Japan: Squandering the Chance for Orderly Evacuation

Given the large amount of radioactivity that could be released from the damaged reactors and spent-fuel pools at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi facility, the Japanese government was wise to evacuate residents within a 12 mile (20 kilometer) radius of the reactor site.

Unfortunately, the crisis in not over.  Given the uncertainty over future releases, we believe Japan should extend that evacuation zone.

On March 16, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission advised US citizens within a 50 mile radius around the site to evacuate.  Despite the US advisory, the Japanese government is still maintaining its current order, which is evacuation only to a distance of 12 miles, and “shelter in place” for those between 12 and about 18 miles from the reactor site.  “Shelter in place” means that people are directed to stay indoors and seal their windows and doors.

Our assessment is that the Japanese government is squandering the opportunity to initiate an orderly evacuation from larger areas around the site — especially of sensitive populations, like children and pregnant women.  It is potentially wasting valuable time by not undertaking a larger scale evacuation at this time.

Edwin Lyman is a senior staff scientist in the Global Security program at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) in Washington, DC.  This article was first published in the All Things Nuclear blog of the Union of Concerned Scientists on 23 March 2011; it is reproduced here for non-profit educational purposes.  Cf. 原子力安全委員会、“緊急時迅速放射能影響予測ネットワークシステム(SPEEDI)の試算について” (23 March 2011); “放射性物質の拡散予測図を初公表 原子力安全委” (Nikkei Shimbun, 23 March 2011).

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