A radiation expert says what has infuriated him most since crisis broke out at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant is that the government initially withheld data from the System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose Information (SPEEDI), which predicted how radioactive substances would spread. His anger is understandable.
Clouds of radioactive substances drifted northwest as well as toward the Kanto area around Tokyo between March 15 and 16, and between March 20 and 22. There are many people who fled to areas that the clouds were drifting towards, and those who allowed their children to play outdoors without knowing how radioactive substances were spreading. It is difficult to imagine how people saying, "If I had only known about the projections ..." are feeling now.
As if to add insult to injury, it has turned out that projections made on March 11 of nuclear reactor core meltdowns were ignored by the Prime Minister's Office. It is surprising that the government has disclosed this fact at this stage, but its claim that it "never thought of utilizing the data because it is not based on confirmed facts" is also astounding. Exactly because facts cannot be immediately confirmed, the government should have protected residents of affected areas by making predictions. SPEEDI, as well as a system to predict meltdowns, exists for that very purpose.
The government is now paying the price for ignoring the projections of the widespread diffusion of radioactive substances. Numerous beef cows were contaminated with radiation through tainted feed, and so-called hot spots -- sites where radiation levels are far higher than the surrounding area -- have been discovered one after another. The government's acknowledgement, six months after the nuclear crisis began, that residents of highly contaminated areas cannot return home for decades also appears to be an "after-effect" of ignoring the diffusion predictions.
University of Tokyo professor Tatsuhiko Kodama has urged that an expert committee comprised of "fresh" members be set up to protect children and expecting mothers from radiation, and promote the decontamination of affected areas in an appropriate manner. Kodama places emphasis on "fresh" members because he fears that experts who have been involved in the past mistakes will only make excuses. His opinion is convincing, considering the government's response to the nuclear crisis.
Unfortunately, all the Diet members were directly or indirectly involved in the mistakes. Therefore, all politicians should confront the mistakes made in the days and weeks after the meltdowns. The new administration of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda must pay close attention to the crisis to see if any mistake is being made, and eliminate the causes of any potential mistake. ("Yoroku," a front-page column in the Mainichi Shimbun)
(Mainichi Japan) September 8, 2011
毎日新聞 2011年9月5日 0時01分