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Japan ignored its own radiation forecasts

NAMIE, Japan -- Japan's system to forecast radiation threats was working from the moment its nuclear crisis began. As a venting operation certain to release radioactivity into the air was planned, the system predicted Karino Elementary School would be directly in the path of the plume emerging from the tsunami-hit Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant.

But the prediction helped no one. Nobody acted on it.

The school, just over six miles from the plant, was not immediately cleared out. Quite the opposite. It was turned into a temporary evacuation center.

Reports from the forecast system were sent to Japan's nuclear safety agency, but the flow of data stopped there. Prime Minister Naoto Kan and others involved in declaring evacuation areas never saw the reports, and neither did local authorities. So thousands of people stayed for days in areas that the system had identified as high-risk, an Associated Press investigation has found.

At Karino Elementary in the town of Namie, about 400 students, teachers, parents and others gathered in the playground at the height of the nuclear crisis stemming from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. They were never informed of the predictions that they were at risk.

"When I think about it now, I am outraged," Principal Hidenori Arakawa said. "Our lives were put at risk." -- AP