Japan Prime Minister and other officials unaware of key emergency response system SPEEDI until after Fukushima Daiichi disaster

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NHK reports an independent panel investigating the Fukushima nuclear accident has found that the prime minister was not aware of SPEEDI, the government’s system that can predict the spread of radioactive materials quickly.  While the government was attempting to cope with multiple reactors that were in various stages of meltdown, key government decision-makers were forced to make decisions that affected the health and well-being of the Japanese citizens without the full arsenal of available information that could be provided.

The panel’s report continues to conclude that not only was former Prime Minister Naoto Kan, former Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano, former industry minister Banri Kaieda , and other politicians in the dark about the system and its capabilities and application, those who were uninformed blame the science ministry officials for not informing them.  Edano remarked that he had been informed through a media report, which highlights the confusion created by the nuclear crisis.

Edano said bureaucrats told him later that they decided not to inform him about SPEEDI because its calculation was not credible due to the lack of precise data on radiation.  Kaieda said it is most regrettable that he could not instruct officials to submit data on radiation dispersion because he did not know about the system.  These revelations are particularly curious, as they highlight the questionable judgment exhibited by those in the most critical positions of the government.  The names of those who were aware of the system and failed to inform other officials has not been released, and it there are no reports as to their current status in position.

The panel charges in its report that SPEEDI was used as a tool to assure local residents about the safety of nuclear power generation and to obtain their consent to build the plant, rather than it’s publicly promoted mission serving as a tool to predict and chart the dispersion of particles in the air.

For those in Japan, learning the advanced system was not used as an aid to reducing the exposure of citizens to radioactive materials will only add to the already mounting collection of questions the industry and government officials will now have to answer to.  For those across the Pacific in America, similar questions are rising about the American nuclear industry, and it’s willingness to maintain a high level of openness and transparency in operations and safety.

A recent Angus-Reid poll showed Four-in-five Americans (80%) say they are “very” or “moderately” concerned about nuclear waste management in the United States, while at least seven-in-ten are worried about   an accident at a nuclear power plant (73%) and health risks for communities that are close to a nuclear power station (73%).

The poll also showed 39 per cent responding wanting the country to further pursue its nuclear energy capabilities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while 41 per cent expressed a wish for America to avoid nuclear energy and focus on other carbon-free sources.

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