WBEZ | Japan earthquake http://www.wbez.org/tags/japan-earthquake Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en A look at how Japan’s food industry is recovering a year after deadly tsunami and nuclear disaster http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2012-02-06/look-how-japan%E2%80%99s-food-industry-recovering-year-after-deadly-tsunami-and- <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2012-February/2012-02-06/japan2.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>It's been about a year since a devastating tsunami -- and an ensuing nuclear disaster -- hit Japan. Since then, the country's food supply has been under intense scrutiny, with radiation levels in some foods spiking far beyond government safety limits.</p><p>Today, on our occasional <a href="http://www.wbez.org/foodmondays" target="_blank"><em>Food Mondays</em></a> segment, <em>Worldview</em> talks to WBEZ food blogger <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/louisa-chu" target="_blank">Louisa Chu</a>. She just returned from a government sponsored trip to Japan’s east coast. While in Japan, Louisa visited some of the areas hardest hit by the tsunami and nuclear disaster. Louisa tells <em>Worldview</em> how the country's food industry is recovering from disaster.</p></p> Mon, 06 Feb 2012 15:57:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2012-02-06/look-how-japan%E2%80%99s-food-industry-recovering-year-after-deadly-tsunami-and- A field of dreams and swans in Sendai, Japan http://www.wbez.org/blog/louisa-chu/2012-02-02/field-dreams-and-swans-sendai-japan-96073 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2012-February/2012-02-03/foodmain.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/louisachu/8314999139/"><img alt="Nanohana miso soup" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-03/food3.jpg" style="width: 620px; height: 381px;" title="Nanohana miso soup at the Nanohana Project greenhouse in Sendai, Japan (WBEZ/Louisa Chu)" /></a></p><p>In downtown Sendai, the biggest city hit by the earthquake and tsunami last year, you can&#39;t see any signs of the destruction that my cabbie said hit every single street corner. Unless you look closely. He points out a few modern, mid-rise buildings &mdash; that look like they&#39;re plucked off Daley Plaza &mdash; completely Christo-wrapped in graphite grey construction tarp.</p><p>Back to business as usual, it seems, with a 24-hour <a href="http://www.family.co.jp/">FamilyMart convenience store</a> behind my hotel, where I pick up a late night snack of a Häagen-Dazs green tea ice cream sandwich, a Muji green tea waffle, and a hot can of Fauchon matcha latte.</p><p><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/louisachu/8314897049/"><img alt="Nanohana seeds" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-03/food2.jpg" style="margin-right: 15px; margin-top: 15px; margin-bottom: 15px; float: left; width: 200px; height: 259px;" title="Nanohana seeds (WBEZ/Louisa Chu)" /></a></p><p>But drive half an hour to the coast and there&#39;s nothing, but a few stands of bare, leaning trees and concrete building foundations. The tsunami swept in over four miles &mdash; think Navy Pier to the United Center. You might remember videos of the water and debris hitting Sendai airport washing planes through buildings.</p><p>Just up the road, which was packed at that time with a traffic jam of people trying to escape, are rice paddies and fields, covered in fresh snow.</p><p>I&#39;ve arrived at one of the sites of the Nanohana Project (<em>nanohana</em> means &quot;canola blossom&quot;), whose current mission is to restore farmland after the sea water left a layer of salty sediment. As we pull up, Assistant Professor Michiaki Omura, the Tohoku University&#39;s agricultural science expert who&#39;s running the project, says, &quot;There they are!&quot; He&#39;s spotted for the first time the flock of wild swans that have been eating his plants, who&#39;ve only left behind white feathers. The birds had not been known to eat canola plants, but he guesses they do now because of their lack of food. There are no nanohana plants now, but the swans gather on his one single field nonetheless.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="339" mozallowfullscreen="" src="http://player.vimeo.com/video/36168534?title=0&amp;byline=0&amp;portrait=0&amp;color=b30000" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="601"></iframe></p><p><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/louisachu/8315940152/"><img alt="Nanohana leaves" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-03/food1.jpg" style="margin-left: 15px; margin-top: 15px; margin-bottom: 15px; float: right; width: 200px; height: 268px;" title="Nanohana leaves (WBEZ/Louisa Chu)" /></a>The project has actually been in existence formally for over a decade, researching the best and most complete use of the canola seeds, plant, and blossom &mdash; from food to oil and even biodiesel fuel. Their seed bank dates back even further, over 60 years. It&#39;s the only canola seed bank in the world, and they&#39;re now able to use it to determine which seeds will grow best in current soil conditions, as well as best help restore the land in the process. Professor Omura said that surprisingly, what they&#39;re finding is that after the salty topsoil is removed, the soil below is actually better than before the tsunami, he believes from the nutrient-rich seabed sediment.