28 Juillet 2012
Juy 28, 2012
The science ministry claimed Friday it was appropriate to withhold radiation fallout forecast data from the public immediately after the meltdown disaster started at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in March 2011 because the data were "based on assumptions."
The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology said in a report that the data on the predicted spread of radioactivity compiled by SPEEDI, the System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose Information, were an assumed calculation, not necessarily the real situation.
Officials also told reporters the ministry was "not in a position to release the data to the public."
The government has drawn fire for not promptly announcing the SPEEDI data after the crisis started, with critics charging that the lack of information resulted in unnecessary radiation exposure for people who later evacuated from their homes around the Fukushima plant.
In a report published Monday, a government-appointed panel investigating the Fukushima meltdown crisis said the SPEEDI data could have better informed residents about when to evacuate.
The science ministry, which interviewed Yoshiaki Takaki, who was the science minister at the time the crisis started, and other officials as part of its analysis of the actions it took, or didn't, said it is "doubtful" it could have provided trustworthy information to the public. But its report added that "the significance of providing predictions cannot be denied."
The report also admitted the ministry "did not offer enough explanations and caused misunderstandings" regarding the upper limit of radiation acceptable in schoolyards.
The 3.8-microsievert-per-hour limit was set in order to not exceed 20 millisieverts of annual radiation exposure, in line with recommendations by the International Commission on Radiological Protection, the ministry said. ICRP-set annual radiation exposure thresholds in cases of emergency range from 20 to 100 millisieverts.
The ministry said the limit, which triggered harsh protests from children's parents, was just a limit and it did not mean kids playing in schoolyards may actually be exposed to annual radiation amounting to 20 millisieverts.
The report also said the ministry "failed to promptly respond to concerns aired by parents" of elementary and junior high school students in connection with the upper limit of radioactive substances detected in school lunches.