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POLITICS

Ex-U.S. political minister counselor looks back on 3/11

  • 2016-02-18 15:00:00
  • , Yomiuri
  • Translation

(Yomiuri: February 18, 2016 – p. 16)

 

 We asked Robert Luke, former political minister counselor at the U.S. Embassy who coordinated with the Japanese government, to recall events after the Great East Japan Earthquake.

 

 Coordination on aid to Japan began immediately after the disaster. We also focused on responding to the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

 

 The U.S. side was most seriously concerned about the temporary storage pool for spent nuclear fuel at Reactor No. 4. At first, we were not able to obtain the necessary information, which was very frustrating. We considered the worst scenario of radioactive substances released by the meltdown of fuel rods floating in the air and reaching Tokyo, making Tokyo uninhabitable.

 

 By Mar. 16, the Defense Ministry took the lead in setting up a forum of discussion among the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, TEPCO, and the U.S. government. I was the responsible official on the U.S. side. I handed over the drawings of a U.S. company’s pumping system for pumping sea water into the pool and a list of available equipment to the Japanese side and asked them to study them immediately. Yet, there was no response even after two or three meetings.

 

 This system cost over $1 million (approximately 80 million yen at the exchange rate then), but we bought it without waiting for Japan’s response. A set of equipment in Australia was transported to the U.S. forces’ Yokota base (in Tokyo). Yet, the Japanese side did not want this system because they preferred the “arm type” and not the “cannon type” that discharges water from below.

 

 The Defense Ministry was keen about this assistance, while METI and TEPCO were not. I later found out that they were opposed to the very idea of a forum led by the Defense Ministry. I think a turf war was behind this.

 

 It was only after this mess that all offices on the Japanese and the U.S. side began to appreciate the need to share information and policies, which later led to the creation of the Bilateral Coordination Conference.

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