When it comes to radiation- trust, but verify
This DigitalGlobe image shows the damage to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant on following the March 11th earthquake.
March 15th, 2011
06:07 PM ET

When it comes to radiation- trust, but verify

WASHINGTON (CNN) -  Fearful of the threat of radiation from Japan's damaged nuclear plants, several countries are urging their citizens to leave Japan but – so far – the United States is not.

Asked Tuesday whether Americans in Japan should pack their bags, Carney told reporters he was not aware of any recommendation for U.S. citizens to leave but urged them to check State Department advisories.

The State Department has been issuing regular updates for Americans citizens but, so far, it is not urging them to leave Japan.

Its March 13 Travel Alert urges U.S. citizens to "avoid tourism and non-essential travel to Japan at this time." It also requests "non-essential" U.S. government personnel, including embassy families, to put off travel.

But for Americans already in Japan, it does have some advice: follow all instructions from Japanese authorities, especially if those Americans are near the crippled nuclear plants.

Administration officials say that's because Japanese authorities are doing what American authorities would do under similar circumstances. Here's how the American Ambassador to Japan, John Roos, put it in a statement Tuesday: "After a careful analysis of data, radiation levels, and damage assessments of all units at Fukushima, our experts are in agreement with the response and measures taken by Japanese technicians, including their recommended 20kms radius for evacuation and additional shelter-in-place recommendations out to 30kms."

So, does this mean administration officials trust what they are hearing from Japanese officials?

It appears to be a replay of the old "trust but verify" maxim. Japan is a close ally of the United States and, at least at this point, no U.S. official is likely to say publically they have any doubt in what the Japanese are saying.

Here's how White House spokesman Jay Carney put it Tuesday when asked directly whether President Obama is satisfied with the information he is getting from the Japanese government: "I have no reason to say that he's not."

U.S. and Japanese experts, as well as officials, are coordinating closely, the White House says. "We have people on the ground there," Carney says. "We are working with Japanese officials who are providing us information and we are making our independent assessments with our own experts as well as consulting with the Japanese."

But in the statement Tuesday from the US ambassador, Roos suggested, without explanation, that the US has not always had the full picture.

"While at times we have had only limited access to information, I am personally committed to assuring that our experts have as much access and information as possible, and the necessary resources to understand the situation. I have personally been deeply engaged in these efforts," the statement said.

The U.S. ambassador says the U.S. and Japan also are monitoring what he calls "low levels of radiation" outside the evacuation area. "This bears very careful monitoring, which we are doing," he says. "If we assess that the radiation poses a threat to public health, we will share that information and provide relevant guidance immediately."


Topics: Japan • The News

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