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Japan vs USA- Disaster Preparation, Response, and Trust

In August 2010 the hurricane called Katrina hit Louisiana in the USA and the physical devastation was very similar to that of the Earthquake, Tsunami and subsequent nuclear disaster that hit Japan on March 11, 2011. The differences between the two were the advance notice that the USA and its agencies had versus no advance notice the government of Japan had.

The USA government agency known as Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was so incompetent that it took them five (5) days to get fresh water to people trapped in the Superdome in New Orleans.

Japanese authorities evacuated people living outside a 20 kilometer radius of the Fukushima Dalichi power plant within 24 hours. “That was a decision taken in the first 24 hours, which is exactly when you need to take it and from that day we were avoiding the worst scenario," said Director of Public Health and Environment at the World Health Organization (WHO), Maria Neira.  "So, that was a very important decision and the one that is protecting the human health from those that had been evacuated.” 

Experts suggest no major public health impact and no immediate risk of people getting cancer is expected from the release of radiation from the Fukushima plants. However, they suggest everyone remain vigilant and they plan to maintain a system to monitor the people and environment involved in this nuclear disaster in the years to come. Screening of people for radiation began one day after the earthquake on March 12. 

Companies in Japan are showing their desire to help, such as; Fuji Electric Co. has developed a device to measure the radiation levels of fresh foods like meat, fish and vegetables in just 12 seconds or so, even when packed inside cardboard boxes. Metawater Co. is marketing a system for around-the-clock monitoring of water and wastewater for the presence of radioactive substances.

Some of these procedures put into effect have caught many foods with excessive radiation normally exported by Japan before they left the country. However, the USA has been playing with the numbers and has raised the tolerances, which means the public must decide what is acceptable for themselves as the US government obviously does not care about citizen health.

The earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan’s northeast coast on March 11 killed more than 25,000 people, destroyed or damaged some 60,000 houses, and left 110,000 homeless.  The Japanese town of Minamisoma was extremely hard hit by the disaster as it killed several hundred residents. Tens of thousands people were then forced to evacuate as reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant 30 kilometers away, went into meltdown. Now many residents who remain feel as though they have been abandoned by the Japanese government.

Months have passed since the March 11 disaster, and demand for industrial materials has yet to show signs of taking off despite earlier predictions of a reconstruction-led boom.

Analysts say the world’s worst nuclear accident in a quarter of a century could cost Japan between $50 billion and $100 billion. Japan, which has been in economic doldrums since the 1990s, needs to figure out how to pay the cost of rebuilding hundreds of communities washed away by tsunami and other cities that suffered substantial quake damage. Some economists predict that will cost an additional $200 billion.

Before the 5.8 magnitude quake centered in Mineral, Virginia shook the east coast of the US on August 23rd the US government agency, Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), placed on it’s website a FAQ document asking the simple question “Japan, Can It Happen Here?”  

In typical and expected government speech they failed to answer the question, either Yes or No. They instead place a convoluted explanation that it was an unusual set of circumstances. Sounds like the NRC must have selective memory problems as they have forgotten Three Mile Island. Fortunately, Old Dominion Power was not willing to take risks and took precautionary steps to avoid a disaster.

What this clearly illustrates is that governments as a whole cannot be trusted with citizen safety or well being. That many supposedly helpful agencies are simply not trust worthy and are a waste of taxpayer money.

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