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Radiation crisis is ongoing in Fukushima but TEPCO should not be the scapegoat

Radiation crisis is ongoing in Fukushima but TEPCO should not be the scapegoat

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

TEPCO and the nuclear crisis in Fukushima
TEPCO and the nuclear crisis in Fukushima

The nuclear crisis in Fukushima is never ending and this is creating a huge cloud over Japan and the nuclear industry itself.  On March 20 it appeared that events were going in the right direction because Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) announced that progress was being made.  However, it is now March 28 and the last 7 days have been mainly frustrating because it is a case of one foot forward and then two steps back or sometimes progress is being made and then other problems come back to haunt TEPCO.

It is easy to jump on the bandwagon and paint a dark picture of TEPCO during this crisis but that would be too simplistic.  After all, TEPCO is in a difficult situation and given the reality that Japan is not endowed with natural resources of energy then the nuclear option appeared to be the right solution and other nations like France have gone down the same path.

It is also easy to condemn after the event but difficult to foresee a 9.0-magnitude earthquake triggering a huge tsunami with such brutal and destructive force.  Yes, TEPCO fully understands that Japan is on an earthquake fault-line and that tsunami’s are a reality in Japan and in other parts of the world.

Yet given the need for energy and with Japan being a modern nation where usage and enormous output is needed; then the nuclear option, despite the obvious dangers in Japan, was deemed to be a viable option.

Of course many anti-nuclear protestors and other people who question the nuclear sector will state that other forms of alternative energy were possible and that the nuclear option was always risky.

This is especially true given the factuality of earthquakes in Japan and the tsunami which was generated by the enormous power of the 9.0-magnitude was also a distant possibility; even if A, B, C, and other equations, had to come together in order to generate the current crisis it was a possible reality even if it seemed to be most unlikely.

Therefore, the 9.0-magnitude earthquake which unleashed the deadly tsunami came together and this was met by the reality of human failure because it is obvious that all safety mechanisms were inadequate and TEPCO seems to be going around in circles.

However, the responsibility of the current crisis does not solely belong to TEPCO or anyone.  After all, successive governments and local governments have supported the nuclear policy and tens of millions of people have benefitted every day from the power it generates in Japan. 

Also, the construction of the plant was done by other companies and clearly TEPCO is in a difficult situation. However, TEPCO itself is not to blame for Japan being prone to earthquakes and the same applies to the deadly tsunami which killed tens of thousands in Fukushima, Iwate, Miyagi, and other coastal regions hit by the earthquake and tsunami of March 11.

I am sure that the media will come up with an individual or two which forewarned the possibility of what is happening now in Fukushima; however, the reality is that successive governments, companies, and individuals, have all benefitted from nuclear energy in the past and currently do so in other parts of Japan.

Turning back to current events, then clearly no nation could adequately deal with the current situation once the Fukushima nuclear plant was damaged to such a severe degree. 

Yes, other nations may have believed that the risks were too high and that the nuclear option was always too risky in a nation like Japan given the reality of earthquakes and a potent tsunami from time to time. 

Armenia, for example, must be worried because this nation is prone to earthquakes and the nuclear plant which supplies much needed energy is clearly vulnerable. 

The tsunami in Japan added the real risk of “a possible nuclear meltdown” if all the unlikely equations came together; sadly, all the negative equations have come together and now it appears to be abundantly clear that TEPCO and Japan itself is ill-prepared to deal with the dire consequences once all the equations come together.

Therefore, while attention is badly needed on helping so many people who have been made homeless and suffer from the reality of limited amenities, alongside the psychological reality of bereavement, bewilderment, despair, hopelessness and poverty; the nuclear cloud and the fear of radiation is adding to the nightmare for people in Fukushima and other surrounding prefectures.

On March 27 the stricken nuclear plant in Fukushima once more hit the headlines because of the potential lethal levels of radiation which were detected and the fear of “a nuclear meltdown” remains.

Therefore, sixteen days after the tragedy of March 11 is witnessing the highest radiation count and this applies to readings of 1,000 millisieverts in No. 2 reactor. 

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this figure is alarming because they state that a single dose of such potent radiation could lead to hemorrhaging.  

Yukio Edano, Chief Cabinet Secretary, and a politician who is growing in political stature because of his transparency and dedication during the crisis; commented that “We did expect to run into unforeseen difficulties, and this accumulation of high radioactivity water is one such example.”

The ongoing nuclear crisis is going to hang over many prefectures which have suffered so much pain and suffering.  Fisheries and the agriculture sector in the entire area is going to suffer and whole communities which face so much hardship are going to be hindered by recovery plans because the nuclear cloud is going to remain in the immediate future.

Yukiya Amano who is the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency clearly painted a picture which was critical.  Yukiya Amano stated that the current crisis could last weeks and months and that “This is a very serious accident by all standards……..And it is not yet over.”

TEPCO have made some progress because apparently two of the six reactors are now deemed to be safe but it is clear that serious problems remain and the lingering crisis is leaving “a dark cloud” over the nuclear sector within the minds of so many people; however, the comfort it generates and other factors mean that this battle will continue in many nations and you have no easy solution.

For now the psychological impact is much greater than reality.  After all, over 20,000 people have been killed by the earthquake and tsunami and currently you do not have one person being killed by radiation from the stricken nuclear plant in Fukushima.

However, the reality of “a nuclear meltdown” is still a possibility, even if some deem this to be unlikely; therefore, while the situation remains fraught with danger the invisible nature of radiation will not only impact on the local environment and wildlife; it will continue to hinder the economy of Japan and lead to many psychological problems.

I hasten to add that the worst case scenario is more bleak and until the stricken nuclear plant comes under control then all possibilities can happen and for people in Fukushima, and surrounding prefectures, this is one long nightmare and it is they who face a daily nightmare.

In distant Tokyo, Kobe, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Nagoya, Osaka, and other major cities; the current radiation threat is not a reality with regards to loss of life and any drifting radiation is too weak to cause alarm.

However, for the people of Fukushima and surrounding prefectures the crisis at the nuclear plant is serious and this is impacting on their quality of life.

At worst the radiation legacy may reveal tragic long term health statistics near to the nuclear plant but for now the psychological impact is great and the local environment is also suffering.

It can only be hoped that TEPCO can regain control and the sooner the better; however, long term questions remain and serious measures need to be taken in the future in Japan.

This applies to either seeking or boosting other forms of energy; or implementing real changes within the safety mechanism structures of nuclear energy; or a mixture of both in order to create an energy policy which takes into account all possible situations but does not hinder the progress of Japan.

It is clear that you have no easy solution and opinions will be divided; however, the current policy and safety regulations have failed.

The finger is being pointed at TEPCO but it is too simple because tens of millions of people and companies have benefitted from nuclear energy and construction design companies must also be scrutinized and the same applies to successive governments who supported the nuclear policy.

Japan does not need a scapegoat which may cover up the cracks; instead, real soul searching is needed and all areas need to be studied.

However, this can only happen once the Fukushima crisis is resolved; until then, the psychological war remains and the radiation cloud and possible consequences are severe.

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