- A government panel investigating the Fukushima nuclear
crisis is expected to state in an upcoming report that the evacuation order
issued shortly after the accident began was irrational, sources said.
- The government ordered people living within 20 km of
the plant to evacuate, but the panel believes the order led some residents
to move to areas where radiation was actually higher and created mass confusion,
the sources said.
- The prime minister's office received its first fallout
estimate on March 23 - or 11 days after the first hydrogen explosion occurred
at the Fukushima complex. The estimate was based on data from the government's
special computerized System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose
- The nuclear safety agency and the science ministry had
SPEEDI data that could have prevented some of the unnecessary radiation
exposure, but decided to sit on it instead of reporting it to the crisis
management center at the prime minister's office, the sources said.
- Their thinking, according to the sources, was that the
data were "merely a hypothetical calculation result."
- As a result, people who fled the coast of Fukushima Prefecture
and went northwest ended up in places where the danger was higher because
spring winds at the time were blowing in that direction, carrying toxic
fallout to areas well beyond the 20-km radius evacuation zone, they said.
- That situation occurred because the government issued
the evacuation order based only on distance, the sources said.
- They said data from a costly high-tech system designed
to predict the dispersal of radioactive materials could have served as
a reference for evacuation because, although the amount of radiation was
not accurately predicted, it provided a clear picture of areas with relatively
higher or lower radiation levels.
- The panel, led by Yotaro Hatamura, a professor emeritus
at the University of Tokyo who studies industrial accidents, is expected
to release its interim report on the accident Monday.
- Stricter food rules
- A task force under the health ministry's food sanitation
council approved a proposal Thursday to reduce the top limit on radioactive
cesium in food to 100 becquerels per kilogram for rice, meat, vegetables
and fish, one-fifth of the provisional 500-becquerel limit set after the
Fukushima disaster began.
- The ministry plans to enforce the new limits in April.
The government said Dec. 17 it had achieved a cold shutdown of the crippled
reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant and that they were no longer
emitting high amounts of radiation.
- The proposal calls for setting a limit of 50 becquerels
of cesium per kilogram of milk and food for infants, including powdered
milk, and a 10-becquerel limit on drinking water, compared with the 200-becquerel
limit set by the government following the core meltdowns in Fukushima in
- But "grace periods" of between six and nine
months will be set for such items such as rice and beef.
- The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry will refer the
proposal to the science ministry's radiation council and hold briefing
sessions in seven prefectures, including Fukushima, Tokyo and Osaka, starting
in January and seek public comment.