Monday, June 11, 2012

Japanese officials used claims of inaccuracy to divert release of critical radiation data despite validating concerns

Embattled Japanese officials at the heart of the SPEEDI scandal have continued to maintain that the actions were justified because the data was “merely a hypothetical calculation result”, that releasing the data “would cause unnecessary panic”, and firmly insist that they did not knowingly imperil the public, but critics inside and outside Japan argue that some of the exposure could have been prevented if officials had released the data sooner.
In other interviews, officials at the ministry and the agency each pointed fingers, saying that the other agency was responsible for SPEEDI.
Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yukio Edano admitted in a public hearing that the delay in releasing information from the System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose Information (SPEEDI) was a major reason the government lost the public’s trust.
On July 4, 2011, the Atomic Energy Society of Japan, a group of nuclear scholars and industry executives, said, “It is extremely regrettable that this sort of important information was not released to the public until three months after the fact, and only then in materials for a conference overseas.”
In a 2011 interview, Goshi Hosono, the minister in charge of the nuclear crisis acknowledged that certain information, including the SPEEDI data, had been withheld for fear of “creating a panic.”
Toshiso Kosako, a top Japanese expert on radiation measurement explained the SPEEDI maps would have been extremely useful in the hands of someone who knew how to sort through the system’s reams of data.
Kosako also revealed that the SPEEDI readings were so complex, and some of the predictions of the spread of radiation contamination so alarming, that three separate government agencies — the Education Ministry and the two nuclear regulators, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency and Nuclear Safety Commission — passed the data to one another like a hot potato, with none of them wanting to accept responsibility for its results.
Seiji Shiroya, a commissioner of Japan’s Nuclear Safety Commission, an independent government panel that oversees the country’s nuclear industry, said that the government had delayed issuing data on the extent of the radiation releases because of concern that the margins of error had been large in initial computer models.
But he also suggested a there may have been a public policy reason for having kept quiet.
“Some foreigners fled the country even when there appeared to be little risk,” he admitted.  “If we immediately decided to label the situation as Level 7, we could have triggered a panicked reaction.”
For months after the disaster, the government flip-flopped on the level of radiation permissible on school grounds, causing continuing confusion and anguish about the safety of schoolchildren in Fukushima.
After the nuclear disaster, the government raised the legal exposure limit to radiation from one to 20 millisieverts a year for people, including children — effectively allowing them to continue living in communities from which they would have been barred under the old standard.
The limit was later scaled back to one millisievert per year, but applied only to children while they were inside school buildings.
About 45 percent of 1,080 children in three Fukushima communities surveyed in late March 2011 tested positive for thyroid exposure to radiation, according to an announcement by the government, which added that the levels were too low to warrant further examination.
Seiki Soramoto, a lawmaker and former nuclear engineer to whom Prime Minister Naoto Kan turned for advice during the crisis, blamed the government for withholding forecasts from the computer system, known as the System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose Information, or Speedi.
“In the end, it was the prime minister’s office that hid the Speedi data,” he said. “Because they didn’t have the knowledge to know what the data meant, and thus they did not know what to say to the public, they thought only of their own safety, and decided it was easier just not to announce it.”
Source: JiJi Press
Source:  NHK 
Source: CNN
Source:  The Japan Times 

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