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DISASTER MANAGEMENT
Japan nuclear plant's disaster plan inadequate: report

US Marines being sent to Japan for nuclear response
Washington (AFP) March 30, 2011 - The US military on Wednesday ordered a Marine unit specializing in emergency nuclear response to deploy to Japan to assist local authorities in addressing the massive crisis, officials said. Some 155 Marines from the service's Chemical Biological Incident Response Force are scheduled to leave the United States on Thursday and arrive in Japan Friday, a US defense official told AFP. The CBIRF team, trained in identifying chemical agents, monitoring radiation levels and decontaminating personnel, would not participate in the frenzied efforts to stabilized the reactors of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, crippled by a huge earthquake and tsunami on March 11.

It was also hit by several explosions, triggering fears of a catastrophic meltdown as radiation has wafted into the air and seeped into the ocean. US military personnel are currently barred from penetrating a 50-mile (80-kilometer) radius around the stricken plant, far exceeding the 12-mile (20-kilometer) exclusion zone imposed by the Japanese government. Another military official characterized the deployment as "prudent planning," a precautionary move to have the Marines on hand if needed, not an emergency.

The team is "an initial response force," the official added, because it is only one part of the larger CBIRF unit based at the Indian Head Naval Surface Warfare Center in Maryland. "They would provide radiological expertise to the on-scene commander and, if needed, to the JSDF (Japan Self-Defense Forces) in the areas of medical, logistical, chemical, biological, nuclear and hazardous materials," the official said. The unit is specially trained to counter the fallout from a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-yield explosive (CBRNE) incident, usually assisting local, state or federal agencies in their response. On March 17, Admiral Robert Willard, who is overseeing American military assistance after Japan's earthquake and tsunami, said 450 radiological and disaster specialists were awaiting orders to deploy as Japanese teams tried to cool fuel rods in reactors at the damaged Fukushima plant.

Rear Admiral Scott Swift, director of operations at US Pacific Command, said that around 15,000 US personnel were taking part in the round-the-clock relief operations since the disaster began as part of a mission dubbed Operation Tomodachi, or "friend." The United States stations some 47,000 troops in Japan, a close US ally which lies near the tense Taiwan Strait and Korean peninsula. The US military says it has taken more than 50,000 tons of fuel and 650 tons of cargo to areas of northern Japan hit by the earthquake, which has killed more than 11,000 people and left over 16,000 others missing. Around a quarter of a million people are living in evacuation centers.
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) March 31, 2011
Disaster plans at Japan's stricken Fukushima nuclear plant appear woefully inadequate, including only one satellite phone and a single stretcher in case of an accident, a report said Thursday.

Tokyo Electric Power Company's (TEPCO) disaster-readiness plans for Fukushima, which was slammed by Japan's March 11 twin earthquake and tsunami disasters, were obtained by Wall Street Journal.

The documents, said the financial daily, focused on smaller-scale accidents but no information on how to confront extensive damage.

According to the Journal, the plans had no detail on outside firefighters from Tokyo, the national military force, or using US equipment to battle leaks and contain radiation, which all have been part of the response to the crisis.

"The disaster plan didn't function," said a former TEPCO official, quote by the Journal. "It didn't envision something this big."

The revelations add to Japanese suspicion over TEPCO's track record on safety issues surrounding Fukushima and attempts to cover them up.

In 2002 TEPCO admitted to falsifying safety reports which led to all 17 of its boiling-water reactors being shut down for inspection, including Fukushima. And in an eerily familiar event, a 2007 earthquake paralyzed its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant -- the world's biggest -- and more radiation leaked than TEPCO initially acknowledged.

TEPCO later said it underestimated the potential impact of an earthquake on the facility.

On Thursday Japanese officials were saying there no plans to widen an exclusion zone around the stricken plant, amid revelations that radiation levels in the sea near the plant had risen to a new high of 4,385 times the legal level.

earlier related report
Japan says no need to evacuate village near nuclear plant
Tokyo (AFP) March 31, 2011 - Japan's nuclear safety agency said Thursday there is no need to evacuate a village 40 km (25 miles) from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant after the UN nuclear watchdog voiced concern.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) earlier said radiation levels taken at Iitate, located well outside Japan's 20km exclusion zone from the stricken facility, were above its evacuation level.

But Japan's nuclear safety agency said there was no need for the several thousand people still in the village northwest of the plant to leave.

"The IAEA notice was based on a limited sample and a single reading," agency official Yoshihiro Sugiyama told AFP.

"It had an explanatory note that it is necessary to closely follow the situation. We also acknowledge the need to closely follow the situation.

"But at the moment, we do not have the understanding that it is necessary to evacuate residents there. We think the residents can stay calm."

Authorities later said they would Friday lift restrictions issued earlier on drinking tap water in the village, public broadcaster NHK reported.

Norio Kanno, the mayor of the village, which had a pre-disaster population of 6,000, said he was initially "very worried" about the IAEA warning, NHK reported on its website.

"But the government immediately informed us that there is no immediate harm to human health, so I was relieved," he said.

"Villagers have voiced concern, but the levels of radiation in the tap water and the air are declining. I will carefully monitor them before taking any actions."

The Fukushima plant was crippled by a tsunami on March 11 and hit by several explosions, leading to frantic efforts to prevent a catastrophic meltdown as radiation has wafted into the air and seeped into the ocean.

Japan has imposed a 20 km exclusion zone around the plant, and also urged people within 30 km to move away.

According to Elena Buglova, head of the IAEA's Incident and Emergency Centre, the reading in Iitate village was 2 megabecquerels per square metre.

That was a "ratio about two times higher than levels" at which the agency recommends evacuations, she said.




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DISASTER MANAGEMENT
Japan nuclear refugees feel 'betrayed'
Yokote, Japan (AFP) March 31, 2011
Refugees who fled Japan's tsunami-hit nuclear reactors say they have been betrayed by the company that runs them, accusing embattled operator TEPCO of creating a "man-made disaster". Tens of thousands of people left their homes near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant after it was crippled by the massive quake and tsunami that hit Japan on March 11, washing away whole towns. Some have ha ... read more

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