Sunday, March 11, 2012
Fukushima’s Unhappy Anniversary | Nukespeak
Fukushima’s Unhappy Anniversary
March 11, 2012 by Rory O'Connor
As the first “anniversary” of the devastating March 11, 2011 nuclear accident in Fukushima, Japan approaches, the ongoing disaster continues regularly to make front page news worldwide. The most recent example came with the recent release of an independent investigation by a private policy organization, the Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation, which revealed the true extent of the astonishing ignorance and arrogance displayed by Japanese industry and government officials alike throughout the emergency. We now know that even as they tried to play down the risks in public, Japan’s leaders were admitting privately that they didn’t actually know the true extent of damage at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant. Moreover, they were secretly considering the possibility of somehow evacuating tens of millions of residents of Tokyo’s metropolitan area.
After a powerful earthquake and tsunami shut down the plant’s cooling systems nearly a year ago, officials began talking among themselves about a possible worst-case outcome: the plant could release such large amounts of radioactive material into the atmosphere that it would force the evacuation of millions. At the same they began to worry about a potentially even worse scenario: larger radiation releases from the more than 10,000 spent fuel rods stored in unprotected pools near the damaged reactors. It took five days after the earthquake, notes the independent report, for Japanese officials to confirm that the pools were still filled with water and thus safe.
Not surprisingly, the independent report conflicts greatly with the government’s own official investigation into the accident, which was released as an interim report in December. A key difference between the two investigations, for example, involves accounts of what happened when prime minister Kan demanded that the plant’s operator, the utility Tepco, not remove all its employees from the damaged plant and instead continue efforts to contain the crisis. Siding falsely with the utility’s version of events, he government’s investigation concluded that Tepco executives (who refused to cooperate with the independent investigation) only wanted to withdraw a portion of the plant’s staff. But the independent investigators found instead that the company had in fact wanted a total pullout, which could easily have proved deadly for tens of millions of people...
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