Japan Widens Evacuation Zone Around Crippled Nuke Plant

Another sign that the Fukushima crisis is far from over: the Japanese government has widened the danger zone around the facility from 20km to 30km. But even more unsettling? The cowardice and aloofness of the government itself.

You see, the extra 10km of added radius are only part of an encouraged evacuation, not a mandatory one, as is the case within the initial 20km. So what does this mean? How much danger are residents in if they live, say 25km from the plant? Nobody knows, because the Japanese government won't explain itself. To "encourage" an evacuation is the worst of both worlds - all the anxiety of a mandatory evacuation, with none of the responsibility.

The Fukushima plant is clearly an immense hazard, with repair crews having their feet radioactively scorched just by stepping in puddles, water contamination wafter 225km south to Tokyo, and newly discovered high levels of rad leakage in a damaged reactor. Leaving it up to a populace unable to make a scientifically informed decision is arrant negligence.

So when Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan refuses to answer questions about the extent of the evacuation, instead deferring to the recommendations of the Japan Nuclear Safety Commission (a bureaucracy none of us should have much faith in, at this point), we should be worried. Worried for the people of Japan, and disappointed in its leaders. Dissembling at this point might only burn a few workers' feet, but the costs of slow action and nebulous reasoning on the part of authorities could stretch a catastrophe of weeks down Japan's generational line. [NYT]