Fukushima governor apologizes for radiation forecast fiasco

May 30, 2012

Fukushima Governor Yuhei Sato apologized for the deletion of central government radiation forecast data by his officials in the early days of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant accident, admitting they had been overwhelmed by the crisis.

“The data was overlooked because there were numbers of documents and other materials,” Sato told the Diet's Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission on May 29. “We caused anxiety to prefectural residents.”

The prefecture obtained data from the System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose Information after the Fukushima No. 1 plant was crippled by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.

But most of that information was immediately thrown away. According to a report on the issue published in April by the prefectural government, the prefecture received 86 e-mail messages containing radiation forecasts between March 12 and March 16, 2011. Employees deleted 65 of them without using the data for evacuation.

Four prefectural officials have been reprimanded, and a senior prefectural official admitted the prefectural government had failed to manage the data properly.

At the Diet panel’s hearing in Fukushima on May 29, Sato also criticized the central government for its own confused response to the crisis and lack of clarity on which areas would be evacuated.

“We could not understand on what grounds (the evacuation zoning) was set up,” he said. “Prefectural residents were greatly confused.”

Sato gave ambiguous answers to a number of questions concerning safety measures at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

He was asked whether the prefecture had asked the central government to take tsunami countermeasures when Tokyo Electric Power Co. started using plutonium as a fuel in the No. 3 reactor at the Fukushima No. 1 plant in 2010.

Sato, who has served as Fukushima governor since 2006, said he had “not heard” about such a request.

A panel member asked about discussions in the prefectural assembly about the safety evaluations of nuclear power plants before the Great East Japan Earthquake.

Some assembly members at the time said the evaluations should be checked not only by the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency but also by the Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan.

The panel member, citing internal government documents, said a vice governor of Fukushima did not make a “strong request” when NISA conducted its inquiry and that resulted in a government decision not to adopt the proposal.

Sato repeated his explanation that he had “not heard” about the issue. He said the prefecture had left the matter to the central government.

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Yuhei Sato at the Diet investigation panel on the Fukushima nuclear accident in Fukushima on May 29 (The Asahi Shimbun)

Yuhei Sato at the Diet investigation panel on the Fukushima nuclear accident in Fukushima on May 29 (The Asahi Shimbun)

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  • Yuhei Sato at the Diet investigation panel on the Fukushima nuclear accident in Fukushima on May 29 (The Asahi Shimbun)

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