</p><p>The Nanohana Project has also become part of a larger volunteer effort of graduate school professors who decided to use their fields&#39; expertise to actively help local farmers get back to growing food.</p><p><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/louisachu/8314875949/"><img alt="Nanohana bowl" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-03/food4.jpg" style="margin-right: 15px; margin-top: 15px; margin-bottom: 15px; float: left; width: 200px; height: 231px;" title="Nanohana bowl (WBEZ/Louisa Chu)" /></a></p><p>&quot;Usually professors only think about concepts, but we think we should really work to help the people,&quot; said Professor Yutaka Nakai, Vice Dean of Tohoku University Graduate School of Agricultural Science and an animal science expert. &quot;The government thought &#39;farmers need money, so let&#39;s pay them to clean their fields.&#39; But this is not farmers&#39; work. Farmers work to produce food. We thought we should help.&quot;</p><p>They started with a &quot;2-6-2&quot; factor.</p><p>&quot;Twenty percent of the farmers have already started to work again. Sixty percent are still thinking about what they should do. Twenty percent have quit.&quot;</p><p>&quot;We should help the sixty percent.&quot;</p><p>In a university greenhouse, Professor Omura used the nanohana that the swans were waiting for, in a hot bowl of miso soup. A hearty yet velvety wintry green, crisp and slightly bitter, it&#39;s a taste of the season to come.</p></p> Thu, 02 Feb 2012 21:21:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/louisa-chu/2012-02-02/field-dreams-and-swans-sendai-japan-96073 Illinois nuclear power plants must submit emergency response plans http://www.wbez.org/story/illinois-nuclear-power-plants-must-submit-emergency-response-plans-86394 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-May/2011-05-11/Byron Nuclear Power Plant_Flickr_Keith 011764.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is demanding that operators of the 104 U.S. nuclear reactors, including those in northeast Illinois, submit detailed information about how they plan to respond to extreme emergency situtations, including a possible terrorist attack.</p><p>NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko said Wednesday the agency will require operators to submit by June 10 details about plans, equipment and personnel in place to respond to such vents.</p><p>Illinois is home to more nuclear reactors than any other state in the nation.&nbsp; Add in nearby facilities in Wisconsin and southwest Michigan, and the total number of nuclear power plants is 10. Click<a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/city-room-blog/2011-03-16/map-chicago-area-nuclear-power-plants-glance-83819"> here</a> for a map of the region's nuclear power plants.</p><p>"We’ll review the plants’ responses to see if they need to take any additional actions to meet our existing requirements, along with seeing what the NRC might need to do to enhance those requirements and continue to protect public health and safety,” said Jaczko.</p><p>The agency has required nuclear power plants to prove their ability to respond to terrorism since the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, but officials began updating emergency response requirements following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that triggered a nuclear crisis in Japan.</p><p>“Our task force examining information from the Japan quake will also go over the Bulletin responses as part of its ongoing review of our requirements,” said Jaczko.</p><p>Jaczko said officials want to ensure those strategies still work and that employees at nuclear plants know how to carry them out.&nbsp;</p><p>Operators will be required to provide more detailed information by mid-July.</p></p> Wed, 11 May 2011 15:18:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/illinois-nuclear-power-plants-must-submit-emergency-response-plans-86394 Japan: One Month After The Quake http://www.wbez.org/story/asia/2011-04-11/japan-one-month-after-quake-85044 <p><p>Japan is still reeling from the 9.0- magnitude earthquake and tsunami — and series of <a href="http://www.npr.org/2011/04/11/135308188/japan-rattled-by-aftershock-on-quake-anniversary" target="_blank">aftershocks</a> — that have left the country in disrepair. <a href="http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=134379347" target="_blank">According to the AP</a>, thousands are missing or dead, entire cities lie in ruin and the fear of radiation still looms. But exactly one month after that first quake, people in Japan and abroad are taking time Monday to pray, to remember the dead, or to express hope for a brighter future. Here are just a few scenes: Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1302556045?