Government officials on June 28 apologized to municipalities around the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant for failing to release U.S. data that could have prevented thousands from fleeing toward high-radiation areas.
The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency and the education ministry plan to visit all 12 municipalities that were ordered to evacuate after the Fukushima nuclear plant accident started on March 11 last year.
Eiji Hiraoka, vice director-general of NISA, and other officials met with Katsurao Mayor Masahide Matsumoto at the village’s temporary office in Miharu in Fukushima Prefecture.
“We had little awareness about sharing the U.S. information and releasing it to the residents,” Hiraoka said. “We regret that we did not release it to the public.”
The Japanese government had up-to-date radiation measurements provided by the U.S. government, including a map that showed high levels of radiation moving northwest of the stricken nuclear plant.
But the information was not released, and residents, unaware of dangers they faced, fled in the direction of those high-radiation areas.
The central government also failed to quickly release radiation forecasts from the System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose Information (SPEEDI).
Government officials on June 28 visited Futaba town’s temporary office in Kazo, Saitama Prefecture, where many residents now live.
“We were exposed to radiation and left without measures,” Futaba Mayor Katsutaka Idogawa told reporters after the officials’ apology. “They may have done so because they were afraid of causing a panic. But it was extremely inconsiderate. All people responsible should be punished.”
NISA officials visited Tamura city and Kawauchi village the same day. They apologized to the towns of Namie, Okuma and Tomioka on June 26.
The U.S. radiation information has now been lost or discarded at NISA’s emergency response center, Yoshinori Moriyama, deputy director-general for nuclear accident measures at NISA, told a news conference on June 28.
The U.S. government provided NISA and other government offices with the results of its airborne radiation monitoring from March 18 through May 13 through the Foreign Ministry.
NISA learned that the information was first received by the International Affairs Office, which forwarded it to the radiation section of the emergency center.
Although an official at the section acknowledged seeing the material, it now cannot be found in the section, a NISA official said.
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