Japan: Squandering the Chance for Orderly Evacuation

March 23, 2011
Ed Lyman
Director, Nuclear Power Safety

Given the large amount of radioactivity that could be released from the damaged reactors and spent-fuel pools at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi facility, the Japanese government was wise to evacuate residents within a 12 mile (20 kilometer) radius of the reactor site.

Unfortunately, the crisis is not over. Given the uncertainty over future releases, we believe Japan should extend that evacuation zone.

On March 16, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission advised US citizens within a 50 mile radius around the site to evacuate. Despite the US advisory, the Japanese government is still maintaining its current order, which is evacuation only to a distance of 12 miles, and “shelter in place” for those between 12 and about 18 miles from the reactor site. “Shelter in place” means that people are directed to stay indoors and seal their windows and doors.

Our assessment is that the Japanese government is squandering the opportunity to initiate an orderly evacuation from larger areas around the site–especially of sensitive populations, like children and pregnant women. It is potentially wasting valuable time by not undertaking a larger scale evacuation at this time.