This week the Wall Street Journal published a cluster of frontpage stories (here and here, along with video content) about the evacuation mishaps and tragedies in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear incident. In “How Japan Stumbled in Forecasting Fallout in One Town“: ‘The fallout projections “could have been used as a guide for evacuation if they had been shared with people ahead of time,” says Yukio Sudo, president of Nuclear Safety Technology Center, the government agency that operates Speedi on behalf of the education and science ministry.’
The evacuations of Namie in the several days after March 11 were riddled with confusion and received no information on the projected path of the vented radiation-laced steam that the residents could so clearly see coming in their direction. For several hours on the afternoon of March 12 the plume predicted by Speedi impacted the region as the local wind vector rotated clockwise throughout the afternoon. This is visualized in the WSJ interactive graphics associated with this story. This is a separate event from the one on March 15 when sustained winds blew toward the northwest again, with significant fires and explosions ongoing at the nuclear plant. This event was covered in prior posts (here and here) and in this week’s WSJ story “Murky Science Clouded Japan Nuclear Response“. The impact of delays in releasing plume forecasts is examined through the eyes of residents of Iitate, well outside the 30 km zone.
“In the end, it took government officials more than a month to decide that Iitate was too dangerous to inhabit. And by then, many residents, particularly older ones, didn’t take the warnings seriously.
Confusion over what to do about radioactive contamination is playing out in various forms all over Japan. Officials are struggling to figure out where it is safe to live, what is safe to eat and how farmers decontaminate their fields. At present, 116,000 people remain unable to return to their homes due to the radiation threat. Even as the government continues to ask more people to evacuate, it is mulling allowing others to return to towns where contamination is relatively light.”