Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe assured the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on September 7 that the Fukushima situation − in particular the leakage of contaminated water from holding tanks and the constant flow of contaminated groundwater − was "under control".
A survey by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper found that 76% of Japanese do not believe the Prime Minister contention that the radioactive water problem is under control.
Senior TEPCO official Kazuhiko Yamashita said the water leaks were not under control. "We regard the current situation as not being under control," he said. "Predictable risks are under control, but what cannot be predicted is happening."[1,2]
Shunichi Tanaka, chair of Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), said on September 6 that TEPCO "has not been properly disclosing the situation about the contamination and the levels of contamination." He added: "This has caused confusion domestically and internationally. Because of that, the Japanese government has a sense of crisis and I, personally, feel a little angry about it."
The NRA itself came under criticism on September 30 from a group of intellectuals studying the Fukushima crisis and participating in a review of the NRA's first year of operation. Shuya Nomura, a lawyer who served on a Diet panel that investigated the Fukushima accident, criticised the NRA for its handling of the radioactive water leaks, saying NRA members should go to the plant instead of demanding explanations from TEPCO. Others pressed for reforms of the NRA Secretariat, which is staffed mostly by personnel from the previous, discredited regulator. NRA chair Shunichi Tanaka said he feels the organisation has been given a mandate bigger than its capacity, but that NRA members will try to improve.
Speaking in Tokyo on September 24, Gregory Jaczko, the former chair of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, expressed befuddlement that the issue of contaminated water has only recently come under the spotlight. "This was known from the beginning that there would potentially be these contamination problems," he said. Jaczko said he hopes Japan pours its resources and energy into coming up with ways to function without atomic power: "I think the Japanese people have the ability to do that."
Hiroaki Koide, an associate professor at Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute, said: "I was flabbergasted by Abe's speech. The problem of contaminated water is far from being solved. This problem has been going on all the time since the reactors were destroyed. Contaminated water has been leaking into the ocean ever since." Kiyoshi Kurokawa, a medical doctor who chaired the Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission last year, said: "Japan is clearly living in denial ... Water keeps building up inside the plant, and debris keeps piling up outside of it."
The situation in Fukushima "has never done or will do any damage to Tokyo," the Prime Minister said. But radioactive fallout and contaminated food and water are problems that have been felt in Tokyo and beyond. The Mayor of Tokyo, Naoki Inose, publicly denounced the Prime Minister by saying that the problem of contaminated water leaks was "not necessarily under control" and that: "The government must acknowledge this as a national problem so that we can head toward a real solution."
On October 3, TEPCO announced another leak − this time 430 litres of contaminated water spilt from a tank. TEPCO said the "contaminated water may well have flowed into the sea". On October 4, TEPCO announced yet another problem with its water treatment plant − known as the Advanced Liquid Processing System − resulting in its temporary shut down. The stoppage came just four days after TEPCO got the system up and running after a breakdown when a piece of plastic clogged the machine.
Then on October 6, the NRA announced that pumps used to inject water to cool damaged reactors at Fukushima were hit by a power failure, but a backup system kicked in immediately. A worker conducting system inspections mistakenly pushed a button turning off power to some of the systems in the four reactor buildings. Earlier this year, TEPCO lost power to cool spent fuel rods at Fukushima after a rat tripped an electrical wire.
On October 4, NRA secretary general Katsuhiko Ikeda berated TEPCO over "the inappropriate management of contaminated water", saying the "problems have been caused by a lack of basic checks." He added: "I can't help but say that standards of on-site management are extremely low at Fukushima Daiichi. ... That these leaks occurred due to human error is very regrettable. ... The failure to make rudimentary checks reflects a clear deterioration in the ability to manage the site." Ikeda said the problems at Fukushima raised serious questions about TEPCO's ability to operate its other nuclear plants, like the huge Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant that TEPCO wants to restart.[18,19]
Prime Minister Abe said: "The contaminated water has been contained in an area of the harbour only 0.3 square kilometres big." No it hasn't. There is routine release of contaminated water, in part because the barrier between the 'contained' area and the ocean has openings so it can withstand waves and tidal movements. On July 10, the NRA said it "highly suspected" that the Fukushima plant was leaking contaminated water into the ocean, and TEPCO acknowledged that fact on July 22.[7,8]
US experts urged Japanese authorities to take immediate steps to prevent groundwater contamination two years ago, but their advice was ignored. TEPCO reportedly lobbied against the proposed construction of a barrier – a measure that will now be taken with government funding – because of the high cost.
