Japan Widens Evacuation Zone Around Crippled Nuke Plant

Another sign that the Fukushima crisis is far from over: the Japanese government has widened the danger zone around the facility from 12 to 19 miles. But even more unsettling? The aloofness of the government itself.

You see, the extra seven miles of added radius are only part of an encouraged evacuation, not a mandatory one, as is the case within the initial twelve. So what does this mean? How much danger are residents in if they live, say 17 miles from the plant? Nobody knows, because the Japanese government won't explain itself. To "encourage" an evacuation is the worst of both worlds—all the anxiety of a mandatory evacuation, with none of the responsibility.

The Fukushima plant is clearly an immense hazard, with repair crews having their feet radioactively scorched just by stepping in puddles, water contamination wafted 140 miles south to Tokyo, and newly discovered high levels of radiation leakage in a damaged reactor. Leaving it up to a populace unable to make a scientifically informed decision leaves them in the lurch.

Meanwhile, at a time when the citizens inside this large, ambiguously dangerous expanse are waiting to decide whether to leave their homes or not, another 27,000 are currently either dead or missing, according to Japan's National Police Agency. Although nuclear radiation of the kind surrounding Fukushima won't kill anyone on the spot (at least, not yet), we're hoping this already staggering toll won't reach higher due to contamination and inaction. [NYT]