&gn=Japan%3A+One+Month+After+The+Quake&ev=event2&ch=97635953&h1=Japan+tsunami,Japan+earthquake,Japan,Editor%27s+Pick,The+Picture+Show,Photography,Asia,World,Home+Page+Top+Stories&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=135323291&c7=1004&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1004&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20110411&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c31=134448495,134448493,126924744,125399149,97635953&v31=D%3Dc31&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></p></p> Mon, 11 Apr 2011 15:34:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/asia/2011-04-11/japan-one-month-after-quake-85044 Mission #66 SEND! SAVE! SUGGEST! http://www.wbez.org/blog/mission-amy-kr/2011-03-28/mission-66-send-save-suggest-84383 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-March/2011-03-28/Japanese Cherry Blossom_Jason Dunn.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>SEND</strong>...this brand new "wave of love" video out to the universe. &nbsp;Hopefully it will make its way to the people of Japan.&nbsp; To all <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/mission-amy-kr/2011-03-21/mission-65-all-us-people-japan-84029">those who sent in these beautiful photos/messages</a>, thank you so very much! &nbsp;It was an honor to put this together.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/p_r4HSuTUwE" title="YouTube video player" width="540" frameborder="0" height="340"></iframe></p><p><strong>SAVE</strong>...the date.&nbsp; We're having ourselves a live-in-person mission! &nbsp;In Chicago! &nbsp;(Sorry, non-Chicagoans). &nbsp;<u>Thursday 4/14 at 5:15 pm.</u> It will be at Belmont and Clark. &nbsp;Idea and details to come in the next week or so, but just want you to consider it and mark your calendars now. &nbsp;<strong>4/14 at 5:15.</strong></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>SUGGEST</strong>...a mission idea for us to do sometime in the next month or two. <strong>Share it in the comment section now</strong>. &nbsp;If it becomes an official mission, you'll be properly credited (of course) and part of creating/leading it, if you'd like. Here is a list of some of our more popular missions over the past year, to get you thinking about where we've been...and where we might go.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>#1:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/amykr/2010/01/this-weeks-mission-atm/11254" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">ATM: Always Trust Magic</a></p><p>#16:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/amykr/2010/04/429-at-429pm-ready-for-the-most-important-mission-yet/21207" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">Synchronized Flash Texting</a></p><p>#19:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/amykr/2010/05/video-amys-train-mission-and-new-very-quotable-mission/23127" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">Amy's Train Mission&nbsp;</a></p><p>#29:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/amykr/2010/07/30-new-apology-phone-line-now-activated/29497" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">Apology Phone Line&nbsp;</a></p><p>#37:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/amykr/2010/08/mission-37-fck-it-list-top-5-things-you-dont-want-to-do/34700" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">F*ck It List: Top 5 Things You Don't Want to Do</a></p><p>#39:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/amykr/2010/09/39-the-day-money-actually-grew-on-a-tree/36315" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">The Money Tree</a></p><p>#41:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/amykr/2010/09/41-introducing-positive-pranking/36801" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">Introducing Positive Pranking</a></p><p>#44:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/amy-krouse-rosenthal/mission-44-join-me-something-new-called-grafeeti" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">GraFEETi</a></p><p>#53:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/amy-krouse-rosenthal/mission-53-beckoning-lovely-101010-video-debut" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">The Beckoning of Lovely 10/10/10</a></p><p style="margin: 5px 0px 10px; padding: 0px; line-height: 1.4em; outline-style: none; display: block;">#55:<a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/amy-krouse-rosenthal/mission-55-lets-create-2011-overture-together" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">&nbsp;Let's Create 'The 2011 Overture' Together</a></p><p>#57:<a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/amy-krouse-rosenthal/mission-57-introducingchip-monk" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">&nbsp;Introducing Chip the Monk!</a></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>yours,</p><p>amy</p></p> Mon, 28 Mar 2011 20:41:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/mission-amy-kr/2011-03-28/mission-66-send-save-suggest-84383 A Room Without A View: NPR Photographer Frames Japan's Wreckage http://www.wbez.org/story/asia/2011-03-24/room-without-view-npr-photographer-frames-japans-wreckage-84184 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/japan_earthquake_tsunami_6700073.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>"How do you make a picture of something that's basically nonexistent?" NPR photographer David Gilkey mused aloud on the phone yesterday. In Japan it was about 11:30 pm, and he had just spent the day trying to capture the devastation in Rikuzentakata, Iwate prefecture — or what remains of it. "It's really hard to put any of this into a perspective that someone would understand at home. This town today was literally just ... gone."