Saturday, March 12, 2011

Explosion at Fukushima I Nuclear Plant, Evacuation Zone Expanded to 20 Kilometers, Government Doesn't Tell the Whole Truth

(Updated with TEPCO's comment)

The Japanese government flip-flopped on the situation at the plant, safety measures, and evacuation plan, leaving the residents confused, and potentially exposed to more radiation.

The government's response may be understandable given the situation, but coming from that country, I think it goes much deeper. It is one of the flaws of the Japanese system: Extend and pretend.

Here's the time line of the explosion and subsequent response from Yomiuri Shinbun (translating from original Japanese, from two articles-here and here, 3/13/2011):

Around 3PM, 3/12:

TEPCO (power company) announced their effort to lower the pressure in the fuel core container was successful.
Around 4PM:
Emergency broadcast system of Minami-Soma City announced that there may have been an explosion in the Fukushima I Nuclear Plant, and warned the residents not to go outside.
The residents, not sure what to do, started to evacuate anyway, to get as far away as possible.
At 4:30PM:
Another emergency broadcast message that the previous news of explosion was WRONG, and that THERE WAS NO EXPLOSION at the plant.

Relieved, some residents went outdoors. However, the TV was showing the building that housed No.1 reactor - the top half of the building had apparently been blown off.

At 5:35PM:
Another emergency broadcast message telling the residents not to go outside, JUST IN CASE. The residents were perplexed. Only fragmented information about the status of the plant from the government or TEPCO (the power company in charge of the plant).
At 5:45PM:

Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano held a press conference and said there had been some sort of "explosion event" at the plant, but declined to comment further when pressed, pending further analysis.
Around 6:30PM:

The evacuation zone was finally expanded from 10 kilometers to 20 kilometers.

At 8:40PM:

Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano held a second press conference, and finally admitted that there had been an explosion, and assured that there was nothing to worry about, everything was under control. He said there was no breach of the container and the reactor core was intact, and the explosion was due to the hydrogen from the released steam combined with the surrounding air (oxygen), which blew up the top half of the building.

THE EXPLOSION TOOK PLACE AT 3:36PM.

It took the cabinet secretary more than 5 hours to even admit there was an explosion at the nuclear plant. And we are to believe his word that the situation is totally under their control, that they know what they're doing.

I sure hope he's right.

(Hope is a dirty word now, I forgot..)

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