Japan Times, April 05

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source : Japan Times

Letting radiation leak, but never information

... First, some praise. I thought the government did a much better job than in the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake. Back then, several days passed before Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama and the military arrived on the scene, due to collapsed infrastructure and communication snafus. Yet while thousands of people lay dying in rubble, our government famously rejected aid from overseas. They refused provisions and medicine from nearby American aircraft carriers, even tying up Swiss sniffer dogs in quarantine. People died from the bureaucracy's belief that Japan was too rich and developed to need foreign help.

... But here endeth the praise. As Fukushima's nuclear reactors become Japan's perpetually burning tire-yard fire, they have laid bare the fundamental flaw of Japan's "nanny state": the assumption that "father knows best" and that the public are children incapable of dealing with potentially dangerous situations. The reflexive, obsessive control of information has done our people a great disservice.

Let's start with the Tokyo Electric Power Co. They kept us woefully underinformed (to put it mildly) about the stricken reactors. Some may say that leaking limited information is standard operating procedure for the nuclear industry worldwide (justified under "avoiding public panic"), but this was not mere lipstick on a wasteful political boondoggle — it was a potential China Syndrome (or would that be South Atlantic Syndrome in this case?). And since the fallout could not be contained domestically, the story came under more demanding global standards of scrutiny.

Tragically, Tepco kept such a tight lid on information that not only was our government kept in the dark, but so were worldwide nuclear experts. This caused burgeoning speculation, a slow-breeder panic and a media meltdown poisoned by gross mutations of logic.

... While Japan's media cartels as usual skimped on investigative journalism, overseas and online media, running on fumes, had no choice but to fill in the gaps. When some foreign reportage became sensationalist, proponents of nuclear power utilized it to sow doubt and dissent. Commentators were derided as fearmongers for presenting the heresy that nuclear power might not be so safe after all. Eventually, if the information had not been sourced from the nuclear industry itself, it was interpreted as suspicious, culturally insensitive, even anti-Japanese.

... We were told that nuclear power was safe. One assumes, not unreasonably, that this means no leaks. Zero emissions. Hence, the public should have zero tolerance for any man-made radiation. We should reject ex post facto reassurances that this amount of millisieverts is insignificant, the same as an X-ray, an airplane flight, etc. Sometimes the government's advice was so unscientific that it tried the patience of an educated society. (In a land of poorly insulated housing, being told to "just stay indoors" is clearly stopgap.)

. . . . .

Tepco dumps toxic water into sea

Coroner overwhelmed by scale of carnage

A forensic scientist helping the police identify bodies in Tohoku says they are falling behind because more than 100 bodies turn up each day in Miyagi Prefecture alone.

Over half of embassies reopen doors in Tokyo

Radiation-free 'certificates' coveted

U.S. experts in Japan also planning for real thing

Revised disaster 'tankan' paints grimmer picture

Foreign volunteers in relief efforts


Tuesday, April 5 .


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