Is Japan Covering Up a Radiation Leak?

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Some nuclear experts believe that Japan may be covering up the extent of the radiation leak at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant — claiming that their inability to get a radiation reading is a sign of a coverup. "The actions of the Japanese government are completely contrary to their words. They have evacuated 180,000 people but say there is no radiation. They are certain to have readings but we are being told nothing." said John Large, an independent nuclear engineer commissioned to report on the accident for Greenpeace. He said a radiation release was suspected, "but at the moment it is impossible to know. It was the same at Chernobyl, where they said there was a bit of a problem and only later did the full extent emerge." Thus far, Japanese officials have declined to comment on the number of people contaminated by radiation, but conflicting reports say at least seventeen helicopter crewman working on relief efforts near the plant had low-level radiation contamination.

Documents recently released via WikiLeaks disclose a conversation in which a high-profile member of Japan's lower house tells U.S. diplomats that the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry — the government department responsible for nuclear energy — has been "covering up nuclear accidents and obscuring the true costs and problems associated with the nuclear industry." In 1995, a sodium leak and fire at Japan's Monju reactor was suppressed and employees were gagged from talking about the event. And in 2002, the chairman of Tepco, the company that owns the Fukushima plant, resigned after reports revealed that safety records were falsified. "What we are seeing follows a clear pattern of secrecy and denial," said Paul Dorfman, co-secretary to the Committee Examining Radiation Risks from Internal Emitters, a U.K. government advisory committee disbanded in 2004.

Meanwhile, Japan has declared a state of emergency at nine of its nuclear reactors at three sites around the country — three at Fukushima Daiichi, three at Fukushima Daini, and three at Onagawa. All are in the northeast of the country and are boiling-water reactors. And a second explosion occurred at the Fukushima Daiichi plant Tuesday night, forcing the plant to send all non-essential employees home. Officials at the plant admitted that radiation levels near the plant have increased to "levels that can impact human health," and that people within a 30-kilometer radius of the plant should remain indoors.


Japan radiation leaks feared as nuclear experts point to possible cover-up
[Guardian UK]
Japan's nuclear reactors under states of emergency [Salon]
New blast, fire fuel nuclear fears as death toll climbs in Japan [CNN]