Princess Takamado – daughter-in-law of the Japanese Emperor – told the IOC: "The Olympic bid has given the young people in the area affected something to dream for, the motivation to move forward with courage ... I know one of the IOC's most important aspects is the legacy a Games leaves. The IOC will certainly remain in the heart of these young people."
Princess Takamado did not explain how newly-built sports stadiums in Tokyo would improve the lives of young people in Fukushima Prefecture, or the lives of the 160,000 evacuees from the nuclear disaster who remain dislocated.
The Prime Minister has contradicted his own statements about Fukushima being "under control" by calling for more foreign assistance dealing with water management and other problems. "My country needs your knowledge and expertise," Abe said on October 6. "We are wide open to receive the most advanced knowledge from overseas to contain the problem."
Former Liberal Democratic Party Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has made a public about-face from his previous embrace of atomic power. In a speech to business executives on October 1, Koizumi said: "There is nothing more costly than nuclear power. Japan should achieve zero nuclear plants and aim for a more sustainable society." He urged the LDP to adopt a no-nukes policy: "We should aim to be nuclear-free. If the Liberal Democratic Party were to adopt a zero-nuclear policy, then we'd see a groundswell of support for getting rid of nuclear energy." A small group of currently-serving LDP politicians is arguing against reactor restarts and calling for improvements in the management of the Fukushima site.
The town assembly of nuclear disaster-hit Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, passed a resolution against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on September 20 for declaring the situation "under control." The Namie Town Assembly unanimously passed the resolution stating that there is a "serious problem" with Abe's remarks as they "contradict reality." The resolution states: "The situation has never been 'under control,' nor is the contaminated water 'completely blocked."[9,11]
Regarding Abe's claim that "there are no health-related problems until now, nor will there be in the future," the Namie resolution pointed out that there had been 1,459 deaths related to the triple disasters in Fukushima Prefecture thus far. "We can't help but feel resentment against the government and plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co., both of which are disregarding Fukushima Prefecture," the resolution states.
Prime Minister Abe's comments to the IOC are contradicted by contaminated fish. Radioactivity levels have been dropping but contaminated fish exceeding safety limits are still being detected.[12,20]
Toshimitsu Konno, a fisherman in Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, responded to the Prime Minister's comments to the IOC meeting: "He must be kidding. We have been tormented by radioactive water precisely because the nuclear plant has not been brought under control."
As the string of scandals surrounding contaminated water unfolded, South Korea greatly expanded bans on fish imports on September 6. A ban on fish imports from Fukushima Prefecture was extended to a further seven prefectures.
South Korean fisheries vice-minister Son Jae-hak said that Japanese authorities had failed to provide timely and detailed information about the water leaks and that the ban would stay in place indefinitely. The fisheries ministry said the ban was necessary "as the government concluded that it is unclear how the incident in Japan will progress in the future and that the information the Japanese government has provided so far is not enough to predict future developments". Among other countries, the US, China, Taiwan and Russia also have fish import bans in place.[16,17]
 Justin McCurry, 19 Sept 2013, 'Future of Japan depends on stopping Fukushima leaks, PM tells workers', www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/19/future-japan-fukushima-leaks-pm
 TEPCO official denies Abe's claim that nuclear crisis is 'under control', 13 Sept 2013, Asahi Shimbun, http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201309130063
 Reuters, 'Fukushima operator slammed', 6 Sept 2013, http://thepeninsulaqatar.com/asia/251922-fukushima-operator-slammed-.html
 AFP, 'Fukushima far from solved, say Abe's Games critics', 10 Sept 2013, www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130910/fukushima-far-solved-say-abe...
 'Tokyo mayor claims Japan PM lied about Fukushima', www.worldbulletin.net/?aType=haber&ArticleID=118722
 Reiji Yoshida, 10 Sept 2013, 'Abe's assurance to IOC on nuclear plant called into question', The Japan Times, www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/09/10/national/abes-nuke-assurance-to-ioc...
 Peter Lee, 27-29 Sept 2013, 'Did Japan Lie Its Way Into the Olympics?', www.counterpunch.org/2013/09/27/did-japan-lie-its-way-into-the-olympics/
 'Namie town assembly protests PM Abe's 'under control' comment', 21 Sept 2013, http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20130921p2a00m0na0080...
