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Japan Nuclear Accident Plans Still ‘Inadequate,’ Greenpeace Says

Japan’s plans for containing nuclear accidents are “completely inadequate” and haven’t been updated nearly nine months after the disaster at Fukushima, Greenpeace International said.

Government maps simulating a reactor meltdown project a release of low-level radiation only as far as 10 kilometers (6.2 miles), the environmental group said in a statement yesterday. The bulk of radioactive contamination extends as far as 30 kilometers from the leaking Fukushima plant, according to Japan’s science ministry. Some areas may be uninhabitable for decades, government officials have said.

Japan should keep nuclear plants offline until adequate plans are in place, Greenpeace said. More than 80 percent of the country’s reactors are either damaged or idled for repairs and safety checks after the March tsunami and earthquake caused meltdowns of three reactors at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi station. Atomic power provided about 30 percent of Japan’s energy before the catastrophe.

The government’s maps are based on “a radiation release in the order of 10,000 times less severe than what could happen during a major incident,” Jan Vande Putte, a nuclear campaigner with a degree in radiation protection from the University of Utrecht, said in the statement. “Hoping for the best is absolutely the wrong way to devise an emergency response plan.”

Greenpeace cited documents obtained in a freedom of information request to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.

Mapping Radiation

Japan’s system for projecting the spread of radiation, called SPEEDI, is limited to low-level releases and needs upgrading to cover areas beyond 10 kilometers, Greenpeace said, citing interviews with government officials it didn’t identify.

Yu Sumikawa, an official in charge of disaster management for the science ministry agreed the government’s projections on how far radiation would spread from Fukushima were inadequate.

“SPEEDI can’t be 100 percent accurate, but we need to improve its accuracy,” he said. The science ministry is requesting funds to expand the scope of SPEEDI.

“The Fukushima Daiichi emergency response effort was slow, chaotic and insufficient, and it appears the government has learned nothing from it,” Junichi Sato, Greenpeace Japan Executive Director, said in the statement. “There is a strong risk of reactor restarts being pushed through without a proper, science-based assessment on the real risks being conducted.”

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