Rejection of US help

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(Mar. 19, 2011)

source : www.yomiuri.co.jp

Govt 'rejected U.S. offer to help cool damaged reactors'

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The government turned down a U.S. offer of technical help to cool overheating nuclear reactors in Fukushima Prefecture soon after last week's massive earthquake because it believed the offer was "premature," The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

The reactors have since been hit by several explosions and radiation has leaked out. Some observers believe this could have been prevented if the government had accepted the U.S. offer.

In a related development, the decision to use two Ground Self-Defense Force helicopters to pour tons of water on the damaged No. 3 reactor Thursday was made "under strong pressure" from Washington, according to sources.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, an executive of the Democratic Party of Japan said the U.S. offer was made just hours after reactors at Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant had been damaged by the magnitude-9 earthquake and ensuing tsunami that pummeled the Tohoku region on March 11.

Washington was even willing to provide U.S. military helicopters to the SDF to assist the effort to prevent radiation from leaking from the reactors, according to government and DPJ sources.

However, the U.S. offer was apparently rebuffed because the government and Tokyo Electric Power Co.--the plant's operator--were confident the reactors' cooling functions could be repaired without outside assistance.

"TEPCO was saying bullishly that it could deal with the problems on its own," one government source said Friday. "They felt it was too soon [to accept]."

However, the source suggested TEPCO had been considering its options and had not rejected the offer outright.

"After a major disaster, offers of help pour in from other countries," the source said. "Some turn out to be unsuited for what's truly needed, so it was only natural to think it needed time to weigh all the offers of help."

At a press conference Friday morning, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said the government will look into the rejection of the U.S. offer.

Shortly after reports that cooling systems of the Fukushima reactors had been damaged, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said during a meeting at the White House that there was a risk of a radiation leak.

Clinton reportedly said at the meeting that Japan's level of nuclear energy technology was high, but that it only had a low supply of coolant for reactors. She said the United States had just airlifted coolant to Japan using U.S. military aircraft stationed in Japan.

The State Department, however, has since denied the comments by Clinton.

According to Japan-U.S. diplomatic sources, dispatching the two CH47 helicopters to dump seawater on the No. 3 reactor was in line with repeated requests from the United States to "do whatever Japan can" to stem the crisis. The sources said Washington believed the situation was "a crisis of the highest level."


March 19, 2011


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