Groups file Freedom of Information Act for data on Japanese radiation documents
Friends of the Earth (FOE), the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) and Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) – announced today that they have filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to get to the bottom of what led the U.S. government to call for a 50-mile evacuation radius for Americans near the Japanese reactor crisis in Fukushima.
The FOIA requests filed with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) are available online at http://foe.org/sites/default/files/FOE-NIRS-PSR-RadiationFOIA-3-22-11.pdf. The three groups are not satisfied that the incomplete summary provided so far by the DOE at http://www.energy.gov/news/10194.htm provides the full picture of the scale of the radiation.
On March 16, 2011, NRC Commissioner Gregory B. Jazcko told Congress that he was recommending the 50-mile evacuation radius. (See http://www.nrc.gov/about-nrc/organization/commission/comm-gregory-jaczko/0317nrc-transcript-jaczko.pdf.) The scope of the recommended evacuation is highly unusual and suggestive of extraordinarily high radiation levels in excess of those reported to the public in Japan and the U.S., the three groups said. In the U.S., nuclear reactor licensees and local governments are only asked to provide for evacuation out to 10 miles.
As concerns grow about food and water contamination in Japan, the three groups filing the FOIA request are seeking to determine the answer to this key question: What made Jaczko exceed the limits of his own agency’s regulations by five times?
Tom Clements, Southeastern nuclear campaign coordinator, Friends of the Earth, said: “The radiation monitoring information being collected by the U.S. Government in Japan is of urgent interest to the public in the U.S. and internationally and we expect an expedited response to the FOIA request. If the full data set is not immediately released, the government can rightly be accused of attempting to cover up the radiation threat posed by the disaster. This would severely undermine regulators’ credibility.”
Michael Mariotte, executive director, Nuclear Information and Resource Service, Takoma Park, MD, said: “By recommending a 50-mile evacuation zone for U.S. residents, NRC Chairman Jaczko gave a strong signal that the Fukushima accident was much worse than reported by the Japanese government and the utility. We believe that he was getting information about the severity of the accident from airborne radiation measurements taken by U.S. Department of Energy aircraft. But neither DOE nor the NRC has published those measurements in full.”
Attorney Diane Curran of Harmon, Curran, Spielberg & Eisenberg, LLP, who filed the FOIA request for the groups, said: “We think the American and Japanese public have a right to see the complete details of the Fukushima radiation data and, therefore, we have requested the NRC and the DOE to release the information under the Freedom of Information Act. If necessary, we are prepared to go to federal court to get the uncensored set of measurements.”
As the FOIA request explains, the three groups “seek expedited release” of the requested information, “so that they may timely inform their members and the general public about the unfolding events at the Fukushima reactors, including the significance of the public health and environmental threat posed by radiation releases from the Fukushima reactors. Requesters believe that requested disclosures will do a great deal to fill currently existing information gaps and resolve inconsistencies in the currently available reports about the severity of the Japanese radiological releases.”
The groups also contend that expedited release of the information is justified in order to allow them to participate in and comment on any proceedings the federal government may undertake to evaluate the lessons learned from the Fukushima accident, including the 90-day review of the safety of U.S. reactors recently announced by the NRC. According to the FOIA request letter, a better understanding of the severity of the Fukushima releases is “essential to Requesters’ ability to evaluate and participate in any such review.”