Monday, March 14, 2011

UPDATED: Japanese Nuclear Disaster Much Worse Than Three Mile Island and Japanese Credibility Damaged

Events overnight to tuesday morning confirm an enormous disaster at Fukushima.  Radiation levels outside the plant are reported variously 40 times to 400 times normal.  Such dosages for even limited periods of time create real health risks. Reports state that the most recent explosion may have cracked containment at one reactor.  A fire at a fuel rod cooling pond caused radiation to be emitted directly into the atmosphere, though the fire has been extinguished.

Not surprisingly, some nations and companies are evacuating nationals and employees from Tokyo and Japan or advising them to leave.  The US government has not as of early tuesday morning taken such steps, though on sunday and into monday the US Navy repositioned some vessels to move away from the area most impacted by radiation releases from the plants.

The Japanese Nuclear Disaster was on saturday worse than Three Mile Island with then the venting of radiation, an explosion, and almost certain partial meltdown of reactor 1 at Fukushima.

The reported facts monday night pointed to an escalating crisis, even an emergency out-of-control, with a third explosion, three reactors likely experiencing at least partial meltdowns, rising radiation levels outside the plant, possible damage to at least one containment structure, and a fourth expansion of the evacuation area to now at least 18 miles.  Press reports indicate that as many as 15 workers at the plant have been injured by the explosions and also provide conflicting reports about the number of people--it appears about 100--that are being treated for radiation exposure.

Yet all the way into sunday, even after a second explosion and clear signs of an escalating crisis, the Japanese authorities amazingly persisted in classifying the Fukushima nuclear emergency as a 4 on the 0 to 7 international nuclear event scale.  Three Mile Island was a 5 and Chernobyl a 7. 

Since friday, Japanese authorities have been managing and shaping information about Fukushima to first calm the public and second to inform accurately.  It is also almost certainly true that the government itself may not have fully accurate information.  All that now is plain. 

In short, the pressure of the incredible events in Japan--the earthquake, the Tsunami, the huge loss of life, immense property damage--have perhaps understandably broken the government's ability to level with the public. The Japanese government's credibility about the frightening events at Fukushima is damaged and damaged credibility unfortunately builds panic.

I am going to say a prayer.

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