</p><p>"I tried to frame it in a way so that people would see it like looking out their window at home," Gilkey said, offering his own solution.</p><p>What if you looked out a window at where your neighbor's house stood yesterday — and today saw nothing but scraps? It may be difficult to photograph, but is even more difficult to imagine. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1300975933?&gn=A+Room+Without+A+View%3A+NPR+Photographer+Frames+Japan%27s+Wreckage&ev=event2&ch=97635953&h1=rikuzentakata,Japan+tsunami,Japan+earthquake,Editor%27s+Pick,The+Picture+Show,Photography,Asia,World,Home+Page+Top+Stories&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=134793224&c7=1004&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1004&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20110324&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c31=134794211,134448495,134448493,125399149,97635953&v31=D%3Dc31&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></p></p> Thu, 24 Mar 2011 08:12:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/asia/2011-03-24/room-without-view-npr-photographer-frames-japans-wreckage-84184 Mission #65: From all of us to the people of Japan http://www.wbez.org/blog/mission-amy-kr/2011-03-21/mission-65-all-us-people-japan-84029 <p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>This week's mission begins with this 1-minute video:</p><p><iframe height="249" frameborder="0" width="460" allowfullscreen="" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/1y1dL3f9zqk" title="YouTube video player"></iframe></p><p>Thanks to our handy smartphone cameras, this mission is pretty &quot;1,2,3 simple&quot; I think. (Of course you're welcome to use a &quot;real&quot; camera if you'd like :)</p><p><strong>Please send your photo by Friday</strong>. &nbsp;</p><p>And before you go, I've got a sort of &quot;side mission&quot; this week as well.</p><p>I receive many inquiries about how to break into the publishing business, or how to make videos, or would I mind looking at a manuscript, etc. &nbsp;I try my best to answer and help as often as I can. This led me to the following &quot;side mission&quot; idea:</p><p>This Friday, March 25th, I am going to set aside 2 hours to answer your questions either via phone or skype. Each session will be 10 minutes and cost $50 dollars with&nbsp;<strong>100% of the proceeds going to the Red Cross Japan Relief effort. &nbsp;</strong></p><p>If you (or anyone you know) was planning on making a donation anyway AND would like my two cents on the topic of your choice, let me know.</p><p>(That's actually pretty funny:&nbsp; For $50 bucks, you can get my two cents :)</p><p>I will be conducting these calls/video chats Friday between <strong>10-12 CST.</strong> &nbsp;</p><p>Email missamykr at yahoo.com&nbsp;</p><p>ever yours,</p><p>amy</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 21 Mar 2011 16:35:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/mission-amy-kr/2011-03-21/mission-65-all-us-people-japan-84029 Takashi Restaurant raises money for Japan http://www.wbez.org/blog/steve-dolinsky/2011-03-17/takashi-restaurant-raises-money-japan-83825 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-March/2011-03-16/japan.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <img height="333" width="500" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-March/2011-03-16/5529591463_6f66b1f0d0.jpg" alt="" title="" /></p><p><a href="http://www.takashichicago.com/menu/">Takashi&nbsp;Restaurant </a>is raising money for the victims of the Japan earthquake. Beginning this weekend, customers can choose to donate $5 after they dine. 91% of donations will go directly to the victims. You can also simply visit the <a href="http://american.redcross.org/site/PageServer?pagename=ntld_main">American Red Cross website</a>&nbsp;to donate what you wish.</p><p>Chef Takashi Yagihashi has family and friends living in and around Mito, Japan, not far from Miyagi. Yagihashi has heard from his immediate family, all of whom are doing o.k., but he is still waiting to hear from some friends and relatives.</p><p>He says any donation, no matter how small, will make a big difference to those suffering in Japan.</p></p> Thu, 17 Mar 2011 17:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/steve-dolinsky/2011-03-17/takashi-restaurant-raises-money-japan-83825 Earthquake Physics: By The Numbers http://www.wbez.org/story/chile/2011-03-16/earthquake-physics-numbers-83808 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/Japan Quake Blue Car_Getty_Chris McGrath.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Japan's terrible earthquake once again makes it painfully clear how fragile our existence is in this planet. We seldom stop to think about this, but we are here as guests. Our impressive power, even our capacity for planetary destruction, pales when confronted with the real power of planetary dynamics. We may have learned to harness the power of energy, and are very good at describing regular, periodic natural phenomena, but our ability to predict sudden planetary changes is still in its infancy.