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information about Fukushima published in English in Japanese media info publiée en anglais dans la presse japonaise

Whiteboards and schock troops

September 20, 2012


Whiteboards detail tense response to nuclear crisis

The Nuclear Safety Commission has released 230 photos of two whiteboards covered in handwritten records of its desperate initial response to the Fukushima nuclear crisis, including the formation of "shock troops" to conduct ventilation operations.

The minute-by-minute notes reveal the tension and urgency among the panel's members as they scrambled to cope in the days after the crisis began at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture.

The commission was disbanded Tuesday and replaced by the new Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which was launched Wednesday as the organization responsible for regulating the nation's nuclear power policy.

The defunct commission recently made public the whiteboard photos taken soon after the nuclear plant was crippled by the Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent tsunami on March 11, 2011, until April 1 that year. About half were taken during the week after the nuclear crisis began.

One photo shows a sentence written at 7:57 a.m. on March 12 that reads: "Shock troops to be formed at the Fukushima No. 2 nuclear power plant to perform ventilation operations [of the No. 1 plant's reactors]." About seven hours later, a hydrogen explosion wrecked the No. 1 reactor building at the No. 1 plant.

At that time, radiation levels within the plant's premises had been sharply rising. A white haze had begun filling the reactor buildings. The photo reveals a tough decision was made to send workers into the buildings, even though their lives could be at risk.

The following day, Goshi Hosono, then a special adviser to the prime minister, made a request to hold an explanatory meeting with the board. Hosono had been considering how the government should respond to the explosion. A sentence marked 6:46 p.m. says: "There was a request for a lecture on a rough outline of the Chernobyl accident. Checking whether we can respond [to the request] by the end of today."

Analysis of results of the Education, Sports, Culture, Science and Technology Ministry's System for Prediction of Environment Emergency Dose Information (SPEEDI) appear occasionally on the boards from March 11. However, the information was not used for evacuating residents and other purposes until the committee announced the results March 23, nearly two weeks after the crisis began.

The Nuclear Safety Commission has made information on the nuclear crisis available on its website when necessary.

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