Japan’s prime minister pledged Wednesday in his traditional new year’s press conference to bring “rebirth” to the area around the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said authorities would work to decontaminate the region from radioactive fallout, while ensuring compensation and health checks for those affected by the disaster.
“These three pillars will bring the rebirth of Fukushima,” he said. Noda gave no timeframe, and government officials have said it may be years or even decades before many of the 100,000 residents displaced by the disaster can return.
Noda said he planned to visit Fukushima on Sunday, and wanted to listen to the opinions of those affected by the crisis.
After Nuclear Milestone, a Long Road
Japan Plant’s Operator to Hail ‘Cold Shutdown,’ but Progress Is Halting; Robot Stranded in Hot Zone
The Wall Street Journal, By Phred Dvorak And Mitsuru Obe, December 16
Tokyo ”” Japanese authorities are set to announce Friday that they have brought the Fukushima Daiichi complex’s devastated reactors to a state called cold shutdown, a milestone in stabilizing the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986.
The declaration, falling some nine months after nuclear fuel in the plant’s stricken reactors reached meltdown temperatures, would mark a triumph over the chaos loosed by Japan’s March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Companies involved in bringing the plant under control describe, with previously undisclosed details, their work in a science-fiction landscape where jury-rigged robots survey forbidden zones and hazardous pools, and workers shrouded a blown-out reactor building with a covering that they maneuvered into place using electric fans and then fit together like Lego blocks.
But these advances were halting, incremental and perilous, underscoring a grim reality: Problems at Fukushima Daiichi remain immense. The looming cleanup effort, people on the ground say, is enormous. “We’re taking a step, but it’s a big step,” Toshio Nishizawa, the president of plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co., said in an interview Wednesday.
Mr. Nishizawa said the plant has stopped emitting levels of radiation that would be harmful to human health, and that Tepco had taken steps to strengthen the crippled reactors to withstand another natural disaster. “We’ve done everything necessary” to guard against another accident at Daiichi, he said. “But that doesn’t mean it’s foolproof,” he said.
Fukushima lays bare Japanese media’s ties to top
The Japan Times, By David McNeill, January 8
Is the ongoing crisis surrounding the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant being accurately reported in the Japanese media?
No, says independent journalist Shigeo Abe, who claims the authorities, and many journalists, have done a poor job of informing people about nuclear power in Japan both before and during the crisis ”” and that the clean-up costs are now being massively underestimated and underreported.
“The government says that as long as the radioactive leak can be dammed from the sides it can be stopped, but that’s wrong,” Abe insists. “They’re going to have to build a huge trench underneath the plant to contain the radiation ”” a giant diaper. That is a huge-scale construction and will cost a fortune. The government knows that but won’t reveal it.”
The cartel-like behavior of the leading Japanese media companies meant they did not have to fear being trumped by rivals. In particularly dangerous situations, managers of TV networks and newspapers will form agreements (known as hÅdÅ kyÅtei) in effect to collectively keep their reporters out of harm’s way.
Teddy Jimbo, founder of the pioneering Internet broadcaster Video News Network, explains: “Once the five or six big firms come to an agreement that their competitors will not do anything, they don’t have to be worried about being scooped or challenged.”
Government envisioned Tokyo evacuation in worst-case scenario
The Asahi Shimbun, January 7
In a worst-case scenario, the central government would have requested the evacuation of Tokyo and everyone within a 250-kilometer radius of the damaged Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
Goshi Hosono, minister in charge of the nuclear disaster, on Jan. 6 unveiled the emergency plan, which was personally drawn up two weeks after the Great East Japan Earthquake by Shunsuke Kondo, chairman of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission.
The plan would have ordered mandatory evacuations of everyone within a 170-km radius of the plant. Evacuations would have been voluntary for those living between 170 km and 250 km from the plant, including the Japanese capital.
After the March 11 earthquake, Hosono, then special adviser to Prime Minister Naoto Kan, asked Kondo to produce reports on possible scenarios at Kan’s behest.
Hosono said the government had not disclosed the report, which had been submitted on March 25, out of concern over public reaction.
“We had refrained from publicizing it because we were afraid that it could cause the public to grow excessively worried,” he said.