Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Fukushima: the culture of cover-up and denial persists

Trust fails to recover from nuclear disaster, Borneo Bulletin    Simon Denyer  ……….facts and spreadsheets supplied by the government are one thing.

Rebuilding trust among locals may be significantly harder, thanks to a culture of cover-ups and denials that contributed to the nuclear accident and continues to dog Japan’s efforts to restart its nuclear industry, experts say.

…….. at least 24 countries and territories ban some produce from Fukushima. South Korea and China still impose a total food ban. The US prohibits Fukushima produce such as mushrooms, leafy vegetables and broccoli. Fishermen now only ply the seas two days a week: Fish from Fukushima, which once enjoyed a high reputation in Tokyo’s fish market, is no longer the flavour of the day.

The government blames “harmful rumours”, a phrase that dominated the two-day press tour and has been labelled the fourth disaster to hit Fukushima, after the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident.

Yet there is a much deeper trust deficit that remains extremely hard to overcome.

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the operator of the ill-fated plant, spent two months after the nuclear disaster denying that a meltdown had occurred. TEPCO later apologised for a “cover-up” that remains the source of much bitterness among people here.

Katsunobu Sakurai, former mayor of the nearby town of Minamisoma, said TEPCO gave out very little information about the disaster during a chaotic evacuation that ultimately led to the deaths of 3,700 people, including many elderly people whose medical care was interrupted.

In 2012, TEPCO was forced to admit that it had failed to heed safety warnings before the accident, or even consider the risk of a large tsunami, because it feared doing so would undermine public confidence in the industry.

Experts say TEPCO has still failed to come clean about the problems associated with decommissioning the reactors and decontaminating the environment.

“To me, talking about ‘harmful rumours’ sounds like they are making someone else the bad guy or villain, as if they are blaming people for saying negative things because they don’t understand science and radiation,” said Riken Komatsu, a community activist in Onahama.

“But those who have lost our trust do not have the right” to talk about harmful rumours, Komatsu added.

The government and TEPCO say the nuclear power plant itself could take 30 or 40 years to decommission and estimates the cleanup will cost 22 trillion yen (USD200 billion).

But in 2015, the plant’s manager told London’s Times newspaper that the technological challenges involved in removing hundreds of tonnes of molten radioactive fuel from three reactors could mean decommissioning will take 200 years.

The Japan Center for Economic Research, a conservative think tank, estimates the cleanup bill could come to 50 trillion to 70 trillion yen (USD460 billion to 640 billion).

One of the biggest problems involves groundwater that seeps into the reactor buildings, mixes with cooling water and becomes radioactive.

TEPCO has been trying to limit water contamination ever since the accident, creating a mile-long “ice wall” of sunken, frozen soil around the reactors to keep water out, and another concrete wall to prevent it from reaching the ocean.

In 2016, TEPCO admitted that the ice wall was only slowing – but not preventing – water seeping in. Today, around 100 cubic metres of groundwater still become contaminated at Fukushima every day, and one million tonnes of radioactive water is stored in 994 huge tanks around the site.

A new tank fills up every seven to 10 days, and storage space is running out.

TEPCO had initially claimed that 26 out of 27 radioactive nuclides had been removed from that water through an advanced treatment system, living only tritium behind.

But after reports by Kyodo news and local media, and a protest by fishermen, the company acknowledged last September that 80 per cent of the tanks contain water that is still contaminated with dangerous radioactive elements, including strontium-90, a bone-seeking radionuclide that causes cancer.

Launching his successful bid for the 2020 Summer Olympics, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the situation at Fukushima was “under control”. One of his predecessors, Junichiro Koizumi said the water crisis showed that was a lie.

An external committee established by TEPCO to advise the board of directors said it is “very frustrated” at the company’s inability to communicate properly. ……… https://borneobulletin.com.bn/trust-fails-to-recover-from-nuclear-disaster/

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March 10, 2019 - Posted by | General News

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