JAPAN | How Japan’s media sees progress on Fukushima nuclear crisis

Posted on July 25, 2011

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JAPAN | MAINICHI | 25 July 2011

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) begins a trial run of a contaminated water treatment system, developed by France's Areva SA, on June 15. (Photo courtesy of TEPCO)

Over four months have passed since the onset of the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, and many people across Japan, including those still living in shelters, are eagerly waiting for the situation to be brought under control.

On July 19, the government and the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), released a revised version of their roadmap for bringing the crisis under control, which was first presented three months earlier. In editorials on June 20, newspapers in Japan questioned whether the goals of Step 1 of the roadmap had been achieved, and whether the itinerary of Step 2 to bring the crisis under control was feasible.

Dishing out the most praise for the achievements of Step 1, which aimed to stabilize the cooling of nuclear reactors at the plant, was the Sankei Shimbun, which has often severely criticized the government administration.

“Stable cooling of the plant was realized within the goal of three months,” the paper said, adding, “We would like to praise this achievement, which was made after overcoming difficulties.”

The Mainichi Shimbun gave credit for the launch of a circulating injection cooling system, but pointed out that the system is a hastily arranged provisional measure, and said officials must start carefully considering construction of a sustainable cooling system.

Workers install a pressure sensor inside the No. 1 reactor building at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant on June 3, in this photo provided by Tokyo Electric Power Co.

Workers install a pressure sensor inside the No. 1 reactor building at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant on June 3, in this photo provided by Tokyo Electric Power Co.

The Nihon Keizai Shimbun, meanwhile, said it is certain that contaminated water continues to leak from the plant, presenting the view that stability has not yet been reached.

The Tokyo Shimbun also pointed out a series of problems including leaks, and stated, “The results have not matched expectations.”

Under Step 2 of the roadmap, the government and TEPCO aim to bring the nuclear reactors to a “cold shutdown” over the next three to six months, and when that is completed they will consider lifting evacuation orders.

On this point, the Sankei Shimbun, which up until now has sided with the restarting of reactors that have been closed for inspections, stated: “It seems we have seen a small ray of hope that expectations of provisionally bringing the situation under control by the beginning of next year can be met.” The paper also commented, “It is probably necessary to create a progress schedule for restarting” the reactors.

Providing sharp contrast to this view was the Tokyo Shimbun, which said, “There is no doubt that the targets are extremely difficult.” It said Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s suggestion of bringing work ahead of schedule “creates anxiety rather than anything else.”

The Yomiuri Shimbun stated, “As before, the essential concrete measures lack workability.” The daily raised doubts about a statement from Kan in the Diet that an end to the nuclear crisis had come into view, and called for the government to clearly explain the current situation and provide a clear outlook.

In this June 9, 2011 photo released Saturday, June 11, 2011 by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), equipment inside the cesium absorption tower, part of the newly-built radioactive water processing facilities at Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima prefecture, is shown. (AP Photo/Tokyo Electric Power Co.)

In this June 9, 2011 photo released Saturday, June 11, 2011 by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), equipment inside the cesium absorption tower, part of the newly-built radioactive water processing facilities at Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima prefecture, is shown. (AP Photo/Tokyo Electric Power Co.)

The Mainichi Shimbun, meanwhile, said planning and construction of a barrier to block contaminated underground water from the nuclear plant should be initiated promptly, and pointed out that “residents have not yet been given any guidelines on their future lives,” criticizing the lack of consideration for residents.

The Nihon Keizai Shimbun also called for efforts to enable evacuated residents to return to their homes.

People in Japan, particularly residents around the plant, want the crisis to be brought under control, and want support for victims, but with the exception of the Sankei Shimbun other Japanese papers take a harsh view of the current situation.

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