Japan Withheld Radiation Map From Public

Japan's Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday that the United States had drawn up a map depicting the spread of radiation following the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, but Japan's Science Ministry did not make the information public.

The map created by U.S. Energy Department using the data collected by U.S. aircraft from March 17-19, 2011 shows radiation spreading northwest from the accident site. Parts of the map indicate levels of 125 microsieverts per hour, which suggests residents close to the plant were exposed to the annual permissible level within eight hours.

The U.S. provided the data through the Japanese Foreign Ministry to the Science Ministry and the Nuclear and Industry Safety Agency. But neither of them released the information. They also failed to tell the Prime Minister's office about the data, Japan's NHK broadcaster reported.

Senior Science Ministry official Itaru Watanabe said he thought the U.S. government should release the information. The Japanese government published the results of its own radiation surveys at 180 locations, he added.

Meanwhile, Science Minister Hirofumi Hirano said the government would review its decision last year not to disclose radiation maps provided by the United States. It provided the map to Japan within a week after the accident, but the Science Ministry and the nuclear safety agency decided not to make them public.

Hirano defended his Ministry's handling of the matter, saying its job was only to measure radiation levels on land. But he urged the government to reconsider its decision not to share the map information and put it to use.

Hirano also said the government would study whether early disclosure of the maps could have helped evacuation efforts. Residents in a 20-kilometer radius of the plant were evacuated following radiation from the crippled nuclear reactors of the plant operated by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO).

The Fukushima plant was wrecked in the massive tsunami unleashed by a powerful earthquake on Japan's north-east on March 11, 2011 in which nearly 20,000 people were dead or missing.

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