To inform entertain and excite my kids, Jamie, Patrick, Aaron & Sarah Middleburgh, our family and friends.

about me
photo of Dave Middleburgh
Hong Kong

blogspot visit counter
  powered by BLOGGER


Japan's nuclear catastrophe unexpectedly gets personal...

Before I continue, let us be clear: Those who have lost loved ones, those who are displaced and those who are at continued risk get and will continue to get my unreserved sympathy, respect and support.

That being said, last week I have noticed that supplies of Nescafe Gold disappeared from my local HK supermarket shelves. Nescafe Japan headquartered in Kobe supplies HK. I don't know where the Japanese processing plant is/was but I assume that power outages have affected production (freeze dying is very energy intensive) or the company is having logistical problems.

It has been reported that international shipping companies have stopped sending their ships to Japan presumably because foreign crews are refusing to go (or asking for hazard money) or because the owners fear their vessels may get contaminated and they will incur decontamination/quarantine costs. A Panamanian vessel which sailed past Japan and its 19 crew was quarantined of off Khabarovsk by the Russians due to contamination. The implication is that, apart from all the other problems the Japanese have, Japan will be forced to rely on its own limited merchant fleet and shipping rates will go up. This does not bode well for the local price of Nescafe !!! (see footnote) Apparently some shippers may also be avoiding Korean Ports (this may simply be because vessels normally do milk runs between China; Korea, Japan and elsewhere and if they aren't going to Japan, it may not pay to stop off in Korea)

Which brings me to Korean Strawberries ..... These are sweeter than Chinese and other imported versions, and #3 is very partial to them. So my wife didn't think twice about asking me to go out to buy some for him. She was somewhat shocked when I refused and asked her to look at a map. I still remember the key points of the module on radiochemistry I took as a biochemistry undergraduate specifically the studies on the impact of nuclear fall out after atmospheric testing in 1950s and onwards.

So do I think Korean Strawberries currently pose a risk to #3; probably not but why take chances. For the time being he can eat New Zealand strawberries!

Atmospheric Testing of Nuclear Weapons

In the 50's/60's Joe Public didn't understand the implications of atmospheric testing and even today few appreciate the scale (over 500) and the devastating legacy of these tests, arguably more significant than Chernobyl which today is commonly cited as the benchmark for a nuclear catastrophe. In particular how far contamination spreads :This map shows Cesium 137 pollution from atmospheric tests between 1945-1962 around the arctic. Basically fallout has been carried all around the world (and a shit load (mainly from Nevada was deposited in Ireland, Northern England and Scandinavia). this map shows how where those tests were conducted

Hong Kong is prepared

It transpires, that in response to Fukashinma the HK Government has simply ramped up an existing Environmental Radiation Monitoring Program set up in 1987 by the British to monitor the Guangdong and Lingao Nuclear Power Stations which the Chinese were building just 50km from Hong Kong. These went operational in 1994 and May 2002 respectively. Probably a precaution on the part of the Colonial Power based on a lack of confidence in the Chinese to manage them safely. This monitoring program includes monitoring of air samples at In fact it's been quietly monitoring for last 24 years.In 2009 it reported that Didn't the Chinese authorities do well !!

In addition the HK observatory has put on the web 2 charts showing air movements,

Into HK:

Out from Fukashima

Now this is where it's important to pay attention to detail. There is a similar International Atomic Energy Authoritychart showing an Iodine 1321 plume drifting over pacific toward north America. Clearly using the same computer model and no doubt for the most part correct... However Iodine 131 has been detected to west and south of Fukashima (in Tokyo's water supply) and as far as China and indeed Hong Kong albeit in very low quantities

In China Iodine 131 caused a run on iodized salt . The rumor had gone around that the iodine (added to help salt "flow" would protect against radioactive iodine. This triggered a run on iodized salt in HK (probably traders expecting to resell to gullible mainlanders.) But when the salt ran out in Hong Kong people started panic buying of Soy Sauce (has high salt levels) and manufacturers took advantage by shrink wrapping bottles in pairs ie you couldn't buy a single bottle you had to buy two (Keynsian theory of supply and demand being manipulated by wicked capitalists)

Meanwhile whilst other countries were banning japanese foodthe HK Centre for Food safety just extended its testing to cover food from japan (but not as I understand it to Korean Stawberries)(HK Centre for Food Safety - Nuclear Event and food Safety) and seperately the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries has stepped up Radiological Testing of Fishery ProductsNow People in Hong Kong eat a lot of fish and one of the unfortunate economic consequences of this disaster has been that Japanese restaurants in HK are being forced to close because its assumed that the ingredients including the fish come from japan.In some cases they do or rather did. Some upmarket Restaurants are providing Gieger counters to customers who want to check the safety of their food.

Its not all bad news however: (well the depends on how you look at it) Whilst some restaurants wait in vain for support from the local government they offered instead a helping hand to bankers fleeing from Japan. The Department of Immigration with uncharacteristic speed created a fastpath procedure for granting work visas to economic refugees. The argument being that they if they don't come here they will only go somewhere else like Singapore. Obviously HK legislators representing the Restaurant sector don't have as much clout as those for Financial and Property sectors. (An influx of bonus earning bankers will boost property prices)


Nescafe is back on the shelves and as feared the price seems to have been been hiked (15%?) or is it my imagination |
| More