</p><p>The February 27, 2010 magnitude 8.8 earthquake in Chile <a href="http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/earth-20100301.html">shortened the duration of a day by 1.26 microseconds</a> (a microsecond is one millionth of a second). The 2004 Sumatran 9.1 earthquake shortened the day by 6.8 microseconds. It is estimated that the March 11 earthquake in Japan, with magnitude 8.9, shortened the length of the day by a bit more than the Chilean one, <a href="http://www.csmonitor.com/Science/2011/0314/Japan-earthquake-accelerated-Earth-s-rotation-study-finds">about 1.8 microseconds</a>.</p><p></p><p>The change in day duration is due to a redistribution of Earth's mass. Just as an ice skater can speed up her spin by bringing her arms closer to her body, the shifting of Earth's mass will make it rotate faster. The closer the earthquake is to the equator, the more it will spin up the Earth. And if the Earth spins a bit faster, days are a bit shorter.</p><p>Perhaps even more impressive, initial data indicates that the earthquake shifted the position of Japan's main island by 8 feet. It also shifted the position of Earth's figure axis (the axis long which Earth's mass distribution is balanced, like the balance axis in a see-saw) by about 6.5 inches (17 centimeters). The figure axis is not the same as the north-south axis, around which Earth rotates in space at about 1,000 mph. They are off by about 33 feet. Earthquakes can't shift the north-south axis; only external gravitational forces, such as that exerted by the sun, planets or moon on Earth, could.</p><p>To put us on our right place, it's possible to compare the energy released in an earthquake to that <a href="http://www.jclahr.com/alaska/aeic/magnitude/energy.txt">released by nuclear bombs</a>. A magnitude 9.0 earthquake releases the equivalent of about 2 million Hiroshima bombs, or 31 billion tons of TNT. Of course, earthquakes aren't purposefully targeted at killing people or release radiation—nature doesn't have a plan for us, either way. Unless, of course, earthquakes or other natural disasters damage nuclear power plants, as is happening in Japan.</p><p>Hopefully, the tragedy of recent earthquakes will raise our awareness of our status in this planet and contribute to change our attitude towards it. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio.</p> Wed, 16 Mar 2011 10:45:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/chile/2011-03-16/earthquake-physics-numbers-83808 Nuclear information gap spreads doubt, fear in Japan http://www.wbez.org/story/history/2011-03-16/nuclear-information-gap-spreads-doubt-fear-83801 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/primeminister_6587347.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The uncertainty that has gripped Japan in the days since its nuclear crisis began is erupting into public and official anger over the lack of reliable safety information.</p><p>Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan seemed to be speaking for his entire country Tuesday when he met with executives from the Tokyo Electric Power Co. "What the hell is going on?" Kan demanded, according to a report from Japan's Kyodo news agency.</p><p>It's a question many are asking, and not just those living near Japan's compromised reactors in Fukushima, where the plant's operators were desperately trying to use seawater to control overheating nuclear fuel. Fear of the invisible threat of radiation exposure is spreading, but answers and trust are harder to come by.</p><p>"TEPCO answered the first question — is the plant shut down and is saltwater going in?" says Harold Denton, a nuclear expert with experience managing the response to a significant nuclear incident. "But they haven't answered the second part of the question: What's escaping? How much? Can they stop it?"</p><p>The lack of consistent, credible information, and confusing reports about radiation levels around the stricken Fukushima Daiichi plant, are driving public anxiety. Thousands living near the facility in northeast Japan have begun fleeing the area, ignoring government warnings to stay indoors with their windows closed.</p><p>"What's missing in all of this is some sort of credible briefing that would tell everyone what's really going on," Denton says.</p><p><strong>Lessons Learned</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Denton is intimately familiar with the importance of putting out timely and accurate information during an unprecedented crisis. He was the senior Nuclear Regulatory Commission official sent by President Jimmy Carter to monitor the response to the 1979 partial meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant near Harrisburg, Pa. The experience, Denton said, had its low points — including a misinterpreted radiation report that almost triggered an unnecessary mass evacuation.</p><p>Any unfolding crisis of the magnitude of Three Mile Island and the current situation in Japan requires managing information and politics, as well as the potential for public panic. There is the hardware issue, in terms of what is physically happening in the plant. And there's the equally important public communications issue.