新聞週間特集:「原発事故と報道」報告(その1) 被災者の視点重く

(Mainichi Japan) October 20, 2011
Journalists' responsibilities heavy in face of unprecedented crisis (Part 1)
新聞週間特集:「原発事故と報道」報告(その1) 被災者の視点重く
 <新聞週間代表標語 上を向く 力をくれた 記事がある>

The unprecedented disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, in which fuel meltdowns were found to have taken place simultaneously at three reactors, poses a massive challenge to the media.

Looking back, did we promptly deliver accurate information that could save the lives of the public?

Reflecting upon our experiences gathering information from the disaster areas, as well as from the Prime Minister's Office, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), and other groups and individuals, what can we say about our coverage of the ongoing crisis?


 ◇「どう裏付け、どう伝える」迷い 東電・保安院、二転三転

Press conferences were held intermittently by TEPCO and NISA beginning March 11, when the nuclear disaster was triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

As the safeguards meant to guarantee the safety of the nuclear power plant failed one after another, it was our task as reporters to discern the state of the plant with the limited information we had, motivated by a sense of impending danger to residents living in close proximity to the power plant.

At the mercy of backtracking government and TEPCO officials, however, we were often at a loss as to how to confirm the legitimacy of the information we were given and how the information should be relayed to the public.

A little after 3:30 p.m. on March 12, images of the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant appeared on the screen of a television at TEPCO's head office in Tokyo's Uchisaiwaicho district.

It appeared as though just the steel frame of the upper part of the No. 1 reactor building remained.

The reporters grew alarmed. "Something's not right," one said.

However, even after seeing the footage, TEPCO's public relations officer stubbornly insisted: "We don't know what's going on.

We're trying to confirm with those on the scene."

Finally, at a press conference held four hours later, TEPCO admitted that there had been a hydrogen explosion at the plant's No. 1 reactor.

By that afternoon, radioactive cesium and iodine were detected in the power plant's surrounding areas.

Koichiro Nakamura, then deputy director-general of NISA and the press officer for the agency, explained that it was possible that a reactor meltdown had taken place.

Soon thereafter, Nakamura stopped appearing in press conferences.

The new press officer refused to offer any further information, sticking to the line: "We can't discuss anything until the Prime Minister's Office has made an announcement."

Subsequently, NISA avoided using the phrase "core meltdown," replacing it with either "fuel damage" or "core damage."

However, several months later, it emerged that NISA had previously asked power companies to fake support for nuclear power at a symposium, and on Aug. 10, approximately five months after the onset of the nuclear crisis, then NISA director Nobuaki Terasaka announced: "We recognized the possibility of a core meltdown soon after the incident began."

On March 12, NISA designated the Fukushima disaster a level 4 on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES), but a month later upgraded it to level 7, the worst level on the scale, which had until then been given only to Chernobyl.

An understated announcement would be made, followed later by a revision.

Statements concerning the nuclear disaster simply repeated this pattern.

So did TEPCO and the government respond appropriately to the crisis?

I cannot shake the feeling that the damage could have been reined in far more than it has been.

And slowly, through the efforts of the "Investigation Committee on the Accidents at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Station of Tokyo Electric Power Company" set up by the government, it's become clear what prevented officials from being more effective.

In preparation for a midterm report to be submitted by the end of the year, the committee has been conducting interviews with TEPCO and government officials.
東京科学環境部 調査・検証委は年内の中間報告に向け、東電や政府関係者のヒアリングを続けている。

These interviews have revealed that it occurred to neither NISA nor to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) to use a computer system called the System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose Information (SPEEDI), in coming up with an evacuation plan.

Furthermore, no one in NISA had even recognized the necessity of contacting neighboring countries, let alone raising the issue, before low-level radioactive water was dumped into the Pacific Ocean on April 4.

What I've gathered from my experiences trying to understand the disaster is that both TEPCO and the government have failed to look at the crisis from the point of view of the victims.

Norio Kanno, the mayor of the Fukushima Prefecture village of Iitate, lamented that he did not receive any information from the central government for a month or two after the nuclear disaster began, and suggested that it was because "hearts (of government officials) lacked concern for the disaster areas."

There is anger directed toward media, too, which we as journalists must accept and learn from.

The basic mission of newspapers is to collect information in the field and deliver it accurately to the public.

At the beginning of the nuclear crisis, however, we had no idea whether the information we had to work off of was accurate.

In addition, many experts were divided on what they believed.

Requests for permission to go on-site to the power plant to report were denied by TEPCO.

When reporters haven't looked at the scene themselves, how are they to communicate the very limited information that they do have?

Settling of the ongoing crisis, including decontamination beyond the plant's borders, is expected to take many years.

The investigation into the disaster's cause has just begun.

The responsibility to stand on the side of those who receive the news, and write articles that will contribute to reconstruction and to shed light on the cause of the disaster weighs squarely on our shoulders.

(By Junko Adachi, Science and Environment News Department)

(This is part one of a six-part series on coverage of the Fukushima nuclear crisis.)
毎日新聞 2011年10月18日 東京朝刊

by kiyoshimat | 2011-10-22 08:10 | 英字新聞

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