Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Can Japan Trust Its Government?

After the continued stream of platitudes and "there is no danger" coming from the Japanese government, I have to wonder if its citizens will ever trust it again.

A few days ago, the official spokesperson said the situation at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex was serious, but controllable.  They also noted that three of the six reactors were already shut down prior to the quake and tsunami.  Well, not so much.

After the first explosion, the situation was declared more serious, but still official voices urged calm and assured everyone that steps were being taken to prevent further damage, besides it was a hydrogen explosion outside the containment vessel, so not as disastrous as it could have been. 

After the second explosion, the evacuation zone was widened, but the situation was being monitored.  That's when they began using sea water in the cooling effort.  That means the plant will never be used again since sea water corrodes things pretty fast.

After the third explosion, the one that is most mysterious, now the government is serious.  They have asked people living closer than 19 miles to the plant to stay indoors. One report also showed government officials preparing to distribute iodine tablets, used to minimize radiation sickness.

Now there is a fire in one of the reactors that was supposedly shut down.  What next?

CBC News Reports:
Yukio Edano, chief cabinet secretary, warned that the fire had helped release more radiation.
"Now we are talking about levels that can damage human health. These are readings taken near the area where we believe the releases are happening. Far away, the levels should be lower," he said.
"Please do not go outside. Please stay indoors. Please close windows and make your homes airtight. Don't turn on ventilators. Please hang your laundry indoors."
"These are figures that potentially affect health, there is no mistake about that," he said.
 This continued stream of half truth and parsed words may lead the Japanese people to begin mistrusting their government.  That would be a cultural shift for Japan and something that might make recovering from the effects of this disaster more difficult than expected.

By trying to retain calm by not giving the extent of the governments knowledge they have undermined confidence.  If the officials didn't know how bad it was, they should have said that.  The Japanese people are intelligent and value truth and candor.  They have behaved exemplary in the face of the worst natural disaster ever faced by their country.  Now it's time for the government to do the same.

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