U.S.-Japan Cooperation at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant
April 14, 2011
In an integrated response that includes numerous U.S. Government agencies, the United States is working closely with Japan to support its efforts to respond to the ongoing nuclear emergency at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Reflecting on this, Ambassador John Roos said "the tireless efforts of all those involved, both Japanese and American, are yet another prime example of the enduring strength of our bilateral alliance."
- The United States stands by the people of Japan as they recover and rebuild from the earthquake and tsunami disasters. As President Obama said, "We will stand with the people of Japan as they contain this crisis, recover from this hardship, and rebuild their great nation." Through our whole of government response, the USG is best able to provide the expertise across numerous fields to support our friend and ally, Japan.
- Immediately after the March 11 earthquake, a team of experts from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the Departments of Energy (DOE) and of Health and Human Services came to Japan to help the Government of Japan assess and address the damage at Fukushima Daiichi. The NRC, which has maintained a long working relationship with its regulatory counterpart, the Japanese Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) over many years, established a daily dialogue with NISA about the status of the Fukushima Daiichi plant’s reactors, and related concerns.
- An NRC team of subject matter experts on reactor safety, protective measures and international relations has been stationed in Tokyo since March 13. The team is being supported by additional experts working in the NRC Headquarters Operations Center near Washington, D.C. Approximately 30 such experts have been in Tokyo, working with their NISA counterparts and meeting with officials from the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA).
- The United States is providing technical assistance and equipment as requested by the Government of Japan. This assistance includes:
- Deployment of DOE ground and aerial radiation monitoring teams with special analytical capabilities for characterizing and assessing radiation deposits outside the Fukushima Daiichi site. Daily flights using two helicopters and an airplane operated by the U.S. Air Force track the extent of ground contamination and support response and recovery efforts. To date more than 320 hours of flying time has been logged and the monitoring data is being shared with various Japanese ministries to help them better understand the impact of the incident. Monitoring data are also posted on the DOE website at www.energy.gov.
- Joint monitoring priorities to ensure maximum coverage of the affected area are determined with Japan’s Nuclear Safety Commission. Joint aerial monitoring utilizing U.S. and Japanese aircraft enable both sides to gather more precise data.
- Joint U.S. and Japan-operated fixed monitoring stations and deployed teams, which have accumulated over 100,000 field measurements.
- A high pressure water pumping system transported to Japan with the help of the Australian Air Force and U.S. Forces Japan. Together with two barges of fresh water (carrying a total of 500,000 gallons) shipped from the U.S. Navy Base in Yokosuka, the pumps are inserting fresh water to cool fuel rods in the Fukushima Daiichi reactors.
- Transporting scores of agricultural soil samples to DOE laboratories in the U.S. for analysis.
- Delivery of germanium testing units to various GOJ ministries to augment their testing capability of food and water for radiological contamination.
- Cooperation between U.S. National Cancer Institute and FDA specialists with their Japanese counterparts to determine the uptake rates of radioactive isotopes by key agricultural crops, starting with rice.
- Two fire engines provided by U.S. Forces Japan, among the first such vehicles to arrive at Fukushima Daiichi after the earthquake and tsunami, were immediately used to spray water at the damaged reactors.
- Utilization of the Department of Energy’s diverse resources and the capabilities of its national laboratories to develop potential solutions in support of Japanese responders at Fukushima Daiichi.
- Experts from DOE labs have traveled to Japan to provide technical advice to TEPCO and Japanese regulatory authorities and provide technical and analytical support to characterize the extent of reactor damage and radioactive releases at Fukushima Daiichi.
- DOE provided a customized robot, radiation sensor kits, radiation hardened cameras, and a GammaCam for video and radiation mapping at Fukushima Daiichi. Other robotic and remote control technology support, plus shielding for Japanese equipment to be used for debris removal at the site, are under discussion. DOE is also shipping five large stainless steel tanks to Japan for storage of radiated water. A modified tractor trailer with a shielded tank that will allow for contaminated water characterization is also en route.
- Under the direction of the Cabinet Secretariat, U.S. experts and their Japanese counterparts regularly discuss priority issues and needed assistance. Working together, the experts review scientific and technical data, leading to solutions of the problems at Fukushima.
- To underscore America’s support, NRC Chairman, Dr. Gregory Jaczko, traveled to Tokyo on March 28, when he pledged further cooperation. Dr. Peter Lyons, Acting Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy at the Department of Energy, visited Tokyo from April 5-8 on a fact-finding mission and to meet with TEPCO and other industry representatives. In his meetings with Japanese Government officials, he promoted additional bilateral information sharing.
- A Medical Task Force which included experts from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and representatives of Japanese government agencies, consulted in three working groups: A modeling group examined health effects based on radiation exposure; a potassium iodide (KI) group discussed the dose regimen for using KI when it is indicated; and the risk communication group reviewed strategies for presenting information to the public.