Lessons from the Fukushima Response

By Sherry Harowitz (Print Edition)

News reports about how the United States interacts with other governments usually focus on the contentious issues, such as the controversy sparked by Edward Snowden over how the U.S. spied even on allies. It’s easy to forget how often the United States comes to the aid of other countries, as it did when it helped Japan during the Fukushima nuclear meltdown.

A recent government-sponsored workshop looked at lessons from such events and how to improve the United States’ capability to respond to any future international chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and high-yield explosives (CBRNE) events.

Communication is the key to success. One aspect of that is getting the country to communicate specific needs, which is not easy in the chaos that the crisis creates. But a government can’t just say “send help,” said Brian Lewis, with the State Department, who is responsible for coordinating the U.S. response to CBRNE events overseas. Once the United States understands the nature of the need, its various agencies can determine which capabilities are the best to deploy for meeting those specific needs, he said.

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