Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

March 3, 2012

Fukushima on PBS Frontline

Filed under: Catastrophes,Media,Radiological & Nuclear Threats — by Arnold Bogis on March 3, 2012

This past week, PBS’ acclaimed show Frontline put a spotlight on the story of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear meltdown.  You can watch the entire episode, as well read the supplemental materials, here: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/japans-nuclear-meltdown/

It is a moving story and I highly recommend watching the episode.  It made me think about how we rate or judge performance in catastrophic incidents.  It is often easy to look back and critique, but for those working in the midst of crises who operate on limited data and without the benefit of a strategic vantage point the decisions are not so clear. In this case it seems that the process resulted in (eventually) the correct calls being made.  A different decision at any of various points may have resulted in the evacuation of almost 30 million people in and around Tokyo.

What has the U.S. faced recently that comes close?  Are responsible organizations, in and out of government as well as at every level, ready to face such a challenge?

I hope so.  But I wouldn’t bet my own money on it.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

March 3, 2012 @ 5:35 am

And of course the USA is prepared [unlike Japan?] for nuclear warfare or a NUDET domestically? Is Lack of Preparedness still the real state of USA preparedness?
Hear no evil? Speak no evil? See no evil?

Would anyone be surprised if I told you that the various committees on the hill have not really conducted a full evaluation of preparedness in the USA since 1976? In 1976 a comprehensive preparedness survey was sent out by the Joint Committee on Defense Production to all federal departments and agencies surveying their preparedness efforts. An extract from the Committee’s Final Report is available. This report assisted in the Reorganization that led to FEMA’s establishment in 1979. But of course as we know neither FEMA nor DHS is an all-hazards organization when it comes to preparedness. Neither organization has an existing role in preparedness of any regulated industry or business. Even in the REPP [Radiological Emergency Preparedness Program] FEMA’s program administers don’t understand the underlying technical information like the EPA and FDA PAGs that have been thoroughly repudiated by the FUKISHIMA event. Nor has FEMA inquired of the technical response agencies as to the FUKISMA events impacts on REPP. This kind of self-initiated action is virtually unknown in FEMA.

Comment by Claire B. Rubin

March 3, 2012 @ 7:22 am

An article in the current issue of BusinessWeek calls Japan’s recovery process disfunctional and is quite critical of efforts to date. See


Claire B. Rubin

Comment by William R. Cumming

March 3, 2012 @ 1:18 pm

I should have more accurately stated that even in 1976 the Joint Committee on Defense Production did not purport to have conducted a complete analysis of the state of preparedness in the USA but instead of what must be done to do so and did recommend that it be done.

In January 2009 the first statutorily required Annual Report on Preparedness was issued in the last gasps of the Bush Administration. Then the Obama Administration carefully labeling their first report same topic as the first! Arguably it was the second. Now it is March and the required annual reports under PKEMRA 2006 effective March 31, 2007 are still not being issued.

I leave to others whether this type of mandate should be ignored by the Executive Branch. I would argue the annual reporting requirement would if done honestly assist in developing preparedness.

Probably the real litmus test right now for Japan is the willingness to raise taxes, an obvious need, to deal with FUKISHIMA.

And in light of recent tornadic activity suggest all review the last decades modifications of the FUJI SCALE!

Comment by William R. Cumming

March 5, 2012 @ 8:13 am

I understand the USA Threat Level has been raised due to tornadoes.????

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