John P. Holdren on Fukushima

Inside the White House During Fukushima
Foreign Affairs
March 8, 2012
Quoted: John P. Holdren, on leave from the Belfer Center Board of Directors to serve as assistant to the president for science and technology and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy
Topic: Fukushima 

“Late one night in late March I awakened Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough after midnight and described the dilemma. He called Holdren to ask for the best model he could provide based on extreme scenarios at Fukushima so that we could see if our current precautions were adequate. Holdren did so immediately. The levels were utterly at odds with what the Naval Nuclear Propulsion unit had projected. Under plausible extreme scenarios, Holdren’s model suggested that radioactivity at Yokosuka would be about five percent of what the Naval Nuclear Propulsion unit had projected. And only one or two percent of the radioactive particulate would be iodine, not most of it, as the Naval Nuclear Propulsion unit feared. Holdren’s rapid and careful work had averted a potential slide toward unnecessary and damaging decisions.”

This first-person account from Jeffrey A. Bader includes descriptions of actions taken by John P. Holdren, science adviser to President Obama on leave from the Belfer Center Board of Directors. Bader was a senior director on the National Security Council during the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and subsequent disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant in Japan. 

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