Risks of Radiation Ignored After Fukushima Meltdown

A government system for predicting path of radioactive harm went unheeded

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In two separate reports--Associated Press has one account and The New York Times the other--the Japanese government has been accused of ignoring its own system for predicting the path of nuclear fallout following the damage to the Fukushima nuclear plant caused by the March 11 earthquake. According to the reports, 400 residents of the town of Namie, five miles away from the plant, were left in the plume of dangerous radiation despite warnings forwarded to Japan's nuclear safety agency. As The Times reports, their efforts to evade the danger only put them in the path of the crippled plant's radioactive plume:

The winds, in fact, had been blowing directly toward Tsushima — and town officials would learn two months later that a government computer system designed to predict the spread of radioactive releases had been showing just that.

But the forecasts were left unpublicized by bureaucrats in Tokyo, operating in a culture that sought to avoid responsibility and, above all, criticism. Japan’s political leaders at first did not know about the system and later played down the data, apparently fearful of having to significantly enlarge the evacuation zone — and acknowledge the accident’s severity.

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