</p><p>Denton says he learned that in Pennsylvania more than three decades ago. U.S. nuclear regulators "did not treat emergency preparedness before Three Mile Island as anything more than a building-facility hardware issue," Denton says. "Not until TMI did we realize that the existence of a workable, demonstrable emergency communication plan was a necessary part of safety."</p><p>John Ullyot reaffirmed those lessons when he helped assemble a 2008 report for the Senate Homeland Security Committee on how to handle communications in the event of a different kind of nuclear incident — an assault by terrorists using radioactive material. Ullyot, a senior communication consultant in the Washington office of Hill & Knowlton, says he was struck by two major findings: People potentially affected by disasters or attacks want to know all the information available, good and bad; and they want to hear it from a local official — not the president or a Cabinet secretary, but someone who would also be directly affected by the incident.</p><p>Ullyot also says the public wants the information early, and they want it to be accurate: "More than 80 percent said they want to know the full extent of the problem with no sugar coating, so they can make the best decisions for themselves and their families."</p><p>Disaster briefings also need to be "candid, frequent, informal and direct," he says. "But the key is credibility. If someone says one thing, and it turns out not to be the case, there is no way to break through the rumor and chatter out there."<strong></strong></p><p><strong>Recovering From Missteps</strong></p><p>For Dick Thornburgh, Three Mile Island was a "searing first experience." He was just 72 days into his first term as Pennsylvania governor when the incident began to unfold. He says the plant owner and operators initially told him that "all the systems had worked, and there was no danger." And Thornburgh relayed that information to anxious Pennsylvania residents.</p><p>"That was clearly a misrepresentation, as our own engineers and nuclear regulatory people could see at the site," says Thornburgh, who later served as attorney general under presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. "Clearly I was a lot more skeptical after that. ... If you pass on some bad information, you better get out and get in front of it."</p><p>Ironically, Thornburgh says admitting that he had put out bad information ultimately helped his credibility.</p><p>Denton helped, too. Thornburgh described the NRC official as a scientist with a knack for putting "nuclear speak" into plain English.</p><p>"He had a very disarming manner — a North Carolinian with a Southern drawl — and he'd talk to anybody who was covering that event," the former governor says. "We didn't know the technology, and we didn't have any particular skill at translating nuclear speak. He could."</p><p>The governor and Denton began holding daily news briefings — and Thornburgh says the combination of scientist and elected official seemed to give their appearances extra credibility.</p><p>While criticized for early missteps, Thornburgh says the crisis at Three Mile Island strengthened his administration — and left him with three lessons:</p><p><ul></p><p><li>Develop an accurate picture of what's going on, and do not be swayed by conflicting advice and rumors from "experts" with their own agendas.</li></p><p><li>Don't become a conduit for every rumor and accusation.</li></p><p><li>And once you have an accurate picture, share it with the public so they can make a decision on what to do.</li></p><p></ul></p><p>"I'm very sympathetic to Japanese officials and executives," Thornburgh says. "To be honest, we really didn't have a firm handle on Three Mile Island until President Carter dispatched Harold Denton."</p><p>"The public can handle news, good and bad, so long as they are confident in the source," he adds.<strong></strong></p><p><strong>'I Cannot Believe It'</strong></p><p>That kind of confidence appears to be missing in Japan, where each new report of an explosion or a fire at the Fukushima plant and conflicting details about the extent of radiation leaks seems to be testing the public's trust.</p><p>The government has ordered those within 12 miles of the Fukushima plant to evacuate, while urging those in a 19-mile radius to stay put.</p><p>But many residents from a far wider area ignored the recommendations to stay indoors and were fleeing in lines of cars that stretched to the horizon.</p><p>"According to the news, the government said just live inside the house," one woman from Koriyama, 40 miles west of the plant, told NPR on Tuesday. "But I cannot believe it." Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1300286845?&gn=Nuclear+Information+Gap+Spreads+Doubt%2C+Fear&ev=event2&ch=134454848&h1=Japan+In+Crisis,History,Media,Politics,World,Home+Page+Top+Stories,News&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=134573800&c7=1020&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1020&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20110316&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c31=134454848,134454848&v31=D%3Dc31&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></p></p> Wed, 16 Mar 2011 08:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/history/2011-03-16/nuclear-information-gap-spreads-doubt-fear-83801