a huge big disaster in the Tohoku prefectures of Japan on March 11, 2011. Many people were lost and are still missing. The Japanese government and many foreign embassies issued evacuation advisories to save their countrymen immediately after finding out the explosion of the nuclear-power plants in Fukushima and the possible risk of radioactive contamination. However, there were clear differences in the evacuation advisories issued by the Japan authorities and their foreign counterparts. In this article, I would like to write about these differences and give my opinions on the appropriate instructions of those authorities.
its evacuation advisory on March 17th recommending that U.S. citizens should stay 80 km away from the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plants. It also arranged charter planes to evacuate its citizens to other Asian countries. France also took very quick action to evacuate its people. It recommended that its nationals get out of the Kanto area or Japan immediately. Not only did it charter planes to evacuate them to their home country, but it also prepared iodine tablets for them at the Embassy just in case of radioactive contamination. As a result, a total of 4,000 out of 7,000 (that's about 60% of) French nationals left Tokyo after the quake. The British Government also issued the same advisory as the U.S. It chartered flights to Hong Kong and also a bus from Sendai to Tokyo. China evacuated 6,000 of its nationals to the nearby Nigata Prefecture and brought them back home from there. Other foreign countries including Australia, South Korea, Germany, Russia, Switzerland, and Austria basically issued only the same 80-km evacuation advisory that the U.S. issued.
ICRP (the International Commission on Radiological Protection) after the earthquake. Usually in the Western countries, this amount of exposed dose is allowed only for nuclear industry employees.
First of all, why did the U.S. say 80 km? 80 km is 50 in miles and "50 miles" is an easy number to say or remember. That's what I thought at first, but it turned out that the number is not based on any facts.According to ABC News, on April 7th after almost a month since the earthquake, the members of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards told an independent advisory panel that they determined the distance based not on the actual data but on the assumptions about the reactor's condition. This is because they couldn't get any data off the site then. Since their scenario assumed 100% damage to the reactor, their evacuation range was greater.
the Three Mile Island nuclear accident occurred in the U.S. in 1979, the first evacuation zone was only 5 miles (8 km) from the nuclear power plant (they widened it to 20 miles (32 km) two days later). In the case of the Chernobyl accident in 1986, it was 18.75 miles (30 km). According to BBC News, the U.S. Government announced later that its 80-km evacuation advisory "did not imply a lack of confidence in the Japanese warnings"(BBC). In reality, it is impossible to evacuate the whole population from a 50-mile (80-km) evacuation zone that covers all Fukushima Prefecture with its population of two million plus.
Since the situation was uncertain at that time and was viewed differently by the Japanese Government and foreign authorities, their decisions were different despite the fact that they had the same information and were responding to the same accident. I personally think the Japanese Government made many questionable decisions after the disaster, but regarding the range of the evacuation zone, it is wrong to criticize them for the initial setting.