What Did They Know...?

— Matt Noyes

WHAT DID THEY know and when did we know it?

At a cost of over ten billion yen, the Japanese government created a system for detection and prediction of the spread of radiation in the event of a nuclear accident. Known by its acronym “SPEEDI” the System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose Information was up and running when the earthquake struck. It had been used to monitor North Korean nuclear testing and gases from erupting volcanoes. But the government did not release any of its information until late in March and then only in bits and pieces. The full, hour by hour data for the nuclear crisis from the first hours on was not released until late April. According to Mainichi Daily News:

“The [Nuclear Safety] commission [which supervises SPEEDI] thought a massive amount of radioactive materials was emitted when the power plant’s No. 2 reactor’s container vessel was damaged March 15 by a hydrogen explosion. It then estimated the following day the amount of released radioactive materials based on the meteorological data on the day of the explosion. But this information was not made public immediately.

“When making public the result of the estimate for the first time on March 23, [Commission Chairman Haruki] Madarame said, ‘I hesitated to make such an announcement because it would cause social turmoil’   ” (4/2011)

The restriction of information continues. “’Tepco knows more than they’ve said about the amount of radiation leaking from the plant,’ Jan van de Putte, a specialist in radiation safety trained at the Technical University of Delft in the Netherlands, said yesterday in Tokyo.

‘What we need is a full disclosure, a full inventory of radiation released including the exact isotopes.’ The government plans to release details on the radiation released at the ‘appropriate time,’ said... an adviser to Prime Minister Naoto Kan...” (“Tepco faces massive problem containing radioactive water at Fukushima” Bloomberg, 5/27/2011)

July/August 2011, ATC 153

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