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Fukushima: Five Years Later

After the March 11, 2011, Japan earthquake, tsunami, and ensuing nuclear reactor accident, the United States sent Department of Energy (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) emergency response teams.

The NNSA teams included nuclear experts in predictive modeling, monitoring, sample collection, laboratory analysis, and data analysis and interpretation. The deployment marked the first time NNSA’s full complement of radiological consequence management capabilities was fielded during a large-scale nuclear emergency.

For 10 weeks following the disaster, NNSA scientists logged more than 500 flight hours in U.S. Air Force aircraft and had primary responsibility to monitor radiological fallout and provide data to the U.S. and Japan. Scientists also collected thousands of field and soil samples.

This response also marked the first time that NNSA’s Nuclear Incident Team worked directly with the White House and the highest levels of departmental leadership during a radiological response. Guided by years of planning and training, the response teams successfully completed their mission and built important partnerships with the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, the Government of Japan, the Department of Defense, and other departments and agencies within the U.S. government.

Since the events five years ago, NNSA & DOE have worked to improve training, equipment, methods, and response organizations to implement lessons learned from our response to the Fukushima accident. The response collaboration engendered an enduring partnership between the Office of Nuclear Incident Response and its counterparts in Japan, and stimulated dialogue that continued recently with the Fourth Meeting of the U.S.-Japan Bilateral Commission on Civil Nuclear Cooperation.