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Crisis In Fukushima
Technological Disaster, Or Crisis In Governance?
By Art Keller
More than 19,000 Japanese drowned, their bodies scattered on Japan’s eastern shores when a tsunami struck Japan on March 11, 2011. Kevin Wang wanted to help, and his Anaheim, Califonia-based company, PowerPlus, had the cleaning know-how to handle almost anything. Wang has spent decades developing equipment to clean up almost every sort of nasty gunk in existence, from massive oil spills, to radiological contamination, to dead bodies in quantity.
Immediately after the tsunami, Wang visited the Japanese consul general in Los Angeles to offer his company’s assistance in dealing the huge threat to public health posed by this mass casualty event. The response by Japan’s consul-general made Wang’s jaw drop. “Absolutely not,” the consul replied, continuing on with rejection language so brusque, Wang had no doubt his offer was taken as an insult.
Far from being an isolated incident, the encounter that Wang had now seems to be a harbinger of the systemic denial that has crippled the Japanese government’s response to the Fukushima Daiichi disaster. First-hand witnesses have described a deeply flawed reaction to the nuclear meltdown that has been marked by an underestimation of the extent of the contamination, insufficient radiological testing, and a glacially-slow response making clean-up harder as time passes. Most damning of all has been a stubborn unwillingess to use desperately needed clean-up assistance by ignoring technical competence in favor of political influence.
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