Japan PM calls situation “under control” at Fukushima
Abe calls the normalcy of the situation ahead of hosting Olympics
The pledge by Shinzo Abe was seen as key to Tokyo’s successful bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games. His visit comes as it emerged that just months after the March 2011 disaster, authorities allowed operator Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) to shelve plans to deal with groundwater over fears it would push the massive utility into bankruptcy.
Hundreds of tonnes of groundwater are becoming contaminated daily as it mixes with highly polluted water used to cool the broken reactors. The water then flows out to sea.
Abe arrived at TEPCO’s disaster headquarters, which lie just outside an exclusion zone thrown up around the plant, this morning and was due to arrive at Fukushima Daiichi, some 220 km north of Tokyo, around noon, officials said.
Speaking to Olympic chiefs in Buenos Aires just ahead of a decision to award the Games to Tokyo, Abe said of the plant “Let me assure you, the situation is under control.”
But some critics and experts say Abe’s gloss on the disaster is bordering on the dishonest. A senior TEPCO executive flatly contradicted the PM earlier this month and said, “I think the current situation is that it is not under control,” he told opposition lawmakers.
TEPCO has poured thousands of tonnes of water on the Fukushima reactors to tame meltdowns sparked by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The utility says they are now stable but need to be kept cool to prevent them running out of control again.
Much of that now the contaminated water is being stored in temporary tanks at the plant, and TEPCO has so far revealed no clear plan for it. The problem has been worsened by leaks in some of those tanks that are believed to have seeped into groundwater.
TEPCO has come under fresh pressure after the opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), which governed the nation when the crisis occurred, admitted having acceded to the utility’s request to shelve plans for a costly underground barrier to halt this flow.