were detected last month. An official said that this is an area of outstanding natural beauty, where people come to see cherry blossoms in the spring, and they want to lower the radiation levels as quickly as possible to bring people back.
It’s a coincidence, but sunflowers feature prominently in my garden design for the Gardening World Cup, which is being held near Nagasaki in October. They could turn out to be useful.