 'Radioactive cesium levels drop in Fukushima fish, but strontium remains a mystery', 25 Sept 2013, Asahi Shimbun, http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201309250072
 'Doubt cast on Abe's assurance to IOC about Fukushima leaks', 10 Sept 2013, Asahi Shimbun, http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201309100071
 John Hofilena, 30 Sept 2013, 'South Korean minister calls Japan 'immoral' for covering up Fukushima leaks', http://japandailypress.com/south-korean-minister-calls-japan-immoral-for...
 Justin McCurry, 7 Sept 2013, 'South Korea bans fish imports from Japan's Fukushima region', The Guardian, www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/06/south-korea-fish-japan-fukushima
 'Int'l probe can address distrust in Japan's handling of Fukushima situation', 28 Sept 2013, http://english.donga.com/srv/service.php3?biid=2013092899788
 'Ban on Japanese fish remains in place due to Fukushima accident', 20 Sept 2013, http://voiceofrussia.com/news/2013_09_20/Ban-on-Japanese-fish-remains-in...
 Shingo Ito, AFP, 4 Oct 2013, 'Japan nuclear regulator berates Fukushima operator', http://tinyurl.com/afp-fuku
 Martin Fackler, 4 Oct 2013, 'Company Is Scolded for Mistakes at Fukushima', New York Times, www.nytimes.com/2013/10/05/world/asia/fukushima-nuclear-plant-in-japan.html
 Alex Roslin, 2 Oct 2013, 'Cancer risk linked to radiation levels in fish species after Fukushima', www.straight.com/life/497651/cancer-risk-linked-radiation-levels-fish-sp...
 Asahi Shimbun, 7 Oct 013, http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/politics/AJ201310070064
 'Fukushima worker accidentally switches off cooling pumps', 7 Oct 2013, www.worldbulletin.net/?aType=haber&ArticleID=120000
 'Japan PM seeks overseas help on Fukushima nuclear plant', 6 Oct 2013, www.smh.com.au/environment/japan-pm-seeks-overseas-help-on-fukushima-nuc...
 Martin Fackler, 15 Sept 2013, 'Fukushima disaster deepens with new errors' www.chinadaily.com.cn/sunday/2013-09/15/content_16970506.htm
 Martin Fackler, 2 Oct 2013, 'Former Japanese Leader Declares Opposition to Nuclear Power', www.nytimes.com/2013/10/03/world/asia/former-prime-minister-declares-opp...
 George Nishiyama, 2 Oct 2013, 'Fukushima Watch: Popular Ex-PM Koizumi Comes Out Against Nukes', http://blogs.wsj.com/japanrealtime/2013/10/02/popular-ex-pm-koizumi-come...
 Asahi Shimbun, 5 Oct 2013, 'Even in Abe's LDP, anti-nuclear sentiment hard to quell', http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/politics/AJ201310050040
 NHK World, 1 Oct 2013, 'Nuclear regulator criticized for 'red tape' job', www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20131001_12.html
 Kazuaki Nagata, 24 Sept 2013, 'Ex-top U.S. nuclear regulator counsels end to atomic power' www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/09/24/national/ex-top-u-s-nuclear-regulat...
(Written by Nuclear Monitor editor Jim Green.)
TEPCO continues to pay pro-nuclear village
TEPCO donated tens of millions of yen to a pro-nuclear village government in August despite promising to abolish such payouts to accelerate compensation for victims of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. TEPCO and Tohoku Electric Power Co. paid a combined 200 million yen (US$2 million) to Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture.
"The payment is associated with construction of a nuclear plant, and we believe it is different from a donation," a TEPCO official said. The industry ministry, however, said the payment is "close to a donation."
Masaru Kaneko, a professor of public finance at Keio University, said the government should do something to end such actions by TEPCO: "The provision of this sort of money is abnormal, given that compensation for nuclear disaster victims and containment of contaminated water have stalled and that further hikes in electricity rates have been mentioned."
In May 2012, TEPCO said it would stop making donations to local governments. When TEPCO applied to increase its electricity rates in 2012, the company included the payment to Rokkasho into power generation and other costs used as a basis for calculating the rates. However, the industry ministry refused to include the payment in such costs, saying "it is not essential to supply electricity and is, therefore, close to a donation."
Satoshi Otani, 4 Oct 2013, 'As Fukushima compensation stalls, TEPCO continues to pay pro-nuclear village', http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201310040060