March 12, 2011, the day after the tsunami, when residents of Namie wanted to evacuate from an area near the damaged nuclear reactors, Mayor Baba led his citizens to shelter north of the village, he assumed would be safe, but was in an area the Speedi radiation pathway computer simulations already predicted would be the most dangerous of all areas. But, neither the Mayor, nor the public was informed of this data, because of bureaucratic snaffus, and deliberate choices to avoid alarming the public, and concerns for avoiding criticism, compensation, embarrasment, and wanting to avoid evacuation a 300,000 person city, when they had no place to send them.
The simulation data of the likely pathway of the radiactive clouds was known by the Speedi analysts and government officials, although the senior most government minister in charge of the nuclear disaster, Goshi Hosono, says he did not know about the data until March 23, when he immediatly, made them public. But, even Hosono, now admits he withheld subsequent data that would have enabled Japanese citizens to avoid unnecessary radiation exposure.
I give my highest recommendation to this comprehensive, and exceptionally well documented article by Normitisu Onishi, and Martin Fackler of the New York Times. Their research, Japan Hid Radiation Path, Leaving Evacuees in Peril, reports an act the Mayor Baba of Namie says 'was akin to “murder,' and reads like a court prosecution, and is worthy of a journalism award. This report provides a case study, raises issue, that should be discussed in courses in public policy, government, journalism, legal theory, and ethics.
FUKUSHIMA, Japan — ... Given no guidance from Tokyo, town officials led the residents north, believing that winter winds would be blowing south and carrying away any radioactive emissions. For three nights, while hydrogen explosions at four of the reactors spewed radiation into the air, they stayed in a district called Tsushima where the children played outside and some parents used water from a mountain stream to prepare rice. ...
The winds, in fact, had been blowing directly toward Tsushima — and town officials would learn two months later that a government computer system designed to predict the spread of radioactive releases had been showing just that. But the forecasts were left unpublicized by bureaucrats in Tokyo, operating in a culture that sought to avoid responsibility and, above all, criticism.
“From the 12th to the 15th we were in a location with one of the highest levels of radiation,” said Tamotsu Baba, the mayor of Namie, which is about five miles from the nuclear plant. The withholding of this information, he said, was akin to “murder.”
Other Documented Cases Of Deliberate Withholding of Vital Radiation Data
Onishi and Fackler, document many other incidents of intentional withholding of critical information due to fear of blame, fear of having to evacuate 300,000 they did not have places to put, fear of compensation costs, fear of personal embarrassment if they were wrong, fear of looking bad to superiors, and fear of alarming the public.
So rather than alarming the public, Tepco, and Japanese government employees, right up to the rank of ministers, allowed Japanese citizens to be exposed to levels of radiation, that scientifically, can be predicted will cause elevated morbidity, cancer deaths, and mutation.
Meltdowns at three of Fukushima Daiichi’s six reactors went officially unacknowledged for months. In one of the most damning admissions, nuclear regulators said in early June that inspectors had found tellurium 132, which experts call telltale evidence of reactor meltdowns, a day after the tsunami — but did not tell the public for nearly three months.
Is Failure of Duty To Warn of Radiation Data Criminal? A Crime Against Humanity?
About 45 percent of children test in Fukushima have test positive for thyroid radiation, which often does not become cancerous until decades later. Some of the victim of the Hiroshima bombing did not develop radiation related brain cancers until 50 years later, leading critics to suggest that if the government had released the data sooner future fatalities could have been greatly reduced.
Some debate whether or not this is a criminal act, since not one has died yet, thought statically we can predict elevated morbidity, and fatalities in the long-term. The Mayor of Namie says it is akin to murder, even though we don't know, yet exactly which of the victims will die later. How do you indict someone for murder, if you do not yet, know the victims' names.
A few months ago, I suggested that the World Courts in Geneva, and the Hague investigate whether such acts, of knowingly allowing populations to be exposed to potentially lethal doses of radiation, by withholding data, constitute crimes against humanity, under the Geneva Conventions. If it does not, I believe it should be changed so it does.
At the very least, it is a moral failure of the "duty to warn."
Mr. Baba, the mayor of Namie, said that if the Speedi data had been made available sooner, townspeople would have naturally chosen to flee to safer areas. “But we didn’t have the information,” he said. “That’s frustrating.” “We were in the worst place, but didn’t know it,” Ms. Nozawa said. “Children were playing outside.”
Mr. Hosono, the minister charged with dealing with the nuclear crisis, has said that certain information, including the Speedi data, had been withheld for fear of “creating a panic.”
Mr. Hosono eventually, resigned in protest.
Reflecting On Our Own Response
I have to check, as my memory is fuzzy, but I believe the Kossack who first reported his resignation was later banned, for becoming so angry at the pummeling he took from pro-nuclear forces here, he started leveling unjustified attacks on innocent bystanders.
It was complicated, and I admit I do not know all of the details. This person did report some alarmist data, that was incorrect, or not compleltely documented. And, also, I know for a fact, he also ended up making categorical attacks against folks that were innocent.
I have to research the details, before taking this any further, but it might be that we should consider offering him amnesty, since we've so graciously accepted the apologies of some on the other side of those pie fights.
If we don't regulate our own collective integrity, someone else may do it for us.
Conclusion: Namie Residents Wait to Discover If They Have Been Murdered.
This article has so many original source interviews, and is so well documented, I would not be surprised if the five assisting reporters, and the authors win some kind of award. The additional on the ground reporters who contributed to this outstanding articles are Norimitsu Onishi, from Fukushima, and Martin Fackler from Tokyo. Ken Belson and Kantaro Suzuki contributed reporting from Tokyo.
In the Nuremberg Trials after WWII, the defense of "I was only following orders," was rejected by the courts.
If such trial are held for the intentional withholding of data that could have saved lives, are held, I hope the courts reject the defense "we didn't want to cause panic, or incur higher evacuation costs."
Meanwhile, Mayor Baba, and the citizens of Namie are waiting to discover if they have been murdered. A vigil some will now conduct for the rest of their lives.