Japan To Apologize For Withholding Radiation Maps

The Japanese government will apologize to communities around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant for withholding radiation maps provided by the United States immediately after the accident last year.

Officials from the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, Japan's nuclear watchdog, will visit Namie town and other municipalities soon to explain what happened and offer an apology.

The move comes after officials from municipalities designated as no-entry zones flayed the government for concealing the maps from the public, Japanese media reported on Friday.

The U.S.Energy Department had drawn up maps showing the spread of radiation around the nuclear plant based on aerial surveys days after the accident caused by the March 11, 2011 quake-triggered tsunami that severely damaged the plant's four reactors leading to meltdowns and radiation leaks. Tens of thousands of people fled their homes in the worst atomic disaster since Chernobyl.

The map 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 United States 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 nor tell the Prime Minister's office about the data.

The government's move to apologize to Fukushima residents is seen as an attempt to ease distrust among municipalities as they are in the final stages of compensation negotiations with the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the plant's operator.

Science Minister Hirofumi Hirano had said that the government would review its decision not to disclose the radiation maps. Though the U.S. provided the maps to Japan within a week after the accident, the Science Ministry and the nuclear watchdog 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 called for a review of the decision.

Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yukio Edano is expected to share the latest technologies to ensure the safety of nuclear power generation at the meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum to be held at St. Petersburg in Russia on Monday.

Edano told reporters in Tokyo on Friday that he would brief the meeting on Japan's policy to reduce its dependence on nuclear energy as much as possible following the Fukushima disaster.

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